Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Motivates Us

According to Dan Pink's talk at the RSA, illustrated by RSA Animate, money is not a great motivator for complex tasks. Money is a good reward for simple, repetitive work, but it's a hindrance in motivating complex work.

(This ties into another study I've read that says that past roughly $50,000 per year, happiness and salary decouple. In other words, increases in money don't lead to greater happiness. This is true even of lottery winners -- after half a year or so, people's happiness levels drop back to what they were before they won it all.)

Instead, "pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table," and from that point on, the most effective motivators are Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. These 3 factors lead to better performance and personal satisfaction in work.

The 3 Factors For Motivation (After The Money Problem Is Met)

Feeling like you are self-directing puts your skin in the game

The urge to get better at stuff leads us to enjoy video games and musical instruments, and it works at jobs too

Having a larger vision that your effort fits into connects profit with direction, which guides you towards doing better things.

A perfect example of this? The journal entry I'm writing now. After working all day on my computer, I felt motivated to stay on the computer past my bedtime because of these three things. It was my idea to share the article so my autonomy made it that much more exciting to do so. I felt a certain job about mastering the concepts and solidifying them by sharing them in my journal. And sharing this and other ideas fit into my overall purpose of trying to understand how the world works and sharing it in a digestible way to the people around me.

The trick, then, is how to apply this approach to your actual life. How do you find a job that encourages autonomy, mastery and purpose, or how do you apply those factors to the things you do outside of work that would make those activities more fulfilling and productive?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How To Be Alone

So, I had an interesting thought today. I was thinking about how sad it feels to be outside a relationship, and then it occurred to me that if I took all the time I've invested in figuring out how to get into a relationship and stay in one, and put that same time and effort into figuring out how to be happy on my own, I'd probably be pretty darned good at chilling by myself. So I'm starting the project of figuring out how to amuse myself by myself.

The process has been awkward at first; I've invested very little thought into this previously, as my focus outside relationships has typically been how to get into another one as quickly as possible. A quick Google search gave me big lists of things to do alone, but many are depressing tidbits like "dance in front of a mirror" or "make a funny looking pancake." But here are a few I didn't mind:

1. Read a book. (This is straightforward. When you're really into a good book you don't care who is around. In fact, other people are an unwelcome distraction to a ripping novel.)

2. Hang out with nature. (I've noticed that if you're out in the woods and nobody's around, you don't feel nearly as alone as when you're in a crowded disco club. Less people in nature is actually better, and no people in nature in great.)

3. Play video games. (I really need to get an XStation or PlayBox or something. This is more a guy thing, but I could spend a whole weekend alone if the video game were sufficiently awesome.)

4. Play music. (For some people, this is listening, for me it's practicing my instruments. It's enjoyable while I have the energy for it. Unlike books, though, I can't really jam on guitar for too long, because your fingers get tired.)

5. Draw something. (I used to draw a web comic, but a purpose-driven hobby has its own issues. Free-form doodling is more the idea here.)

6. Meditate. (On a quiet friday night, the last thing I want to do is to make it quieter. But every time I've tried having an extended sit by myself, I always feel great after. 45 minutes is amazing.)

7. Exercise. (I'm obsessed with swimming nowadays, but any aerobic activity that leads to endorphin release is a good thing. I can basically swim my cares away, it takes about 20 minutes for most problems.)

8. Cook. (I'm terrible at getting myself to do this, but the times I have I am amazed at the difference between eating takeout alone and cooking for yourself. Cooking yourself something is a very nice experience.)

9. Watch anime. (For most people this would read "Watch a movie" but I'm not a movie person. Give me a good anime series, however, and that's 6 hours down the drain. Or up the drain.)

This is not a comprehensive list, but a decent start. I'll keep thinking about it. The point is that even if you are in a relationship, there will alwayse be times when you're alone, and you could spend that time waiting for your other half to return, or you could learn to enjoy yourself. Suggestions and thoughts welcome.