The 3 Secret Elements To Massive Motivation

It’s that time of year where we clean the desk,  set the goals and roll out the revised set of new year’s resolutions.  Some of us are excited by the year ahead but others are filled with dread and are even thinking whether going back to “that” job is an option.

That motivation for life and the dawn of a new year for some of us is burning and real and for others it is dormant or extinguished.

Motivation is a strange thing and for most of the industrial revolution and beyond we have used “external” motivations to drive ourselves and our employees to work and succeed such as monetary incentives and “stick and carrots”. The  reality is and supported by research is that there is a mismatch between “what science knows and what business does”.

We need to look at an approach built upon intrinsic motivation which could be labelled “A New Operating System” for the 21st century that taps into our desire to do things

  • Because they matter
  • They are interesting
  • Because they are part of something important.

Scientists from the the University of Chicago, MIT and Carnegie Mellon discovered in a study sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of America that

In 8 out of 9 tasks examined across 3 experiments that higher incentives led to worse performance

In another study by the London School of Economics (the training ground of George Soros and the Alma mater of 11 Nobel Laureates) they found that after looking at 51 companies pay for performance plans that “we find that most financial incentives can result in a negative impact on overall performance”.

What science is telling us is that true powerful and long lasting motivation is built upon 3 elements.

1. Autonomy – the urge to direct our own lives

2. Mastery – the desire to get better and better at something that matters

3. Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Who would have thought 10 years ago that a professionally managed, paid and heavily sponsored project (Encarta by Microsoft) to create a new media encyclopedia  would be comprehensively beaten to the canvas in a knockout by a free global social science experiment called “Wikipedia” involving thousands of unpaid volunteers working in their pajamas from home.

These 3 elements are the building blocks for the a new operating system for business and life in the 21st century. Do they drive your blog?

For more on motivation watch the Ted Talk Video I have embedded in this article by Dan Pink who inspired this post. He is also the author of a New York Times Best Seller “Drive: The Surprising Truth That Motivates Us”. I hope you have a great 2011.


  • Paul Flanigan


    Great post. I read Dan’s book (I have a review on my site) and consider it one of the best books I have read on motivation and understanding how we can be better.

    The three elements should be the core of everything you do, regardless of the project or purpose. Whether you’re building a website/blog or your building model airplanes, these three elements are key.

    Thanks for posting. I hope you’re readers get a lot out of it.

  • Jesse Oguns


    This is the xact incredient
    Missing in my soup, now its
    Dinner time, I am going to
    Inject it into my blog and
    Turn the blog project into
    An E P I C.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Poul Andreassen

    There are certain things you do not realize until you read them, and through your article I have come to realize those few but interesting and effective way to motivation.Thanks once again!!

  • Gary Stockton

    I agree Jeff, it resonates with me.

  • jkerrick2977

    This makes sense to me and as a brand new blogger, I’m glad to see that my motives for blogging seem to be on the right track.