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  • Sunday Sanctuary

Cultivating Intrinsic Motivation

Imagine going on a run because you actually wanted to go on a run; not because you need to lose weight for an upcoming holiday, not because you want to post it on your social media, but because you want to go on a run. Doing things because we want to, rather than for external reward or punishment (a good grade, money, or social approval) brings a lot more joy to the day-to-day. Finding intrinsic reasons to do things can apply from anything to our hobbies to the reason we show up at work, and we're here to tell you how.

In his book Drive, Daniel Pink delves into the psychology behind human motivation and whittled it down to three main components: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. If what we do is driven by these three things, then we are more likely to achieve our goals and enjoy the process along the way. So what exactly do they mean?


A.K.A., not being micro-managed. If your boss is breathing down your neck like a helicopter parent, sit down with them to explain that you do your best work without constant supervision, and with the freedom to make your own decisions about to means to reach the end goal set by the company.

Finding autonomy over your personal goals is a lot easier, but still worth bearing in mind when approaching something you want to achieve. For example, if you'd like to write, take the time to find out what you enjoy writing; poetry, short stories, novels, or non-fiction, and freestyle what you do until you find your flow. Don't constrain yourself to what you think you should be doing, but focus on what you enjoy, and take control from there.


Aim to be the best, but have a 'not yet' mindset. Track your progress, and don't beat yourself up if you're not excellent straight away. The means are just as important as the end, and mastery takes time and energy. There's a positive correlation between motivation and visibility over your progress, so keep an eye on every baby step along the way in order to nurture a growth mindset.

When starting a new job, it can feel extremely daunting to begin again in an unfamiliar environment, especially if it's a step up (and especially compared to the confident imposter that you were during the interview process). With a not-yet mindset, remind yourself that you're there for a reason, and tracking your eventual mastery of the skill will fill you with confidence and motivation as you progress.


Think of this as the source of energy. Ask yourself why you're doing something over and over again, and if your answer is to do with your personal values, rather than anything or anyone else, then you're on the right track. At work, if you find yourself finding no pleasure in your day-to-day tasks, but you know you're on a career path you enjoy, then perhaps it's time to ask your boss for a project you can sink your teeth into. When we're given something to do because we find it interesting, rather than to look good, get a bonus, or any other external factor, the results are better, and then journey is way more fun.


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