Today's Reading



Motivation is at the heart of everything you do and want to do but don't. Motivation is also the reason you do things you wish you didn't.

Millions of books, podcasts, seminars, workshops, incentives, contests, rewards, coaching sessions, diet plans, and self-help groups attest to our desire to master our motivation. They also reflect our lack of understanding about what motivation is and how to use it for achieving our goals.

What's missing in most approaches to motivation is a unifying theory and foundational model explaining why a technique works or doesn't. How else will you know when advice is valid, reliable, or worthy of pursuit? We need motivation science—ideas and techniques we can rely on because they are backed by empirical evidence and demonstrated over time to work across a variety of cultures, situations, personalities, genders, and generations.

Of course, a plethora of motivation theories have been touted over the years. Unfortunately, some of the most commonly accepted theories are outdated or have been proven inadequate or downright wrong. For example, we're only now realizing the drawbacks and hidden costs of relying on extrinsic motivation in the workplace. External forms of motivation, often referred to as "carrots" (rewards, incentives, power, status, and image) and "sticks" (pressure, guilt, fear, and threats) were popularized back in the 1940s by B. F. Skinner, who used training animals as a model for motivating human beings. Now we know that extrinsic motivators do not promote real or permanent change and are more likely to diminish the quality of your results, performance, creativity, innovation, and well-being—even in the short term. And, despite Abraham Maslow's contributions to motivation science, his hierarchy of needs, the most popular motivation model in the world, has never been empirically proven.

Enter Dr. Edward Deci and Dr. Richard Ryan and thousands of self-determination theory (SDT) researchers who have rigorously pursued understanding the nature of our motivation and explaining how it really works. Their discoveries using a variety of scientific methods, including qualitative and quantitative academic research, neuroscience, and psychological clinical practice, represent the most comprehensive breakthroughs in motivation science. The three scientific truths revealed in this book are at the core of their groundbreaking research. You will come to understand these truths in the coming pages, but that won't be enough to master your motivation.

As the old saying goes, to know and not to do is not to know. Good science is applied science. Understanding the three scientific truths is only the beginning. You also need to know how to apply the truths—what to do differently than you've done in the past. But even well-intentioned approaches to good applied science face the challenge of unraveling complex ideas and translating them into digestible nuggets. Oversimplifying great science to the point it loses its potency poses a challenge. For example, you might have heard about two types of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic:

* Intrinsic motivation, considered the preferred type of motivation, occurs when you do something for the pure enjoyment of doing it, without the need for or promise of an external reward.

* Extrinsic motivation, considered the less preferred type of motivation, occurs when you need an external prompt or reason for doing something you don't naturally enjoy doing.

However, boiling motivation down to its nubs renders it almost impossible to use. For example, I'm sure you can identify a goal or task that will never be intrinsically motivating to you: dragging yourself out of bed in the morning to attend a staff meeting you think is a waste of time, being forced to leave your family on a Sunday for a business trip, completing bureaucratic paperwork that steals time from your "real" job, or giving up french fries and comfort food to lose weight for your upcoming school reunion....

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