What motivates us?

I found the YouTube video of Dan Pink’s seminar on “Drive-The surprising truth about what motivates us,” to be very interesting. Pink stated that it is human nature for people to be active and engaged. He gave specific examples of how rewards and punishment could lower human motivation rather than increase it. If you take money out of the equation because a person feels they are being treated fairly, then most people will typically behave in a certain way. Pink described how human intrinsic motivation when dealing with creative tasks is based upon three precepts:

  1. Autonomy: We perform better when we direct our own lives.
  2. Mastery: We inherently want to make progress.
  3. Purpose: We desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

This summer, a week after I arrived in the U.S. at the beginning of my summer vacation from teaching, I attended a workshop on a new method of appliqué. I didn’t really think I was interested in appliqué because I had always viewed it as too time consuming and difficult. I thought I didn’t have the patience for it. But after the second day, I had made my first appliqué block and discovered that I enjoyed it. I proceeded to make a few more blocks. After making four blocks, I thought to myself, “I could stop now and make a table runner.” But with a little of encouragement from my mother, who was also making her own blocks, I kept making more blocks. She stopped at four but I ended up making 20 blocks by the end of the summer, enough to make a twin-size quilt. After my mom finished her four blocks, she started to help me in sewing the blocks I started to assemble after I had picked out the fabric, pressed and glued on the pieces to the background fabric. Without her help, I couldn’t have made 20 blocks in two-months time. It soon became apparent to me that I didn’t want to stop until I had made every pattern from the workshop so that I could have enough to make a whole quilt, not just a table runner. I know if it had just worked alone, I probably wouldn’t have finished all 20 blocks. It was because I worked collaboratively with someone else that I felt the need to keep pushing myself until it was finished. I didn’t want to let my mother down. Even though she was fine with me stopping at anytime. We kept saying to each other, “We can always finish this next year,” but I really felt driven to keep pushing till the end. I still have to sew all the blocks together for the finished quilt but I have the most of the work behind me.

I teach high school digital media classes that are creative task related. Dan Pink’s seminar on “Drive-The surprising truth about what motivates us,” has helped me to understand how to motivate my students in my classes. Punishments and rewards don’t work. I have to keep in mind as I start my classes again this fall that: autonomy, mastery, and purpose motivate my students to succeed in creative tasks.

"My Whimsical Garden Quilt" pattern

“My Whimsical Garden Quilt” pattern