My TED choice: Dan Pink on the science of motivation

I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation lately. What motivates us to do what we do? What steers us toward something that is so blissful it generates self-motivation? It’s damn tough to motivate people to act. I talk to my students about motivated sequence and formal strategies of motivation, but I myself find that I am completely powerless to motivate others to really break out of their shell of apathy or self-importance long enough to really try the stuff I’m so excited to share with them.

Dan Pink is twittering up a storm right now, and as I am spending the evening with TED, his tweets led to a revisiting of his TED talk, “The science of motivation” and a very interesting article from my new favorite resource for all things teaching amazingness, The Learning Network courtesy of the New York Times.

Students and teachers alike need to find intrinsic drives for motivation. I encourage students to hold on to one concept or idea to cultivate as they work through class and beyond. But that encouragement doesn’t really stick without the transference of that drive to succeed for intrinsic reasons. Pink believes that incentives don’t work. Incentives don’t create creativity. The self does. True creativity comes when the self generates its own intrinsic motivations. The candle problem cannot be solved by our left brain, which values the logic of figures and tangible incentives. It’s our right brain, which is driven by self-actualization and creativity that truly motivates and drives. Pink breaks this type of motivation into three building blocks: autonomy, the urge to direct our own lives; mastery, the desire to get better and better at something, and purpose, the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger.

It’s like Dan Pink lives in my head. When I read his books, I had one of those really important aha moments. It’s our task as teachers (and our students’ tasks as speakers) to facilitate moments of intrinsic motivation. We have to find ways to facilitate autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This is something that is second nature to me now because I found that switch that turned me on to self-motivation, teaching. It’s a process that takes some of us our entire lives. I may feel entirely inept in many aspects of my life. My calling and craft are not among them. It’s DRIVE!

The exercises crafted by Larry Ferlazzo are meant to generate these sorts of motivation moments. I cannot wait to try number 3 next week! This talk of motivation led me to my next two assigned talks in this night of TED, Tom Chatfield’s “7 ways games reward the brain” and Jane McGonigal’s “Gaming can make a better world.”

Thanks to Tevin Bryant for this excellent talk.

Thanks to Will Kim for this truly enlightening talk.


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