3490077176_73bfe868d0_zAs every manager or parent knows, if you want to motivate someone to be more productive, you dangle a prize, a reward, a bonus or something else which you think will motivate them. That’s what bonuses and allowances are for, right?! Hold on! Not so fast.

In their book The Winner’s Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success, Jeff Brown and Mark Fenske tell of studies done at Harvard that actually show that productivity and external rewards are inversely related after a certain threshold. Yes, inversely.

External rewards, such as money and other material items, encourage people to focus narrowly on a task, do it as quickly as possible, and take fewer risks. The focus becomes the prize, not the process, and people begin to feel as if they are being controlled by the reward causing them to become less invested and less determined which, in turn, makes the creative juices to dry up. Focus on extrinsic rewards erodes intrinsic interest and motivation.

Motivation is the second strategy outlined in the book that a person’s brain can develop and use to achieve success in life. The authors define motivation as the ability to translate potential and intention into action.

Research shows that, while external incentives do work to get people moving and give them an extra push to get them over the initial, short term hump, they do not motivate long term. For someone to stay motivated over the long haul, personal meaning and intrinsic value have to kick in.

Surprisingly,Framing everyday, ordinary tasks positively towards an outcome and finding inspiration in them causes the amygdala in your brain to stay active and gives your brain a dopamine shot as a reward which helps keep you going in the right direction. Achieving in the here and now allows you to succeed later.

In the first winter of my recovery from a brain injury, I went to a “jump and pump” aerobics class where you work out with jump ropes, and I couldn’t jump rope to save my life. I ended up having to hold the rope and jump up and down in place. I could at least, do that. Soon after, I bought a jump rope and vowed that I would jump rope again like a third grader. I was beyond happy and proud when I could jump 20 times without getting all tangled up. Then, I worked my way up to 50.  Now, I still can’t do double dutch, but I wouldn’t get laughed off the playground either.

You can develop motivation and reinforce this trait in your brain by being present, celebrating your minor accomplishments along the way, and finding the positive in ordinary situations. When you approach the small, every day events with optimism and appreciation, it makes the journey so much more enjoyable.

image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ercos3ya/

5 Comments

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    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      What great information and how surprising. I’ll bet it would totally surprise most managers in charge of motivating other people. I love the example of the company company Atlassian which get so many new ideas in one 24 hour period just by giving their employees autonomy. More companies should do this!

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