The Three Essential Keys to Work Motivation

Posted by Donald Latumahina

Wouldn’t it be great if you could wake up in the morning wanting to work? In this scenario, you wouldn’t consider work a burden. Instead, you would consider it a source of happiness and fulfillment. Wouldn’t that be a great way to live?

The problem, of course, is making that a reality. Doing so requires you to understand the factors behind work motivation.

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink wrote that – based on studies – there are three factors for work motivation:

  1. Autonomy: the control you have over your work. The more you can control what to do and when to do it, the more motivated you are.
  2. Mastery: the sense of progress you get. The more you think you are getting better at what you do, the more motivated you are.
  3. Purpose: the meaning you get from your work. The more what you do matters to you, the more motivated you are.

In Money and Happiness, I wrote that once you reach the middle class, you should focus on how you make money rather than how much. The way becomes more important than the amount. Related to the three factors above, this means that you should aim to improve your autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Let’s now see how to improve them:

1. Autonomy.

Autonomy could be difficult to achieve if you work for someone else. The solution – according to So Good They Can’t Ignore You – is to increase your bargaining power by being very good at what you do. Your company will be willing to give you more freedom if it really needs you.

Another way is to build your own business. Be careful though: not all kinds of businesses will give you autonomy. If you choose the wrong kind of business, you might find that the one who controls your time is not you but your clients.

In my case, I chose to build a lifestyle business. It took a long time to build, but once it began to work, it gave me both time and location independence.

2. Mastery.

For this, what you need to do is take new challenges to expand your personal capacity. Don’t settle where you are. Instead, keep taking new challenges to maximize your personal growth. It’s not easy, but you will have the satisfaction of seeing yourself grow over time.

3. Purpose.

The important thing here is that you do something that matters to you. What is your cause? How do you make the world a better place?

Even if your work seems boring, you can still find meaning from it. How? By changing your perspective. Look at it as your way to contribute rather than to get something for yourself.

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Improving these three factors takes time, but it’s worth the effort. You will get something that even money can’t buy as your reward: inner fulfillment.

Any thoughts on how to improve work motivation? Please share them in the comments.

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Photo by JD Hancock

Categories: Attitude, Working

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  • http://yakkityyaktalkingback.com Holly

    A few years ago I left a soul sucking position in a corporate mental health setting and started my own private practice. That gave me autonomy which was fabulous. I have purpose in my work and that’s also great. But I have become very tired of hearing trauma and tragedies and so I’m leaving my practice to go on to other challenges including blogging which is forcing me to get mastery in new areas. I feel reenergized about psychology.

    • http://www.lifewhack.com/ Peter Ewin Hall

      Holly, blogging is great fun and there’s no end to what you can do to improve to gain mastery. As you’re in control you can improve your content, your design and your engagement with others. I’ve been at it 3 years and I’m just emerging from novice level I think!

    • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/ Donald Latumahina

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Holly. I’m glad you now feel reenergized. Blogging needs persistence, but – as Peter said – it’s fun.

  • http://www.lifewhack.com/ Peter Ewin Hall

    Donald,

    My experience is that those three – autonomy, purpose, and mastery are key. At the moment I’m on an extended time out and a question I’ll have to address at some point is what I’ll do to earn money when the time draws to a close.

    Working for an organisation often means a compromise on all three so I’m collecting alternative ideas at present. When you’re not working for an organisation standing out is important – or being remarkable as Seth Godin says in Purple Cow. To be remarkable means you have to care enough to get that good.

    But it also pays to be creative and come up with a rare combination of skills to offer to the world.

    • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/ Donald Latumahina

      I agree, Peter. You need to be remarkable to get all three. It takes time and effort but I believe it’s worth it.

  • AlisonPhillips

    Autonomy: the control you have over your work. The more you can control what to do and when to do it, the more motivated you are.
    Mastery: the sense of progress you get. The more you think you are getting better at what you do, the more motivated you are.
    Purpose: the meaning you get from your work. The more what you do matters to you, the more motivated you are.

    To address those specifically… there comes a point where I think more of myself than others do, which I suppose is common in humankind, but the thing is, I don’t see any faults that would cause them to still behave as though they’re better than me… when I’d simply be happy to be at the same level. I seek equality, they seek to dominate. So, despite a legion of motivation, I fight an entire army of people intent to keep me right where I am.

  • Pingback: The Three Most Important Factors For Maintaining Work Motivation | Lifehacker Australia()

  • Naveen Kulkarni

    Great list.I think, zeal to learn new things leads to mastery eventually ! So learning is also key to work-motivation :-)

    • http://www.lifeoptimizer.org/ Donald Latumahina

      I agree, Naveen. Having the attitude of a learner will definitely help your motivation.