I like rabbit holes. especially, the kind where you go deep into something and emerge with a better, deeper understanding of it.
One such long-standing curiosity of mine has been to understand what motivates people.
I've been fortunate to work with a few incredibly talented people, and i'm convinced that what separates them is their drive towards learning, towards getting things done.
Hence, i set out to create a model that combines existing theory with my own experience. one that can be used as a map to increase your motivation and make progress.
An actionable model of motivation
Motivation depends on 3 aspects – your initial state, the vision/end-state you want to reach and the path along the way.
Each of these comprise smaller components that I've listed below.
1. Initial state = expectancy + skills + resources
- Expectancy: your belief in achieving an outcome if you put in the effort – i.e. if i do x, then y will happen. this is a function of your self-image and of past success.
- Skills: the set of skills you need for the goal.
- Resources: this includes time, money, etc.
2. End state = better you + better world
- Better you: you after you reach your goal; a you that’s more skilled, popular, rich, etc.
- Better world: how your goal impacts the world. this larger purpose is what is commonly referred to as meaning.
3. The path = feedback + empathy + control
- Feedback: the knowledge that you're making progress towards your goal.
- Empathy: the knowledge that others have experienced similar challenges.
- Control: the freedom you have to take your own decisions along the path.
How to use the model
Identify the area that needs help and work on it. here are a few checks to get you started:
- Better you, better world: are these clear? Are these aligned to your values? Are these a large enough improvement from today? Get clarity.
- Expectancy: does it seem doable? Work your way up by succeeding at smaller challenges.
- Skills: are these commensurate to your goal? Identify & learn what's missing.
- Resources: is there sufficient time, money? Cut scope & reallocate time.
- Feedback: feel like you're making progress? Break the goal into small wins.
- Empathy: feeling overwhelmed? Seek others in similar situations from amongst friends & communities. Biographies work too.
- Control: are decisions yours? ...Remember how games stop being fun when you’re not free to make your own moves...
- And finally, kickstarting the engine: action creates motivation. Just start.
I've found that unlocking motivation is often as simple as identifying deficient areas using the model. I hope it helps you do so, too.
- Sources that helped arrive at this: edward deci & kathy sierra, theories on motivation by abraham maslow, b.f skinner & victor vroom.
- I subscribe to the notion of man as a goal-striving machine. People with purpose seem a lot more alive than those without.
- There seem to be two origins for the end-states/goals you desire – a. innate drives (status, sex/reproduction, etc) and more interestingly b. mimetic drives (you desire what your fellow man does. hence the adage of you being the 5 people you spend most time with.)
- This applies to company & product building as well. Good products are useful, but great products help you become a better you. Likewise, great companies have an inspiring better-world mission.
- I assume that fundamental factors such as well-being & belonging are taken care of.