Ellen Jackson:
Hello, and welcome back to the Potential Psychology podcast. It's your host Ellen here and it is just me today. No guest. Why not guest, you ask? This is new, this is not normal. Well, for a couple of reasons. First, I have a heap of amazing guests. Is heap a good word? Do you have a heap of guests? That's probably not the best word for it. I have a selection of amazing guests lined up for our upcoming episodes. We have James Garrett back very soon talking about his deep change project, which involves a lot of cool self-experimentation to track changes to his brain. I'll be talking to Ariel Garten, who's the founder of Interaxon, makers of the Muse, a brain sensing headband designed to make meditation easier, and I'm having fun playing with my Muse at home at the moment. So we'll talk more about that.

Ellen Jackson:
We have Dr. Gordon Spence coming up. Gordon is a long time colleague of mine who's doing some very cool work looking at the full package of wellbeing and exercise and nutrition and longevity and happiness. We're going to be looking also at early career psychology as well as positive psychology and sports coaching and some hacks for getting life admin organized and a plethora of other topics.

Ellen Jackson:
But, coordinating all of this behind the scenes and getting everyone's calendars aligned and set up to record interviews, several of which are across international timezones, is kind of a tricky business. Sometimes it just doesn't work out. So rather than miss a week and leave you hanging, I put my problem solving hat on and that brings me to reason number two for this solo episode.

Ellen Jackson:
I have a couple of public workshops coming up here in Ballarat shortly exploring six simple steps to an engaged, motivated team. And I've cheekily subtitled it Why Everything You Know About Motivation Is Wrong. The first of those workshops has sold out and the second is very close to full. I've had several people ask if I'm planning to run more of them or run them in different locations, which sadly I'm not right now. Doesn't mean it might not happen one day but right now we don't have that in the works but I did think that maybe this would be a great opportunity to share the tips on motivation and engagement here on the podcast because then nobody misses out.

Ellen Jackson:
So that's what we're doing today, just you and me delving into motivation and why everything you know about motivation is wrong. So let's go, shall we?

Ellen Jackson:
So, the definition of motivation, because that's always a good place to start, is just the desire to do something, or maybe the drive to do something. But certainly the definition that I like to use is the desire to do something. It's as simple as that. But here's the thing, it's not simple is it? It's complicated. Anybody who's ever tried to motivate themselves to develop a new habit or to start an exercise regime or change their diet or even learn a new skill knows that motivation is not a simple thing. Far more complex, probably, from a psychological point of view that most of us anticipate or even really want.

Ellen Jackson:
And here's a few of the beliefs about motivation that most of us hold that are not necessarily helpful. Firstly, that we somehow need to find the motivation that we need to do difficult things like go to the gym or clean the house or do our taxes or get started on something challenging or difficult or even something inspiring sometimes, we can still procrastinate over things that we really want to do, hence that complexity thing. It's like we think that somehow our motivation's hiding down the back of the couch or it's somewhere and if we could just find it we'd be up and running, that it was that straightforward. But that's not how motivation works.

Ellen Jackson:
Secondly, our second belief about motivation that is not necessarily helpful is this idea that we're either motivated or we're not. That it's an either/situation or like an on/off, like we can flick a switch, and that there's no room for degrees of motivation or acknowledgement that our motivation ebbs and flows at times or that it can be generated from multiple different sources. Motivation is really a very fluid thing, it's not static but it's not how we tend to think about it. We think we either have it or we don't.

Ellen Jackson:
The third belief about motivation is that lacking motivation is bad and being motivated is good. We attach a value to it. Motivation is good, not being motivated is bad. That's not right either. Motivation just is. It's not necessarily a good or bad thing.

Ellen Jackson:
Our fourth belief, there's five altogether, our fourth is that to motivate other people or indeed ourselves we need punishment and rewards. We need bonuses for grownups or star charts for kids or suspension for grownups and withdrawal of screen privileges for kids. That doesn't work either, or not for long, and I'm going to talk quite a bit about that in a moment.

Ellen Jackson:
The fifth and final one is even the idea that we can motivate other people is an unhelpful belief. We can't actually motivate somebody else and that's what I'm going to talk about too. So there's plenty that we know or we think we know about motivation but it turns out it's mostly wrong. It's actually outdated and it's rather unhelpful. Unhelpful for not only our motivation itself but also for our wellbeing and certainly for helping to motivate other people, whether that's people you might manage at work in a team or as a coach or as a leader or maybe the people, kids and grownups, who share a home with you.

Ellen Jackson:
So where do these myths come from? Why do we believe this less than helpful stuff about motivation and what should we believe? What, in fact, do we know about motivation that is helpful and informative? Well, this comes partly from our historical understanding of motivation, so psychologists didn't really start studying motivation in any systematic ways until about the 1950s, which is really not that long ago. Prior to that there were management theorists like Frederick Taylor, who observed behavior in workplaces and developed theories about motivation based on what he saw, what he observed.

Ellen Jackson:
So there's a thing, phenomenon, theory called Taylorism or scientific management, as it's also known. That was an approach to people management that essentially considered people as inputs into a system, like one of the components used to make something. So you had all of your widgets, the things that went into the system and people were one of those components.

Ellen Jackson:
Taylor's idea was that if you paid the people as components in the people X amount you could expect a certain level of output from them. Which is a pretty basic, simplistic way of looking at it, really, but it was quite revolutionary at the time. Then in the 1920s, Elton Mayo examined and came up with a thing that's now known as the Hawthorn effect, and Mayo noted that people's behaviors changed at work when they were being observed and that productivity actually increased when employees were being watched.

Ellen Jackson:
So his belief and this Hawthorne effect basically states that you've got to keep an eye on people to keep them focused on the job, that motivation comes from an external source, which was being watched by someone and therefore we boosted our productivity when we were under observation.

Ellen Jackson:
So these are pretty simplistic way of thinking about motivation but it's where we started in terms of our understanding of it. Then in the 1950s, and this was sort of happening in parallel, people like B. F. Skinner, who's a famous, what's called behaviorist, so this was an understanding about psychology or a philosophy around human behavior at the time, around the 1950s, and he ran experiments and developed what he called the law of effect, which basically said that people change their behavior in response to external factors or anticipation of external factors.

Ellen Jackson:
So if we anticipate being rewarded, for example, we'll do whatever we think we need to do to get that reward. This is known as positive reinforcement and you've no doubt heard about that at some stage. So you do the thing, you get the reward, and that's where our motivation comes from. We're motivated to do the thing because someone's going to reward it for us. Or, we do the thing to stop something unpleasant from happening. So nagging, is a great example here, one we can probably all relate to. If you're being nagged to do something, you'll do it sometimes just to make the nagging stop.

Ellen Jackson:
So actually trying to remove an annoying circumstance and that drives the behavior and that's called negative reinforcement. Then there's another type of driver of behavior that's external and that's punishment. So if we don't do the thing, we're punished for it. So if you don't do what your mama asks, then she shouts at you or removes your screen privileges, for example. So it's a form of punishment.

Ellen Jackson:
So, this drives behavior because we do the thing to avoid the punishment. This can all be bundled up under the label operant condition, which is an early understanding of how we learn and how behavior changes. And this is kind of stuff you learn all about in first year psychology, if you've done that you probably remember this stuff. But these ideas about external forces to motivate, so rewards and punishments, have really stuck. Yeah? So our understanding of motivation within psychology and other allied fields has grown but these ideas have stuck.

Ellen Jackson:
And to some extent they work. So if the behavior that we're looking for is really simple then this simple approach works. We use treats to train dogs, for example. It's a form of positive reinforcement. They've done what we asked, you get the treat. If you want to stop your toddler from putting his hand on the hot stove and you shout at him, he gets a fright and associates that with putting his hand on the stove, hopefully learning not to do it.

Ellen Jackson:
It's the same premise behind poker machines. If you keep putting your money in and pressing the button you might get rewarded, and that encourages you to keep going. But of course you don't always keep going, do you? This is where people start to fall over. At some point you might say, "Nah, that's enough for me. I'm out." Or, maybe you know better than to play the pokies at all, the reward system doesn't work for you. Or there's people obviously who do keep going and keep putting more money in despite knowing at a cognitive level that it's not doing them any good and it isn't necessarily going to give them the reward they're looking for, except that they get those little drips of a reward that does keep motivating the behavior.

Ellen Jackson:
So in simple ways, it works. But human beings aren't simple. Human beings are complicated and we do things for all kinds of complicated and intertwined reasons. Sometimes we're not even conscious of those reasons. We do things for reasons that we couldn't even necessarily explain. Our motivation is kind of deep seated. But it's definitely more complex than simple punishment and reward or positive and negative reinforcement.

Ellen Jackson:
Yet this idea of motivating ourselves or others through punishment and reward and trying to control our behavior or the behavior of others through this positive and negative reinforcement has really stuck. But in the mid-1970s, a couple of young researchers, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan at the New York based University of Rochester started to wonder about this.

Ellen Jackson:
They noticed that people don't always have to be prodded or cajoled into action using rewards and punishment or carrots and sticks. Some of us do the craziest things that defy all logic. They don't make sense. And yet we're still really highly motivated to do them. We're risk our lives climbing icy mountains where there's very little oxygen or we surf giant waves where risk to life and limb is quite significant. Or we donate hours and hours of our time to charities or to volunteer work where there's no obvious monetary reward or there is no monetary reward or there may not be any other obvious reward.

Ellen Jackson:
Or we have children. That doesn't make logical sense, does it? What's the motivation for doing that? It's very expensive and time consuming and you get very little sleep for a long time and you give up a whole lot of your life for it. It, in fact, can feel a little bit like punishment on certain days. Yet we do it voluntarily. We're motivated to do it.

Ellen Jackson:
So Deci and Ryan got interested in this and they started to investigate it, asking the question, are there other forms of motivation? And if so, where do they come from? They came at this question from a very different philosophical point of view. They were interested in what energized people and inspired them to do things. What we've really come to know, I suppose, as intrinsic motivation. They theorized that given the right conditions, people really want to learn and grow. They really want to try new things and test themselves and push themselves and explore and experience.

Ellen Jackson:
So they were really interested in what they call high quality motivation. When people can be wholeheartedly engaged in something and can have both their best experience and their best performance because we know that they're the conditions that help us to thrive and flourish.

Ellen Jackson:
So they set about doing a whole heap of experiments and research into different types of motivation beyond this idea of reward and punishment that was very much the understanding of motivation at the time. By the mid-1980s, they developed something that they called self-determination theory. What's fascinating is that self-determination theory is now the world's most cited theory of motivation within psychology and related fields. It's the undisputed king of our understanding of motivation and how it works and it has been for the better part of 30 years. But it really hasn't made it out there into the mainstream in any significant way. It really hasn't made headway in how we consider motivation and how we understand motivation at work or often in schools and certainly not in parenting. We're still stuck with the rewards and the punishments.

Ellen Jackson:
Now, why is this? Psychologists have known this stuff about self-determination and I'm going to explain exactly what that is shortly. Why haven't we incorporated that into our everyday understanding? Why don't we use that in terms of how we go about trying to motivate others? And one of the reasons I think is that it is more complex. So our human brains like simple and straightforward and we tend to choose the simple option over the more complex option. Our brains are essentially lazy, we can get our heads around carrots and sticks and rewards and punishment. It's straightforward and so we kind of stick with that, pardon the pun.

Ellen Jackson:
But also when we try the carrot or stick approach it tends to work. At least at first. Or it looks like it's working. And it does work if you want low quality motivation. So when we nag our kids to do their homework, which is a form of negative reinforcement, or we threaten to take away screen time privileges, so that's a punishment. Or we pay them to help around the house, which is a positive reinforcement, they do tend to do what we want, initially at least.

Ellen Jackson:
But the effect wears off. And to have the same effect we have to shout more or take away more privileges or pay them more and it becomes this kind of escalating situation. The same thing happens with the team that you're managing at work, for example. If you're using control, and that's what reward and punishment is, it's a type of control to get people to respond to you, then every time you're not there or you're not wielding the big stick, they're likely to revert to whatever their previous behavior might have been. And that's possibility less than what you're looking for.

Ellen Jackson:
This does happen because when we use our carrots and sticks, our punishments or rewards, these simple approaches to motivation, what we're trying to do is control someone's behavior. It's an external force pushing on us to make us do something. We're not really motivating them, we're controlling them. That's quite different. It definitely comes with fallout beyond the fact that we've got to keep escalating the rewards and the punishments to keep it going.

Ellen Jackson:
So, for starters, when we use this control approach to managing behavior to get the behavior that we're looking for, whether it's someone else's or our own, it does damage to our relationships. So when we shout at our kids or remove privileges or punish them, that's when you get the eye rolling and the resentment or they do what you want just to shut you up, to stop you nagging, or they do begin to just flat out ignore you. So it ceases to be an interaction based on trust and respect and that's not good for a positive relationship and it's certainly not what we'd call positive motivation.

Ellen Jackson:
The same thing occurs when we're managing people in a workplace. So workplace culture that's based on control can really quickly become quite an unpleasant place to be, it creates an environment in which rather than go the extra mile, people tend to do the bare minimum. That's the other area of fallout from taking this control or punishment or reward approach to motivation. The fallout is our psychological flourishing.

Ellen Jackson:
So if you think about motivating yourself for a moment, if you set yourself a goal to exercise more and you use reward and punishment as your motivator, which many of us do, you'll generally find that your external rewards work for a little while until you kind of don't care anymore. So it's the same with kids. The benefits of that coffee after your gym session or buying yourself a treat no longer outweigh the benefit of staying tucked up in your warm bed, or even using the time to get out to the office early and get on top of your email. There's all these competing demands that we grapple with.

Ellen Jackson:
If the benefit of that external reward, the treat you were going to buy yourself, whatever it might be, doesn't outweigh one of these other competing demands, you don't get the benefit, you don't get the motivation, you don't change the behavior or create the new habit.

Ellen Jackson:
And if you use punishment, so if you beat yourself up verbally, not usually physically but we all beat ourselves up verbally; if you beat yourself up after you don't stick to your gym plan, for example, you tell yourself that you're hopeless, you're useless, what's the point? You can never stick to anything. All of those little phrases that we use somewhere in our internal conversations with ourselves. Then your behavior also stops. You don't go to the gym and now you're also feeling terrible about yourself because if we have those conversations with ourselves that are ongoing, that has an impact on our feelings of self-worth. It's really just an unproductive form of self-abuse. It's a very long way from thriving and flourishing.

Ellen Jackson:
So when it comes to motivation, we know what doesn't work. The simple approach, the rewards and punishment don't work, but what does work? How do we create this high quality, positive motivation that Deci and Ryan talk about. Therefore create positive relationships and thriving work environments and we help ourselves to develop motivation to understand what drives and motivates us so that we can do the things that we want to do, reach the goals that we want to retain and do it in a way that helps us to grow and thrive. This is where self-determination theory comes back in.

Ellen Jackson:
So Deci and Ryan's work and the 30 years of work that stemmed from it comes from this philosophical different standpoint. It comes from this assumption that rather than being creatures who need to be coerced and controlled to do the right thing, this old fashioned notion, that people are instead naturally curious, inclined to learn, keen to develop their knowledge and to take action.

Ellen Jackson:
This is all born out by the research. Here's an example. One of the very early studies that Deci and Ryan undertook, they asked two groups of students to solve a puzzle. They paid one group to do it and what they found is that this group tended to lose interest. When the puzzle was difficult it kind of wasn't worth the effort they had to put in for the money that they were being paid, those competing demands again. And they gave up.

Ellen Jackson:
The second group, however, they weren't being paid to solve the puzzle. What they found is that they persevered. It was the same puzzle, same level of challenge but in the absence of payment, without that even being factored into the equation, this second group tapped into something else, some other motivation to persevere and solve the puzzle even though it required effort and it was challenging.

Ellen Jackson:
So what's fascinating about this and very informative when we think about what drives and motivates us as human beings is that not only did that external motivator, the payment, not work, it actually undermined motivation. It reduced it. Instead, the second group demonstrated that people will undertake a challenge and persevere in the face of difficulty when they can tap into something deeper; something more intrinsic to whether they are.

Ellen Jackson:
So Deci and Ryan started exploring what those other deeper factors are and over time they came up with these three psychological needs that drive our behavior and thus explain motivation. So, let's go through those three factors. The first of these is competence. So our psychological need for competence is a drive to develop skills and master tasks.

Ellen Jackson:
We can see this in babies and toddlers all the time. They're driven to keep reaching for the toy, to move even when it takes all of their physical effort, and if you've ever watched a baby trying to roll over, there's obviously something deep within them that is driving that behavior because it looks like really hard work. And they're driven to master walking even though they keep falling over. They might hurt themselves, they get back up, they keep doing it. They persevere. They keep pushing forward and they keep trying to master these skills until they do.

Ellen Jackson:
So it's like a built-in drive that they have and it's still there within all of us but as we get older, we tend to develop beliefs about what we can and can't do or what we should or shouldn't do and these beliefs can often cloud that inner drive for competence in some areas, and we develop what we call self-limiting beliefs. But it really still is there when you look.

Ellen Jackson:
So there'll be an area of your life, a task that you pursue or a project that you complete that you persevere with no matter how much effort it takes, just in order to see it through or to master that skill. So maybe you've learnt to play an instrument and taught yourself, or been to lessons, or you continue to challenge yourself to get better at baking your kids birthday cakes, or you're training for a fun run or a half marathon, or you're like me and you spent your Saturday afternoon pulling the trampoline apart in order to replace the safety net and put it all back together again despite the fact that it was five degrees, raining, and getting dark. Because you're going to get it done, dammit. You're going to master it. You're going to see it through. And that's that drive for competence right there. The drive to master a skill, to be able to see something attained and achieved. So we all still have it within us. It's still very much there.

Ellen Jackson:
The second psychology need that drives our behavior is the need for autonomy. So this is a need to act from our own freewill or feel like we're acting from our own freewill. No one likes to feel that they don't have a say in what they do. If you think back to our toddlers again, I don't think anybody who's ever tried to help a toddler with a task, like doing up a jacket or putting on shoes, hasn't been told, "I do it myself." That kind of determination that you are not to help them and that they are going to do it themselves. That's them developing autonomy. That belief, that understanding, and there's probably a bit of mastery in there as well, trying to develop the skill, the competence. But you know, I'm going to do it myself. This is my job to do and I'm going to do it my way. And that's again one of those inner drives we have that we all have, which is a need for autonomy.

Ellen Jackson:
So if you think of that phrase you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink, I think that describes it perfectly too, that we all need to feel that no matter what else, you know external factors that might drive us to do something, ultimately it will be our choice as to whether or not we partake.

Ellen Jackson:
And we need to feel that what we're doing is worthwhile as well, as part of that. So I'm sure we've all experienced the frustration and the very low motivation that comes when we've had to participate in what I might call a box ticking exercise, doing something that feels pointless to us, we're just doing it because somebody told us to, and I think it feels like that, that low motivation to participate in it comes because it doesn't serve this need for autonomy.

Ellen Jackson:
And the third psychological need that rounds out self-determination as an approach to motivation is the need for relatedness. So I know we've spoken on the podcast before about our human need for connection with other people. It's really vital for our wellbeing and our happiness but it also plays a part in our motivation. So at a deep level we really want to feel involved with others. We want to feel connected to other people and trusted and respected by other people. And we want to feel that we're important to them and to convey that they are important to us.

Ellen Jackson:
Humans are really social creatures, we live and operate in tribes, whether they're families or work teams or social groups or different types of communities. And we're really driven, at a deep level, to feel included in those groups. That plays out in our behavior. So we respond to praise and recognition and mutual celebration of the things that we've done well and we'll respond perhaps in less positive ways in terms of our behavior but also our thoughts and our feelings when we feel that we're not recognized or when we're treated with disrespect or if we feel that someone doesn't care about us. So those things also very much drive our behavior and therefore play a part in our motivation.

Ellen Jackson:
So these are the three essential components, the three psychological needs of motivation according to the self-determination approach. And there's a whole lot more to it than that. Over 30 years it's developed into a really, very comprehensive, quite complex, and in some ways quite philosophical as well as scientific theory and I'm not even going to pretend that I fully understand all of it, let alone be able to explain it here to you.

Ellen Jackson:
So let's stick with these three basic elements. I'm guessing that by now you're probably wondering how do we use this knowledge and understanding, these components of self-determination to help us to motivate ourselves and to motivate others?

Ellen Jackson:
So, what do we do? Well, in reality we can't motivate other people. I think that's one thing we need to think about here and to kind of set this up. If motivation or the drive to do something, the desire to do something comes from fulfilling these three psychological needs, or some combination of them. It's not a one or the other or the third and it's not necessarily straightforward, you know they're interrelated and intermingled. But if we work from that set of first principles that these are the things that are important to human beings that do drive our behavior, then our motivation really does come from within. It can't be translated or transferred from one person to another. Remember that's control, when we try to do it.

Ellen Jackson:
So what we're trying to do is not create the motivation in somebody else but to perhaps create the conditions or support the person or ourselves at times to be able to find these things within us. So we're really creating the conditions that are needed to help us find that inner motivation or perhaps internalize the goal or the desired behavior that we're looking for as being meaningful and being our own.

Ellen Jackson:
And I'm going to give you some tips for doing that in a moment but before I do, I just want to make a point that we actually vary in our levels of self-determination as individuals. Some people are very high in self-determination. They kind of understand this stuff intuitively. They already operate from a place of a drive, a competence, an autonomy in relatedness. And this is most likely because that's the sort of environment that perhaps they've grown up in, so these things have been supported for them, they've been helped to discover their inner motivations, to understand themselves and what drives them from early childhood and that's what's been expected.

Ellen Jackson:
But others have not had that experience and perhaps our life growing up or our experience of work has been about being told what to do and very much responding to external demands and external pressures. So some of this stuff comes more easily to some of us than others, which is again quite normal. We're all very different and unique. We've had different experiences and that has led us to, in part, become the people that we are. So just bear that in mind as you think about these tips and how easy some of them might be to implement.

Ellen Jackson:
So first of all, and this is a really important starting point as well, when we're thinking about motivation and we're thinking about those inner drives that will help us to change our behavior or reach a goal or do whatever it is we're trying to do, then acknowledging that we are all driven and inspired and interested and motivated by different things is really fundamental to this. So as people we all have very different values and our values drive our goals and our goals drive our behavior and what we do.

Ellen Jackson:
So if I really value security and safety, for example, and you're my manager and you want me to do something that I feel is kind of risky, that is really in conflict with that value that I hold around safety and security, then that makes me uncomfortable and it initially and immediately sets up a level of internal conflict that might automatically see me resist what you're asking me to do. So values play a part in this.

Ellen Jackson:
Or as a parent, if I'm asking my child to get ready for swimming lessons, for example, but he doesn't want to go to swimming lessons and he doesn't care if we're late to swimming lessons or if we miss the class although, my shouting at him to get ready because otherwise we're going to be late, something that's important to me, is really going to miss the mark in terms of motivating him to get ready. He doesn't care about the lateness. There's no internal drive for him to respond to my requests that we not be late.

Ellen Jackson:
Another example, you might have a teen and you want her to do her homework but she has no interest in doing her homework because she's bored by the subject or she doesn't like her teacher or she feels like doing the homework is a complete waste of time. There's low motivation there. So nagging her isn't going to work. Or not for long. Because it doesn't match who she is and what's going to drive and motivate her in relation to the homework or the subject.

Ellen Jackson:
So if we really wanted someone to internalize the goal or behavior that we're looking for, to tap into those things around competence and mastery and relatedness, whether that's completing a work task or her homework or getting ready for swimming lessons, it really helps to acknowledge that we're not all motivated or interested in the same things and that sometimes we need to explore and unpack what does interest or excite us or motivate us.

Ellen Jackson:
And I can imagine now, I'm sure, that you are thinking well, that all sounds like a lot of hard work. I just want my kid to get ready for swimming lessons. I don't have an hour to negotiate with them about it. And you're right, it is much more work than shouting or nagging. And sometimes you do need to take the faster options. There's no black or white around this. There's shades of gray. You have to pick your battle as a parent if that's what... or as a manager perhaps, you have to decide when is it more important just to get things done quickly, when is it more important to invest some time to set things up for the longer term.

Ellen Jackson:
Because when we put the hard work in early, and when we do get to know our kids or our team really well, as individuals, with unique interests and values and goals, when we get to know ourselves really well and what drives us and our behavior, noticing what lights us up, noticing what lights our kids up or our staff members up, and thinking about what really inspires and motivates them as unique individuals, and then we can harness those things in the conversations that we have with them about all of the tasks that they need to do.

Ellen Jackson:
Then you have the opportunity to develop this really high quality motivation. The kind of motivation that comes from building good relationships and really setting up the conditions to help everyone to thrive and flourish. And when people, both kids and adults, get to know themselves and get to understand their goals and values, and they can see how those things drive their behavior, they might be able to see how we link to our need for competence or autonomy or relatedness, and how these inspire and really intrinsically motivate them, then they can learn over time to tap into those things themselves. So they do become what we call self-determined or self-driven and therefore self-motivated. Which I think ultimately is always the goal, isn't it?

Ellen Jackson:
So let's look at some tips that directly link to our three psychological needs from self-determination theory, and bearing that level of individuality in mind as we do so. So the first of these is about supporting autonomy. So setting up conditions, setting up an environment or situations that help to support people's autonomy in finding their motivation and pursuing a goal. And remember that autonomy's about feeling like we have control over what we do and when and how we do it.

Ellen Jackson:
So if we're trying to help build motivation in someone to get a task done or engage in a goal, it helps them to let them choose as much as possible what they'll do and how they'll do it. So giving choice is the first tip here. So the goal is to always to help the person that they're the cause of their behavior, that they're doing something because they choose to do it. Not because someone's making them. And that's the essence of autonomy. So in workplaces I often tell leaders, and good leaders know this themselves, to focus on the outcome that they want, not how they want a task done.

Ellen Jackson:
So the outcome might be big or small, depending on the task and the level of skill of the individual undertaking it, but it's up to the individual to decide how they're going to get to the outcome. As a manager or a leader or a coach or whatever you might be, this can actually be really hard if you're used to being in control or you're a perfectionist or you're an expert in the task itself. So your inclination will always be to try and see the task done in the way that you do it because you know it and you do it well. But of course if we get really controlling about how someone does the task, you're taking away all of their autonomy. And therefore a big chunk of their motivation to do the task and do it well.

Ellen Jackson:
So let's go back to our swimming lesson example, shall we? If I'm trying to get my child to get ready for swimming lessons, rather than tell him exactly what to do and how to do it, I can give him a set of parameters. So I can tell him that you need to be ready for swimming lessons in 30 minutes. And the child I'm thinking about, because I have a particular example in mind, is seven. So he knows that in order to be ready for swimming he needs to have changed into his swimmers and have his bag packed with his goggles and his towel, et cetera.

Ellen Jackson:
So I set his parameter according to his age and his skill. Older child, different parameter, younger child, obviously different set of parameters again. The principle is to set the outcome you're looking for and not tell them exactly what to do and how to do it and when to do it. Don't control, give them choice.

Ellen Jackson:
So, what might I do to get him ready? I might ask him questions. Questions can be really key here. What can I help you do to get ready in time? Might be a question I ask. Or, do you need some help to find your swimming bag? Or, do you want me to get your swimming stuff out for you? Do you want to get changed in your bedroom or in the bathroom? Or even questions like how good would it be if we were ready early today? Imagine how happy you'd be and how happy I'd be if we were so organized, if we could do that.

Ellen Jackson:
So in this situation I'm setting the parameters but he's making the decisions. He's in charge. And this works with adults too, you just set different age-appropriate or situation-appropriate parameters. And don't forget to ask questions. So there's huge power in questions because you can help to shape the behavior, the questions are really a form of parameter, without trying to control it. You're not telling somebody what to do, you're just asking them questions that shape the ideas in their mind but leave them with the choice.

Ellen Jackson:
So that's tip number one. It's around supporting autonomy or creating the conditions that allow people to feel that they have choice in the situation because that's important for motivation. The second tip is about supporting competence. So remember, competence is all about being able to master a skill, to fulfill our inner need to grow and develop and further ourselves. And our goal here as the motivator is to provide the opportunity aligned with our person's needs and interests, you know what do they want to learn, to then be able to master or conquer a skill.

Ellen Jackson:
And the tip here is to allow people to test themselves and try new things. Or if you're trying to motivate yourself, allow yourself to try new things and new approaches. And that helps us to kind of learn more about ourselves, aside from anything else. Often when we pursue something, we do so with a pretty fixed idea about how to do it.

Ellen Jackson:
So if I want to get fit, for example, I have to go to the gym and lift weights and really exert myself or I have to run long distances. So our kind of social conditioning, our expectations of what a task looks like or how we might go about pursuing it gets in the way. But of course there's plenty of ways to get fit and the way I do it, the way that motivates me and works for me, isn't going to be the way that motivates and works for you, and that's okay.

Ellen Jackson:
When you find the way that works for you, the way that really taps into that desire for mastery as a personal experience for you as an individual, to conquer or achieve something, that's where you find that intrinsic motivation, that keeps you going.

Ellen Jackson:
Similarly, with other people, if we can give them the scope to try new and different ways of pursuing a goal or a task or the flexibility to try things within the necessary parameters, so this does and can overlap with our need for autonomy. As I said earlier, they're not necessarily discrete things, they overlap. Then we give them the opportunity to be driven by their personal need for mastery.

Ellen Jackson:
So as an example, in positive leadership and positive organizational work, there's a concept called job crafting. Job crafting is about giving people the scope within their jobs to shape or mold what they do according to what drives and motivates them, with a focus on achieving the best output.

Ellen Jackson:
And you can see some really great examples of this. There's a fantastic video on YouTube of an air steward who turns the safety demonstration into a really entertaining comedy routine. And he's still doing the job that's required, he's conveying the safety information, but he's doing it in a way that presumably really plays to his strengths, which are probably strengths of humor and engaging and entertaining others, and he gets an awful lot more people, I bet, watching that safety demonstration than he would if he just played it straight.

Ellen Jackson:
So the outcome or the output is the same but the ability to craft how we do it can really help us to tie in our strengths and our personal motivators and therefore make it a more intrinsically enjoyable and motivating task without having to compromise on the output, and that's really tapping into this need for competence that we have, that plays a part in our motivation.

Ellen Jackson:
So again, in terms of doing this and helping others to do it, taking a questioning approach really works well here. So asking questions, either to yourself or to someone else about what would make this task more fun or more interesting or more inspiring for you, is there a different way of doing it that would be more motivating? Is there a different way that you'd like to try or something that you'd like to test? Or maybe there's some bigger questions like is there a skill here in our workplace that you'd like to learn that would keep you more engaged in what you do? Do you see somebody else doing something that you'd like to have a go at? A skill that you'd like to learn or to master? And how do you think we might go about arranging that? So getting them involved in a really collaborative conversation is important.

Ellen Jackson:
And of course, there will be times when you ask these questions and be met with an I don't know kind of answer. And these approaches can be really new and they can be really different, particularly for people who are low in self-determination, who have perhaps never been asked these sorts of questions before, or have never thought to or been challenged to think about what inspires and motivates them. So it's like you coming from a different planet if you start asking these sorts of questions.

Ellen Jackson:
So if you come across that, whether it's with your child or another adult or someone that you're leading or managing, it's okay to start small. So start with tight parameters. And sometimes you might need to make suggestions and this is where observation plays a part. So what have you observed and learnt about what lights that person up? What do you think their strengths might be from your observations of them of what intrinsically motivates them and what does inspire them from what you've observed of them even if they haven't necessarily noticed those things themselves.

Ellen Jackson:
And you can offer suggestions based on that. And you offer the suggestion and then you say, "Is that something you might like to try?" Or, "Do you think that would be worth trying?" Because you've got to be able to then support their autonomy in making the decision about whether or not that's what they're going to do.

Ellen Jackson:
So that's supporting competence as an approach, to helping people find their inner motivation. And the final tip is a strategy for helping to support our inner drive for relatedness, our third component of self-determination. This is really about taking your boss hat off. So whether that's you as the boss at home, as a parent, or you as the boss at work telling people what to do, or even you as the boss of yourself, bossing yourself around and telling yourself what you should or shouldn't do and what you're getting right and what you're getting wrong.

Ellen Jackson:
I want you to take your boss hat off and replace it with your coach or mentor or guide hat. Because relatedness, it's all about cultivating that positive respectful relationship. It's about helping your person to feel heard and acknowledged in their autonomy, their ability to handle things themselves and have control and choices in what they do and how they do it, and their competence; their skills and their attempts to master new skills, their strengths and what they bring to the world or your family or your workplace.

Ellen Jackson:
When we connect and relate to people at that level, we not only help to fulfill that need for relatedness within them but we motivate them to live up to that relationship as well. So if I feel that you respect me and you believe that I have something to contribute and that I offer something beneficial then I really want to live up to that. I want to sustain that, that's very motivating. So don't be the boss who needs power and control over others or over yourself. Be the guide or the coach or the mentor who wants to bring out the best in your person, ask them questions and acknowledge what they bring to the world, celebrate their successes with them, help them to discover their motivations and their drive and their values and their interests. When you do that you create a relationship or a set of relationships in which you all get to thrive and flourish.

Ellen Jackson:
So I have one final tip, in relation to motivation, and I know this has been pretty complex stuff and I hope I've helped to make it make sense, or I hope I've made some sort of sense along this little journey. But this one final tip that relates to everything we've discussed today, and that is just be patient and persevere. So this is not a simple, quick fix approach to motivation. Because as we said right from the outset, people are not simple and things in relation to people are rarely quick.

Ellen Jackson:
People are complicated. And whether you're trying to cultivate motivation in yourself or you're helping someone else to cultivate their motivation. It does take time and like anything worthwhile it takes practice, especially if it's completely new to you, it may be to them. But it's absolutely worth it because not only is it the path to achieving your goals, it's also the path to creating a thriving and flourishing environment. That contributes to everyone's growth and their wellbeing and their happiness.

Ellen Jackson:
Thank you so much for being here, for listening and sharing my first solo episode with me. I do really appreciate it. If you're interested in learning more about positive motivation and self-determination, we've put links to a number of different resources, all of which have really helped me to understand these concepts and use these concepts in my work and in my life, and they're all in the show notes for this episode. These include a great book, Drive by Daniel Pink, that covers this stuff, and a link to the animated version of his TED Talk on motivation that I regularly show to groups in the workshops that I run.

Ellen Jackson:
If you've enjoyed today's episode or found it helpful, please let me know. I'm always keen to get feedback, particularly on my experiments and the new things that I try. Of course if you haven't enjoyed it, let me know that too, although I suspect if you haven't enjoyed it you've probably clicked out by now and gone to listen to somebody else. But either way you can get in touch via the Potential Psychology website at potential.com.au.

Ellen Jackson:
Next week I have James Garrett back on the show, which I'm very excited about because he is not only a great thinker and expert in his domain, he's a great conversationalist and just a lovely, enthusiastic person to boot. We're going to be talking about his new project, the Deep Change Project, which is a year long adventure in brain hacking. And here's James to tell you a little bit more.

James Garrett:
Yeah, so the Deep Change Project is an attempt to rewire my own brain in 2019. I'm fascinated by this question of how far we can push neuroplasticity and I figured the only ethical way to do this is to do it on myself. In some sense I'm asking the question, what are we capable of as humans? What is human nature capable of? How malleable is it? If you're an introvert and for whatever reason you wanted to become more of an extrovert or somewhere in the middle, an ambivert, could you do that?

James Garrett:
Given everything I've read about neuroplasticity, the answer seems to be yes. From the science to see who we all can become, what the exceptional version of you looks like, what that 2.0 upgraded best version of you actually looks like.

Ellen Jackson:
That's next week, episode 56 of the Potential Psychology podcast. Thank you so much for being here. I will see you then and in the meantime go forth and thrive and flourish.