“You have the power to change your behaviors,” says Susan Fowler, “but to be successful in changing, you need an evidenced-based framework for motivation and techniques for applying it.” In her new book, “Master Your Motivation: Three Scientific Truths for Achieving Your Goals,” Fowler synthesizes her decades of research into a guide that provides such a framework. In the process, she overturns countless widely held myths about what motivates us.
Fowler believes the traditional carrot-and-stick approach to motivation (a combination of reward and punishment to induce a desired behavior) results from our perception of motivation as being either intrinsic or extrinsic. “Simplifying motivations into two types presents a conundrum when you aren’t intrinsically motivated,” she writes. “Your only fallback position is extrinsic motivation.” In other words, just by thinking about motivation as intrinsic versus extrinsic, you’ve already set yourself up to fail. To really motivate yourself and others, she argues, you need to think about motivation in different terms.
Thankfully for the reader, Fowler defines an alternative framework for motivation. In what amounts to the book’s thesis, she states, “To master your motivation, create choice, connection, and competence.” When you measure motivation across these three factors, which are the result of rigorous academic research rather than folksy conventional wisdom, you unlock the power of motivation.
It’s not hard to see how Fowler’s framework is much more actionable than traditional motivational techniques. Creating intrinsic motivation, especially for others, is a mug’s game, but defining choice, connection, and competence is much less ambiguous. If you have team members who you feel lack motivation, ask yourself if their jobs have these three essential traits. Do they have agency (choice) in their work? Do they generate meaning (connection) from what they do? Do they get a sense of accomplishment (competence) from doing something well? If you can’t answer all three of these in the affirmative, you can create a plan for increasing motivation that doesn’t involve empty metrics or meaningless rewards.
If you or your team could use a proverbial kick in the pants, the solution might be to ignore those proverbs entirely. “Master Your Motivation” takes a refreshing look at what makes us strive for more. It’s a great addition to any leadership library.
Thanks for reading,
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