The best motivators come from within.
Have you ever wondered why exactly you want a good job? Is it the idea of a nice salary? Or the ability to provide a good life for your family?
Or maybe there’s a more basic reason beneath it all: happiness. The idea of achieving happiness is a central motivator. But the paths that we think will lead to happiness – accruing material objects and pursuing monetary gain – often turn out to be dead ends. In reality, a fat paycheck and a new Porsche don’t guarantee happiness. Therefore, we shouldn’t rely on external forces like money to foster long-term motivation.
For instance, imagine your boss promises you a one-time bonus of $400 if you write 15 more emails today than you usually do. You take her up on the offer and get the cash. But would you work like crazy the next day without yet another cash incentive?
In 2013 experiment, they offered extra money to employees responsible for assembling chips at Intel, the major American technology firm. All they had to do was promise to meet a certain quota, and they’d be given the money at the beginning of the day.
The incentive worked. But the next day, and the day after that, their productivity dropped back to normal levels. They were no longer receiving any extra money, and so had no reason to continue working better and faster.
External motivators aren’t sustainable. It’s only when we’re motivated by something within ourselves, something from which we derive pure enjoyment, that we’re able to keep working hard for the long haul.
For example, in the experiment described above, the employees were also told they would receive a simple “well done” text if they exceeded a certain number of units on a given day. This motivated participants and they made more chips than usual.
On the two days that followed, they produced a bit less than before, but still went above and beyond the production of the second and third days following the money incentive. They were driven to achieve because the compliment “well done” gave them a sense of internal motivation that was connected to purpose and pushing things forward.