I hate feeling disappointed in people, especially when I know they have huge potential but don’t take initiative, they don’t motivate towards their talents or skills, or simply when there’s work that needs to be done and they don’t take action to do it.
After reading Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, I understand more about motivation, and particularly that motivation must come from within for a person to be productive or achieve any kind of success. I always wondered, though: is there a way to help someone become more self-motivated?
It doesn’t seem possible to inspire intrinsic motivation from the outside. That doesn’t make any sense. When I read Drive, I wrote about the seeming paradox that though I am driven from the inside, I still appreciate recognition from the outside; it seems equally paradoxical that self-motivation could be nurtured via external forces.
Then I listened to the latest episode of Freakonomics Radio: How to Be More Productive. In the episode, they once again touch on the recurring theme of internal vs. external motivation, and they take it a step further to talk about how to help someone become self-motivated:
Give praise and recognition based on factors that are in that person’s control. Use language that focuses on actions and verbs — “You worked hard” — rather than on traits or states of being — “You are smart.”
The praise that focuses on action tells the person: you controlled that, you made good choices, you kicked ass. The praise that focuses on a trait tells the person: you lucked out with your genes, you had no control over that, your choices make no difference.
As Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business says in the podcast:
DUHIGG:What we’ve found is that self-motivation and motivation in general seems to rely on believing like we’re in control.
DUBNIR: OK, so the implication is that there’s a certain kind of compliment or praise that is more powerful or that leads to higher productivity, yes?
DUHIGG: That’s exactly right. What we know is that you can train people to believe that they’re in control of their own life, and more importantly, to get them addicted to that kind of pleasant sensation that kind of comes from being in control.
I am eager to start thinking this way when I praise our children, and also as we think about rocognizing high performers at work. It’s a subtle difference in phrasing, but I can see how it makes a huge difference in the way we see ourselves, and our role in our own lives.
This was a really juicy podcast. I highly recommend it if you are interested in productivity in your own life.
For the month of April, I will publish a 10-minute free write each day. Minimal editing. No story. Just thoughts spilling onto the page. This one is from the Daily Post one-word prompt, Disappointment. Trying to get back into the writing habit.