Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

I finally got around to reading Daniel H. Pink‘s Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. His thesis is that using carrots and sticks as motivators is failing in our society and he marshals plenty of evidence to support that perspective.

As an alternative, he recommends focusing on three elements: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  Autonomy is simply being able to make meaningful choices.  The focus is on results rather than methods.  Mastery is the state where a skilled person is performing at their best.  There need to be opportunities to develop and exhibit mastery. Finally, you have to believe there is a purpose for what you are doing.  You’re not simply doing what you do to check of boxes on a list, what you do has meaning.  If these three elements are present, carrots and sticks are laughably irrelevant.  If all you have are carrots and sticks, you will be surpassed by those who are driven by these factors.

One idea he proposes that I really like is the do it yourself report card.  When classes start, ask each student what their learning goals are.  When report card time rolls around, ask them to revisit their goals and write a short review of their progress.  What worked?  What didn’t?  What obstacles did they encounter and which goals did they surpass?  Given that it’s the start of the school year, I think I will try this with my kids.

I was hoping for more insights such as this one.  Still one good idea, particularly if it works, is worth the time I spent reading the book.  Maybe by looking at what I do and checking for autonomy, mastery, and purpose will help me motivate myself to do better.

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