I never make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I used to never set goals – no matter the time of year – because I would inevitably forget about them within a day or two. Then I read Daniel Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.
The gist of the book is simple: Creative people – in the arts, business, and in life – are motivated from within, not from without. Autonomy, mastery of something, and purpose drive us more than authority or rewards. To illustrate this point, Pink cites the research of psychology professor Carol Dweck (also author of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success).
Dweck set out to study how college students work with goals, and she discovered that most students are motivated either by performance goals or by learning/mastery goals. Students driven by performance goals (‘to make all As’ ‘to ace this test,’ or ‘to get an MBA and get a high-paying job’) seek to look smart and to avoid looking dumb, more than to learn. They believe that intelligence is a fixed state determined at birth.
Students driven by learning/mastery goals (‘to come up with a new way to use an algorithm’ or ‘to refine my mastery of engineering’) want to increase their competence. They enjoy learning for learning’s sake and they believe that talent can be cultivated over a lifetime.
Mastery-oriented students are less concerned with intelligence and more concerned with the tasks at hand. Consequently, they are more likely than performance-motivated students to succeed during difficult times. Over the long term, they’re also generally happier with their lives.
Now, this time any other year you might be devising your workout regimen and setting revenue targets for the next 12 months. But it is hard to imagine meeting even the most “attainable” of goals with our future shrouded in so much uncertainty.
Fortunately research has shown that we can train ourselves to respond to crises – and the uncertainty they produce – with greater openness, flexibility, and fluency. With a little curiosity and creativity, we can advance our goals and find innovative solutions to the unprecedented challenges we face – even amidst rampant uncertainty.(more…)