Everything that gave her pleasure was small and depressed him.
– “Everything That Rises Must Converge,” Flannery O’Connor
When I first read that quote, it made me laugh. Then, it puzzled me. It made me question myself*, because most things that give me pleasure are small: a flaky pastry, a smooth cup of coffee, the smell of dew on a cool summer morning.
On the rare occasion that I’ve played an online game that awards badges, I didn’t care a whit about the little digital trophies. But on my blog? I get a jolt of glee every time one pops up on my phone. They totally motivate me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about drive lately, and in fact am reading the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us on the recommendation of a friend and colleague. I would classify myself as an intrinsically driven person. I often get so wrapped up in creating, whether writing, blogging, photographing, or working on my reading project, that I have to actively pull myself out of my own head and pay attention to my family and life.
Nobody is giving me anything for my writing, blogging, or photographs. I do them because I can’t not do them. I identified immediately with this statement the author makes in the early pages of Drive:
Enjoyment-based intrinsic motivation, namely how creative a person feels when working on [a] project, is the strongest and most pervasive driver.
At the same time, at work we’ve been discussing intrinsic vs. external motivation, and what it means to want external validation for a job well done. I find this discussion fascinating because of this key question: does a desire for external recognition indicate that a person is not sufficiently driven internally?
It seems paradoxical that someone who is driven from the inside would need recognition from the outside, but I am a walking example that it’s possible to enjoy both. My husband teases me about my love of praise. What can I say? I respond to positive re-enforcement.
Like “You’re on a streak!” trophies.
Internal drive and external appreciation do not have to be either/or, and they are not at odds with each other. Instead they work together to create a positive feedback loop. Even if it’s a simple digital badge. When I see that streak badge, I’m like, “Hell yeah! I’m kicking ass!” and I am inspired to keep posting.
*And that man in the Flannery O’Connor quote who was depressed by his mother’s small pleasures? I realized after finishing the story that he was the questionable one.
Note: on publication of this I will be on a 14 day streak. YEAHHH!