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Intrinsic Motivation – What’s Missing?

One sign that we’ve lost our way is when we lack intrinsic motivation. Whether at work, school, in sports or relationships, when motivation goes it’s a signal to look for what’s missing.

Start with Purpose

One of the greatest motivators is meaning. Viktor Frankl said “If we have a why, we can bear with any how.Purpose gives us our Why. It tells us we’re going somewhere that matters, we have a direction, and that’s very motivating.

If we’ve lost our sense of purpose or we never had one, it’s hard to stay motivated. Whatever emotions or circumstances got us started down the path aren’t going to be enough to help us reach the destination.

Motivation Needs a Strong Arm

What if our purpose is clear, but we still lack motivation? There are three things that support our intrinsic motivation, so check and see if something might be missing in these three areas. Together, they spell the acronym “ARM”, so I call these the strong arm of motivation. These are based on decades of research in Self Determination Theory.

Am I Free to Choose?

It’s hard to get motivated about something if we feel we don’t have a choice. If we have autonomy, we enjoy some control or choice in what happens and how it happens. The fact is, keeping some of our autonomy is pretty motivating.

Autonomy with a person moving forward by their own choice toward their purpose

The more you limit or restrict someone’s autonomy, the more resistance you create. People might comply, but they won’t be intrinsically motivated. Give a real choice and you get greater engagement.

Am I Connected to Others?

What happens when you are left alone to figure something out? Some people like to do things alone, but others are frustrated by the lack of social relatedness. Is this just a personality thing?

Without doubt, our personality type and social preferences shape how much connection we want to have with others. Even the most intense introverts, though, often want to feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Independent people who like to “go it alone” still enjoy the admiration of others when they finish the task.

Being related to others in a way that fits someone’s personality is naturally motivating. Being disconnected or disregarded by others is pretty demotivating.

Am I Able to Complete the Task?

I’m not very good at playing the piano. I can mess around on the keyboard and even manage a simple melody with one hand, but playing smoothly with both hands is not something I can do. My lack of competence or mastery at playing the piano affects my motivation to practice.

A new worker who is inexperienced at a task and gets very little or no guidance is in a tough situation. With great effort and probably a lot of frustration, a task might be learnable. With good instruction and also some encouragement, the task might even be enjoyable.

If motivation is lacking, take a moment to look at mastery or competency.

The Key to Motivation

Too often motivation is confused with inspiration or with rewards. Inspiration is short-lived and is unreliable. Rewards and their opposite–punishments—work up to a point, but they don’t tap intrinsic motivation. They are extrinsic forms of motivation, and after a certain point they lose their effectiveness.

Motivation is something that comes from the inside, especially when we connect to a purpose we believe in. Meaning-based motivation is supported by a strong “ARM” or paying attention to autonomy, relatedness and mastery.

Now that you have the building blocks of motivation, how are you going to use them to build something that really matters?

Leadskill has ways to measure and develop motivation and engagement, both in individuals and at the team and organizational level. Get in touch with us to learn more. We’re happy to share some insights and see if our approach is a fit for your situation.

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