This morning I caught a snippet of Talk of the Nation on NPR and they were talking to author Daniel Pink about his new book Drive. The book is mainly Pink's research-based take about what motivates people and how these things can enlighten us about working smarter and living better. His main criticism seemed to be about the "dangling carrot on a stick" motivator and how it only works in a surprisingly few situations, and he spent a lot of time talking about how companies would be far more efficient if instead of dangling carrots in front of their employees they gave them three things: autonomy, mastery, and a sense of purpose.
Holy smokes, if that wasn't a breath of fresh air.
I certainly related to these ideas in the context of workplace criticism but I'm definitely not waxing about that on this here blog (obvs), but I thought a lot of his advice could be applied to real life, and was especially relevant during this time of year. (Those NPR programmers -- so smart!) Most of us are filled to the brim with goals and ideas and projects -- you know those Things At Which We Want To Succeed. Fervor is at an all time high right now since it's January after all and the ink has hardly dried on our lists of resolutions that lay out our grand plans for 2010, but how does one keep that alive throughout entire year?
Many people I know (including myself, who are we kidding) are trying to lose weight this year -- a noble, if unoriginal resolution. I know a lot of people who have come up with reward systems as motivators or mile-markers along the way -- if I lose X number of lbs, I can buy myself Y -- and it reminded me of this dangling carrot motivator that Pink was talking about. I've done this before myself (especially with weight loss) and full confession: I find that it works okay for a bit, but frankly, if I want something bad enough I generally end up purchasing it for myself whether I meet my "goal" or not. The entire conversation really made me think; maybe I have been doing this all wrong?
I'm still marinating on the concepts of autonomy, mastery, and sense of purpose and how all of those things could effectively lay the groundwork for reaching my weight loss goals, but I think his tenets have a lot to do with realizing three major things: that I have a choice in the matter, I am ABSOLUTELY capable, and that there is a whole list of reasons why I am looking to improve this area of my life that are important to me, and I need to keep that list close during times of challenge. It's sort of empowering when I wrap my brain around it in that way, rather than looking at it as temporary torture until I earn a hot pair of jeans or a new lipgloss, ya know? It's had me thinking all afternoon, so I may just have to pick it up. But not as a reward, of course! Because when trying to lose weight, I think we can all agree that there is rarely a shortage of carrots.