Success. Happiness. Fulfillment. Motivation.  *poor analogy alert* Seems to me that a lot of people are searching for the formula or recipe that serves these up on the metaphorical dinner plate of existence (whatever that is).   Of course, the trick is to understand that only you can create that particular dish for yourself.

We all have times when we’re nailing it, when we’re in a flow and on the top of our game. That feels good, right?  In my own experience this tends to be when I have a clear goal or purpose that I’m striving to fulfill.  The times when this purpose isn’t so clear (or I disagree with said purpose) also tend to be when I become more restless and perhaps less focused. Equally, the more experienced or skilled I have become the more autonomy I crave… and the more I learn the more I want to learn.

According to best selling Author, Dan Pink, purpose is one of the three key ingredients for professional and personal motivation, particularly when you are working in a role that requires skill, creativity and cognitive thinking.  The other two? Autonomy and mastery.

If your are a leader (at any level) then you could do worse than to understand better what motivates the people around you.  If it motivates the people around you, chances are those same things hold a close kin to your own motivators.  Having formed and been part of many high-performing teams I know this to be undoubtedly true.  On reflection A.M.P have been at the heart of everything I’ve achieved.

My key insights from Dan’s research:

  1. Self direction tends to work better for skilled people… saying “I trust your ability, work on it the way you want” produces better results.
  2. Innovation bonuses don’t work – giving the autonomy to solve problems creatively and for an authentic purpose (not just profit or share price) does.
  3. Modern businesses who champion A.M.P culturally attract better talent and have a greater chance creating meaningful change in their market.  

If you can find the time, watch this 10 minute video from Dan and the talented people at RSA Animate to get an overview of the research. When you’re watching, try to frame your own thinking in a way that questions where your experiencing Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose in your professional and personal life as well as how you can help facilitate it for others.  What changes could you make to use these principles in a way that would enhance your motivation for what you’re doing?

Get in touch and let me know how you’re applying Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose in what you do, or just say hello.


Posted by Steven Thomas

Fan of great ideas and (especially) the people that make them work. Steven is the creator of CurveFinder exploring subjects like collaboration, leadership, creative endeavour and personal development. He's spent over two decades working in the UK media industry holding various senior business and creative leadership roles, most recently with a focus on Digital Transformation and Start-ups. Accomplished coach and mentor. Seth Godin's altMBA Alumni. Lives in Edinburgh with his wife and young family. Always in the kitchen at parties.

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