Motivation can be hard to come by. I’m struggling to find a source of the elusive productivity juice as I write this blog post. The reason for this lack of motivation? I’m not really sure. It may be because I ate four Taco Bell burritos last night, didn’t fall asleep until two in the morning, and am relying heavily on caffeine for energy. I feel groggy and unhealthy. That could be the problem, but it feels deeper.
When I can’t find the motivation to perform the way I want, I take a thorough look inwards and try to determine the possible culprits. But sometimes even that doesn’t work! From here, I resort to one thing I know will work: TED Talks. If you don’t know what TED Talks are, you’ve likely been living underneath a massive boulder.
There’s no shortage of inspiration when it comes to TED Talks. People from all walks of life have found the lectures to be riveting, some, life-changing in one way or another. The lectures encourage viewers to reach beyond their existing perspectives and to grapple with ideas from some of the world’s greatest thinkers.
So I invite you on this motivation-seeking journey with me below, I’ve complied a short list of three TED Talks related to motivation that I think will help you to find some motivation of your own to help power through your work week. Enjoy!
1. Simon Sinek- "How Great Leaders Inspire Action"
Sinek offers a compelling call to action in his TED Talk entitled, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” If the lecture were summarized in one sentence, it is that “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”- which Sinek reiterates throughout. What Sinek is getting at is that the most successful leaders are those that begin with why, the underlying belief system for why they’re doing something.
We can easily articulate the logic of our work, what we do and how we do it; but the what and how don’t inspire us nor others. This is because the why, our emotional appeal, supersedes reason. When we operate with a developed why, we are working for our beliefs. When we have a robust set of beliefs that drive our work, we more easily inspire others to buy our idea.
He looks to the example of Apple. When Apple reveals a new product, they explain to us why they’ve decided to shock the world with their new product, followed by how they’ve done it (beautifully designed, user-friendly products) and lastly they tell us what it is (computers, phones, etc.) By the time they get to the how and the what, customers are already sold on why; they see the intrinsic value of the product aside from its features.
Sinek offers valuable insight into the function of motivation. Motivation is forged when we see our actions and our beliefs fuse into one. When we know precisely why we are doing something, it becomes mindless; we will complete the task because it is worthwhile in and of itself. When we aren’t sure of why we are doing something, when we can only express what we are doing and how we are going to do it, we haven’t any real internal direction. Discover your why for doing what you do, you’ll find yourself much more inspired.
2. Angela Duckworth- "The Power of Passion and Perseverance"
Duckworth gives a refreshing and insightful perspective into the impetus to success. Through her research as a psychologist she’s found that traditional predictors of success, IQ and grade point average, aren’t accurate predictors of career success. The most accurate predictor of success is ‘grit.’ Grit is a little-known personality trait that entails a firm commitment to reaching one’s goals.
Grit carries with it an unwavering perseverance and willingness to fail. Those who are willing to fail and persevere are those most likely to succeed in the future. Grit sounds great! So how do we get some? Duckworth admits that she’s not yet sure of how to build grit internally. One thing for certain is that talent has no bearing on grit. Some of the most talented persons don’t succeed because they lack the grit necessary to persevere.
Duckworth points to the research of psychologist, Carol Dweck, who formulated the concept of the growth mindset. The growth mindset is the idea that intelligence is not fixed and humans can improve their intelligence and abilities through investing enough effort towards their goals. Duckworth believes that the growth mindset is the idea most capable of promoting grit.
Duckworth’s contention is a wake-up call for us all. We can do anything we put our mind to! Well, not really. Not to be a buzzkill, but the majority of people are profoundly average. I only say this to point out the fact that not everything is attainable; if everything were attainable, we would be largely unfulfilled in our aspirations. Don’t be discouraged, this merely means we should work towards and persevere with our passions. The wake-up call is that we can improve ourselves and more enjoyably pursue our passions with a little bit of grit.
3. Dan Pink- The Puzzle of Motivation
Dan Pink explains how businesses today are motivating their workers all wrong. Pink says that the financial incentives that so many companies still use are outdated. In the 21st century, he argues, motivators have changed. People aren’t motivated by extrinsic factors, but by internal ones. Pink argues that the three internal motivators which oust traditional extrinsic motivators are: autonomy over one’s work, a feeling that one can achieve mastery, and a greater sense of purpose.
Autonomy entails giving employees time in their day to work on creative interests within the scope of the job. This autonomy promotes an employee’s creative spirit, which can pay off for companies in ways unimaginable. By giving an employee the freedom to do whatever they want, they’re able to pursue what they’re passionate about and discover how their passions and careers intersect. Where has this worked? Google famously uses the 80/20 model in which engineers work on assigned projects for 80% of the time, and they’re free to do whatever they please in the remaining 20%. Softwares such as Gmail and Google News were created during the employees’ 20% of free time- not bad!.
Pink doesn’t delve into the other two factors much, but he summarizes by saying that a feeling of being able to achieve mastery is important because workers will stay engaged if they believe they are making progress. Also, they need to feel as if they are contributing to a greater sense of purpose, otherwise the progress they’re making becomes unfulfilling. These three intrinsic motivators together, Pink argues, brings out the best in employees.
It’s clear then from this hypothesis that even if we feel that our work is dull and monotonous, we shouldn’t lose hope. We are merely are being driven by the wrong motivators. It may be hard to convince your employer that you should be given free reign for 20% of your day, but it’s worth a shot. In the mean time, start looking at yourself as a potential expert in your position, and determine the underlying purpose that your job serves. If you can achieve autonomy, mastery, and purpose in your role, you’ll be better motivated to tackle all of the projects that come your way.
If that didn’t get you motivated, I don’t know what will. No, wait- I just thought of something. Here, this is a much briefer video that essentially summarizes the three TED Talks above. I hope you found this blog beneficial in sparking some motivation for your work day. Like I said earlier, motivation can be hard to come by, but it’s out there waiting to be discovered if you’re willing to search for it.