Motivation and creative work

Motivation and creative work

Intrinsic motivation is necessary for creative work. We need broad thinking, so we can come up with innovative ideas and see new connections.

Extrinsic motivation narrows our thinking by focusing on getting the task done so we can earn the reward. It's providing you an external incentive to work hard.

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The 3 elements required for intrinsic motivation:

  • Autonomy: it's about choice - when you believe you have a choice, you're more motivated.
  • Mastery: it's about wanting to get better at something that matters.
  • Purpose: it comes from believing you're working on something that's bigger than yourself.
Knowing our work helps others

When we know that our work will make a difference to someone else, it makes us work harder. 

Try to reach out to the people who directly benefit from your work. This could boost your motivation to work hard.

Loss aversion refers to the fact that we feel stronger emotions about losing something than we do about gaining the same thing.

For example: If you found $20 on the ground, you'd be pretty happy. But if you had $20 in your wallet and lost it, you'd be really unhappy.

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Two types of motivation

Motivation is categorized into two basic types: Extrinsic and intrinsic.

  • Extrinsic motivation is related to external forces like money or fame.
  • Intrinsic motivation is something that comes from within like joy or pride.

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Goals should have intrinsic motivation, something that stokes our fire from within.

If people choose goals that are pleasant, the work gets done. On the other hand, if the external reward is big enough, people do unpleasant tasks as well, but not with enthusiasm. Example: Working only for the monthly wage (the extrinsic motivation) turns many people into ‘wage slaves’ who put in the minimum effort necessary to earn their income.

The Zeigarnik Effect

Unfinished work continues to exert an influence, even when we try to move on to other things.

When you start working on something but do not finish it, thoughts of the unfinished work continue to pop into your mind even when you've moved on to other things. Such thoughts urge you to go back and finish it.

Books, video games and tv-series all take advantage of this effect.

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