Today’s word is motivation. The first recorded use of the word Motivation was in 1873, but at its base is the word Motive which comes to us from ancient Latin via France. Movere (to move) became Motivus then Motif (French) and finally Motive. The really interesting thing about this word is that while it is easy to define (the general desire or willingness of someone to do something) it isn’t easy to understand. Here’s what I mean…

Recently, I was directed to a TED talk by a gentleman named Dan Pink. I highly suggest you take the full 18 minutes to listen to it (LINK HERE).

To give you a tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) recap, Dan explains that what science knows about motivation is the opposite of what every business does. In numerous studies, participants have been challenged with tasks ranging from simple to complex and offered external motivators ranging from nothing at all to high financial reward. For simple mechanical tasks, the pay and win strategy was perfect. Participants motivated by money completed tasks quicker than those offered nothing. But to really grow a business we need creative thinkers and innovators. These same studies showed that tasks involving problem solving or ingenuity, were not completed faster or better with the promise of external reward. Only by cultivating self-motivation in others can these challenges be met with confidence.

Self-motivation can be difficult. Finding that “burning fire within” isn’t easy and can’t be created by the promise of reward. The irony Dan Pink points out is true. When there is no reward offered, we search for a different type of goal. This self-made feeling of purpose fills us up and drives us to aspire to great things. That is the key to motivation.