We have three levels to our motivation in life.
Our first layer is all based on survival. Humanity would historically forage, hunt, eat and procreate to ensure survival. Until a few centuries ago, these basic needs were the main driving force for all of us. Think of these as the foundation of Maslow's Hierarchy.
The second layer that we have genuinely unraveled in the wake of the Industrial Age is to seek rewards and avoid punishment. This motivation is what we see dominate the modern world. This type of motivation works fine for routine and automatic tasks, though it can backfire and get us into undesired patterns when it comes to creative expression. We know this as the carrot and the stick.🥕
Our third level is purely intrinsic: to achieve internal satisfaction. Feeling fulfilled is at the heart of this. Intrinsically motivated humans operate with the freedom to create, express, and feel responsible for their lives. We don't need rewards with this level because we enjoy working at something and do so voluntarily, without demanding anything in return.
What do we have to learn from these operating systems behind our motivation?
It's that intrinsic motivation progressively dissipates as we develop into a world that massively relies on extrinsic motivation. I've seen it within myself, within athletes, and even with my children as they advance at such a young age. My children still primarily operate on the desire to learn and grow. Still, as they develop, they are getting the subtle and not so subtle cues by our society to need extrinsic motivations. If they brush their teeth, clean up their toys, keep their hands to themselves, they will get stars, treats, and more screen time. As we advance in age, we will be rewarded with approval, praise, high marks, and eventually good paychecks for our tireless work and serving the role we've slotted. Slowly, our intrinsic desire to grow washes away with the approval of the outside climb. Indeed our natural dedication decreases with age.
I believe what we can do is stay curious, lean into growth, and lean into our flow. I'm not talking about finding your purpose in a job and working that groove every day. Instead, I want us to answer the call to our hearts. Where does your dedication and energy naturally grow? What activities or conversations light you up and get you into flow? This is the place from which we foster and keep our third level of natural intrinsic motivation a flame. 🔥
Watch more on this concept from the man who wrote the book on this subject in the video below. 📺