In the previous post, I talked about the old method of motivation (Motivation 2.0, above the basic motivation to meet the basic needs of life), and how this dangling of a reward in favor of beneficial behavior and punishment in the presence of undesirable behavior can actually hinder creative development and happiness. This post will focus on the benefits of fostering creativity, and how it plays a big role in the overall happiness of the individual and the quality of the work produced.
We all have hobbies. Those activities we do that don’t produce any noticeable benefit to our lives, or increase our profitability or that most people may think are weird. So then why do them? If we were to follow the old method of motivation, these activities would be punishable, simply because they didn’t help bring us any closer to our overall goals. Video games are incredibly popular, and a way to escape reality while pursuing a series of mental and physical challenges with eye-hand coordination, and when finished…..produces nothing.
Such activities are called autotelic experiences, which literally means ” self-purposed,” meaning the sheer act of doing is the purpose and the main goal. The enjoyment one can get from the activity is why they perform the activity in the first place.
Imagine what life would be like if we were able to create autotelic experiences from our careers or from our other goals in life? Let’s take fitness for example. Not too many people would say that they get a lot of satisfaction out of walking on a treadmill facing a blank wall, which is why treadmill s can now come complete with televisions, iPod docks, GPS, Internet, and every convenience imaginable to make it enjoyable ENOUGH to do endless hours of a mind-numbingly boring activity. Why walk aimlessly and stationary on a treadmill, when you could walk through the wilderness, or better play a lightly competitive game with someone that involved moving around? The social and competitive benefits are more than if alone, and no one will ever argue that getting some bragging rights over a friend is a good thing. When we get into a state where the activity is maximally engaging and the person is getting the most enjoyment out of the task, we could say that person is in a state of “flow,” where they feel on top of the world. This optimal arousal is what we all strive to reach in our activities, and in our lives.
Let’s look at work. If I said that more than 55% of the current workforce could not think of a single moment at work where they experienced a state of flow, would that shock you? Probably not, as it is of growing concern that more and more employees are becoming disconnected from their work and merely showing up to do the minimum to stay employed and collect a paycheck. This is a phenomenon called “presentee-ism” by many in management, meaning their employees are not motivated to do their work to the best of their abilities, and are actually a detriment to a well-run unit. This is proof-positive that the old motivation system does not work. So why do we keep using it? Primarily because we don’t know anything else, and change would be difficult for many (which it always is). Baby boomers, who make up the largest section of the population have always responded to the carrot and stick motivation, but their kids in generation X and Y are looking for more than money and job security.
Imagine a job that made you want to go to work every day, where you felt free to do your best at your own pace and motivated intrinsically to produce your best. Imagine a place that fostered a creative and caring environment, that offered flex time for families that allowed you to come and go as you please as long as the work gets done on time. Imagine a job that gave you paid time each week to work on a project of your choosing, whether it loaned itself to your project or not. Imagine a company that valued their contributions to the world around them, not just focusing on the bottom line. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? It’s beginning to happen now. Many leading edge corporations are giving employees the options described above, and then some. These companies are wooing employees away from higher paying jobs in brain factories to their way of life because of the intellectual and emotional freedom they can grant.
We can all imagine moments in our life where we felt like we were in “flow,” that magical time where we felt that whatever task we were doing, we were doing it better than anyone else. We felt like the world was clear, that it made sense, and that we could do good. Motivating someone to experience these moments will produce a greater adherence to their goal behaviour, and make the activity one that they will likely engage in for the rest of their lives. Many fitness facilities, trainers and programs don’t take into account the intrinsic motivation of the individual participating in the activity, focusing on the end result instead of the process. Making the workout fun and enjoyable will ULTIMATELY make it more appealing and worth doing to the individual, which will in turn help them reach their fitness goals along the way, as a secondary benefit to this new autotelic activity.