The Power of Intrinsic Motivation

How to find it and how to teach our kids to have it.

No one can develop intrinsic motivation but you — think of it as your own personal map.

As part of my role at EEC, I hire educators from all over the world who wish to work here. I just got off the phone with one — a very capable teacher with years of experience. When I asked her what she was interested in doing with us, she gave me some numbers. The number of students she wanted to work with, the number of hours she has to work, and her pay. There was no lively banter about students she wished to help or her interest in whole child education. She was lovely. I’m sure she does good work, but I couldn’t hire her.

I’m very clear on my intrinsic motivation, or our my own personal motivation, for the work I do at The Evolved Education Company. I wish to change the conversation about tutoring and education support to include academic excellence for the whole child. I want to hire people who share this motivation. I do not just want to provide a service which teaches your child how to do math or match your child with someone looking for some extra cash (although I do want to pay our educators well), rather, I want teachers here who are jazzed about our mission. I want to teach a child math, but also how to study math, how to learn at his best at school and home, and to strengthen his social, emotional and physical development so he can learn at his best. When I hire people, I’m asking them about their motivation for doing the work they wish to do here — and if it aligns to our mission, that will support our efforts to hire them.

Understanding one’s intrinsic motivation is powerful, not just in a job hiring situation, but also in the pursuit of work or study. Of course, motivation will evolve and what moved you as a twenty-year-old will not likely be exactly the same as what moves you as a forty-year-old. At anytime, though, it is helpful to have a way to determine your intrinsic motivation.

Let me walk you through an exercise I do with the teenagers we work with; I had a class today and had them all do it and they had such a great experience, I felt compelled to write today’s article. The exercise is called PESA. The idea of PESA is to create your own understanding of what matters most to you, what works for you, or what you love about yourself in each of your developmental arenas.

  1. On a sheet of paper, write down, P. E. S. A. P stands for Physical. E stands for Emotional. S stands for Social and E. stands for Emotional.

2. Next, write down what you love and what works for you within each arena. For me, physically, I need sleep and to eat regularly and to exercise a few times a week. Emotionally, I connect with people and talk about my experiences and feelings. Socially, I must spend time with my husband, children, sisters and family as well as friends. I do not want to be in my house alone for the day. Academically, or in my case, Work Wise, I love to have LOTS going on. I thrive when I’m busy with a mix of routine work and creative work. I am not a micromanager. I work well with micromanagers. I like to empower others to do what they do best.

3. Examine what you wrote and see if it is reflected in your work, your interactions with others, your schedule and your goals. For teenagers, this exercise can make them aware of their own motivations to develop physically, emotionally, socially and academically.

In today’s world, we have so many external demands and information about what we should be doing and about how we should be raising our children. Our children have the same type of should be input, and they are often not motivated to work or to take care of themselves, because they do not have an understanding of what they want, what works for them or what they enjoy within each of their developmental arenas.

Having a clear understanding of intrinsic motivation is powerful. When we understand our intrinsic motivation to do something, we can pursue it clearly, effectively and joyfully.

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