Passion and Motivation

I watched a very thought provoking video recently about what motivates people. The speaker cites multiple studies in which they assign people tasks and reward good performance to see if people really were logical beings that behaved accordingly to their economic benefit. What they found was that this was not always the case. It turns out that for mechanical tasks, incentivising good performance worked great, but for tasks that required conceptual, creative thinking, monetary rewards did not work.

According to the speaker, money IS a motivator; if people are not paid enough, they will not be motivated, but as stated previously, money does not lead to the best performance when it comes to creative tasks. Therefore, the best strategy would be to pay workers enough so that they do not need to worry about money. Moving beyond that, there are three factors that lead to better performance: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy is the freedom to do whatever you want. Mastery is the urge to get better at something. And purpose is the reason why you are doing what you are doing (hopefully a positive one).

I completely agree with this speaker. I have always strongly believed that money is not the right motivator (in the work place and in life). Deeper factors like autonomy, mastery and purpose are what people need to be motivated. Furthermore, I believe there is an innate need for people to be creative and productive, to see self-improvement and self-actualization.

I am extremely interested in this aspect of the human psyche and what makes humans humans. This is one of the reasons why I ask people what their dream job is, that is, the job they would do for free. I would love to be able to bring out the human in people, turn us back from robots and into the creative and passionate beings we are!

My interest in this topic began in college when I studied political theory. Specifically, there was one text by Marx called “Alienated Labor” which sparked my curiosity. The text basically said that humans, under capitalism, are alienated from their labor because we are just working for money and not because we want to. Under capitalism, we work to live when we are supposed to live to work. He compared humans under capitalism to animals which do things to survive. When they build shelter, it is because they need somewhere to sleep. They need THIS, so they do THAT. But humans do things just because we want to! There is something innate in us that makes us different from other animals this way. He calls it our species being, this natural characteristic of just doing things because we want to (not a perfect analogy in my opinion). Under this species being, we are connected with our labor. We make something because we want to and therefore, it is connected with us. It is the fruit of our labor and we enjoy it afterwards.

My analysis of this text was basically a rewording of Marx's words. I believe what he meant to say was that humans are different from animals because we have passion. Passion is what separates us! It is what makes us unique. Ever since reading that text I have kept passion in such an important place in my life philosophy.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that we abolish capitalism. All I am saying is that I agree with the speaker's point that deep factors lead to motivation. The reason why I mentioned passion is because the presentation reminded me of it. In fact, passion and motivation are actually quite similar. Maybe the former is a deeper version of the latter, I do not know. I leave that thought till another day.