"...we're not destined to be passive and compliant. We're designed to be active and engaged. And we know that the richest experiences in our lives aren't when we're clamoring for validation from others, but when we're listening to our own voice - doing something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than ourselves."
I put Daniel Pink's "Drive" on my summer reading list after hearing several positive recommendations from my colleagues. I think it was an excellent commentary on human motivation and the lack of attention that this gets in important arenas such as business and education. Pink asserts 3 main concepts: we all have a desire to direct our own lives (autonomy), we all want to get better at something that has value (mastery), and we all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves (purpose). Throughout the book, Pink promotes the concept that we cannot truly entertain the thought of achieving mastery if we continue on as drones in the compliant manner that we so readily accept in society today. When people are provided autonomous, purposeful opportunities, the likelihood for positive outcomes greatly increases. External, carrot-and-stick motivators have no long-term benefits and need to be reconsidered immediately.
After reading this poignant piece on "the surprising truth about what motivates us," it doesn't seem like much of a surprise after all. Extrinsic motivators have always seemed like distractions from the true point of completing a task. Students have frequently asked, "what do I get now?" after completing various tasks or showing their skills in my math class. My patented response to this question has become a "high-five" or a "pat on the back." In other words, congrats on accomplishing your goal! I have never believed in providing outside rewards beyond the sheer satisfaction of completing the task itself. Study after study reveals that people lose the desire to complete tasks when rewards are removed, thus squashing any hope for a surge of intrinsic motivation.
The book continually points to the fact that trends in fields such as business and education have not caught up to what science knows after decades of research on human motivation. This unfortunate truth leaves many employees and students lacking adequate opportunities to live up their full potential. Hopefully we will start to see the slow shift to self-directed, purpose-driven environments that will lead us to more success, satisfaction, and fulfillment.
Here are a few takeaways that I hope to consider more often as an educator:
Finally, a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
"Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined, and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives."
"If we pluck people out of controlling environments, when they've known nothing else, and plop them in a ROWE (results-only work environment) or an environment of undiluted autonomy, they'll struggle. Organization must provide...'scaffolding' to help every (student) find his footing to make the transition."
"When the reward is the activity itself.....there are no shortcuts."
"Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible."
"....it's often difficult to do something exceptionally well if we don't know the reasons we're doing it in the first place."
Additional Resources for Daniel Pink's "Drive"
2009 TED Talk: The Puzzle of Motivation
RSA Animate for "Drive"