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by Gerald Epling

What inspires you to wake up and start your day?  If you wake up easily and look forward to the activities of the day, then you probably have found a way to tap into three important facets of a good life.

The Big Three

Inside each of us there is a strong desire for autonomy.  We all want to have situations, that we control and opportunities to develop life skills.  Satisfied and happy people master at least some aspects of their lives.  This mastery can come by any method or venue that matches innate, individual talents.  Finally, there is a motivation to be a part of something bigger than the individual.  This third motivation is seen in choices of organizations, careers, and affiliations.

Tie these three aspects of life together and you find rewards in life that are uniquely satisfying for you.  Autonomy, mastery, and a desire to make the world a better place are powerful motivating factors that every human being carries in varying degrees.  Such a three-pronged pursuit of happiness presents you with memories and certainties that are reliable.  The tools that you use to achieve your goals in life become like old friends.  Your brain changes too.  Over time, the frontal areas of the brain and important memory formation structures of the brain, such as the hippocampus and amygdala, are repeatedly activated.  Eventually, what you do becomes so important to you, that you become “passionate” about your chosen way of life.  The passion, that we develop for life, is the result of engagement in the pursuit of attainable goals over time.  The good life always has measures of autonomy, mastery, and a desire to give back.

Motivational technology does not always support the goals of the individual.  Occasionally, the greater good challenges the opportunity of the individual to develop desired skills and master interesting elements of life.  When people are tasked with physical work involving little thought, then behavioral management techniques are effective.  However, if people are engaged with activities that draw upon individual knowledge or creativity, then the carrot and stick approach breaks down. For example, suppose that the carrot takes the form of a large cash bonus for a high performing person.  From a behavioral perspective, you expect that the high-flying knowledge worker would sail on at the top of their game.  However, that is not what tends to happen.  An out-of-line reward for work performance tends to derail the successful knowledge worker.  They become likely to stumble and perform less well in the future.  In contrast, not providing payment for participation in a task, tends to lead to increased focus on the task at hand.  It is as if not being paid, leads people to justify their involvement in the task as a personal choice.  Of course, in a work environment, people must receive compensation.  In an ideal world, the amount of compensation would be adequate for people to focus on engaging activities and not worry about the needs of life on a daily basis.

Knowing what motivates you to go forth into the world each day identifies more than your goals for the day.  This motivation that drives you to engage with reality and make a difference in the world is important.  It is a large part of your passion for life.