Kicking Intrinsic Motivation in Gear
Yesterday, as I emerged from my work-cave on the third floor, my nine-year-old-kiddo, Jeremy, ran up to me in excitement, “Mom! Mom!!!! You gotta come listen to this!” In a flash, he leaped over to the piano and started playing “Let it Go” from the new film Frozen.
I was bewildered. We didn’t have the music… He didn’t know this song this morning… How in the world…?!
“I pulled it off of YouTube and taught myself” he beamed proudly. “Listen. Listen!!”
I was blown away. Where did he get this talent from? Certainly not me (I hyperventilated at my first piano recital playing Fur Elise when I was 12 and have been a one-finger player ever since. I apparently could have benefited from some stress management techniques, eh OnStage Grads?).
I watched my kiddo, playing passionately, feeling so confident and proud of his accomplishment, and thought, if we could bottle this…
And we can. Well, maybe not put it in an actual bottle, but we can replicate it and have it at our disposal anytime we want it. When we stretch ourselves and try new things, and experience ourselves succeeding, and getting better, little-by-little, we grow. We feel good about our accomplishments and ourselves. We feel more confident. We feel a sense of pride. We tap into our passion. We’re reminded of that hunger for life.
In Dan Pink’s research around motivation, he discovered that one of three primary drivers for human beings in today’s complicated workforce is Mastery. When we do what Jeremy was doing, we become intrinsically motivated. Nobody has to tell us to do it. Nobody has to pay us to do it. We want to do it for ourselves. To experience ourselves doing it. And then getting better. And better. And BETTER. I never told Jeremy to learn that piece – I hadn’t even suggested he learn that piece – he got inspired (his teachers had done a flash mob of “Let it Go” at his school’s town meeting) and took the initiative on his own.
And now I suspect we’ll be hearing “Let it Go” 24/7 around my house for the next two weeks until he gets inspired to find a new song (but I have to say, I’m quite relieved to get a break from his last passion-project, Star Wars Duel of Fates – which he also taught himself).
As grown-ups, we get so mired in our routines, and checking things off the list, and hitting deadlines, and doing our best to balance work with family, that we forget. We forget to learn and grow for the love of learning. We forget what it feels like to be excited to try something new and experience ourselves succeeding in baby steps. To feel ourselves getting better and better. Mastery.
For the best leaders in the world are always learning, always growing themselves – they recognize that they’ll never get it all dialed-in and bring the humility to see all they have yet to know. They work at it. They model it. They realize that mastery is life-long pursuit.
What can you do today, to kick your intrinsic motivation in gear? What can you start to Master?
(cue: “Let it go!” Music swells. Fade to black.)
©OnStage Leadership, 2014
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