Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

RSA Animate made an interesting video of what motivates us:

We all know that sticks and stones won't make us get our PhD.

In this video, we get a few glimpses of how motivation really works. In the light of PhD research, we can think more deeply about some of the results that are shown in the animation.

The most interesting part is the three factors that lead to better performance:

1. Autonomy

"If you want engagement, self direction is better".
In these terms, PhD research is among the most self-directed types of work you could be doing.

Take-Home Message: Take ownership of your research. Own your project, push it forward, and take pride in it.

2. Mastery
"We enjoy getting better at skills over time"
There's a large number of skills that you learn during your PhD. To stay motivated, it's important that we track our progress and see how we are getting better at our skills - and these skills cover a wide array: planning our work, coding, measuring data, writing,...

Take-Home Message: Identify a number of skills that you develop in your research. Measure your performance and track your progress, so that you can visualize your path to mastery.

3. Purpose
"We are motivated by a greater purpose".
In our research, it is easy to get absorbed by the specific problems we need to solve: how we should code a routine, how we should measure a variable in an experiment and similar issues. It is important to realize frequently the greater impact of our research.

Take-Home Message: What is the greater purpose of your research? How will it impact society? Is it related to the economy, the environment or our society?

What motivates you? Do you recognize yourself in this video?

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