What motivates you?

Photo Credit: unsplash eopewngf68w-tim-swaan

Photo Credit: unsplash eopewngf68w-tim-swaan

For those of you who are part of our Smart*Fun Professional Community, you have already been exposed to the TED Talk by Daniel Pink about The puzzle of motivation. I have now watched it no less than three times and learned something new each time. Much of the content of this blog post will be drawn from or be reflections on that TED Talk. (Yes, it had that much impact on me!)

The first thing I noticed about Mr. Pink's explanation of motivation is that it is broken into three parts. While he focuses on the first part almost entirely, there are three elements to motivation to consider: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. We have discussed the Purpose element in part while looking at the characteristics of a professional who works with children and families. We will likely also delve into the idea of Mastery in a later installment. As Mr. Pink did in his talk, we will focus on the Autonomy aspect of motivation today.


We see that motivation is so much more powerful when it is intrinsic. When individuals find value in the work they do, they are naturally motivated to do their work better, more efficiently, and with a higher degree of professionalism.

I have a friend who used to work in a very rigid program environment. The staff there was micromanaged in nearly every aspect of their work. My friend loves children and has an innate ability to see them appropriately in developmental stages and to recognize opportunities for them to develop further. She felt smothered, unable to properly care for her students, and ended up leaving that organization to work elsewhere.

At her new job, she is able to be flexible to meet the needs of the children in her care. If they need a shake-break, they take one. There is an expectation, of course, that she will work within the overall governing guidelines of the program and yet exercise her freedom to make decisions in the best interest of the students in her classroom. The job switch cost her health benefits and included a pay-cut, but she gained peace of mind and a renewed sense of personal excitement about what each day brings for her and her students.

When early learning professionals are given the freedom to arrange their day to meet their needs as well as the needs of their students, everyone wins. An impromptu walk in the sunshine brightens everyone's mood and lifts winter-weary spirits. A dance party using songs with specific lyrics can teach everything from days of the week to states in the United States, all while helping children wiggle and learn rhythm and develop gross motor skills. There are so many examples of creative ways that professionals can demonstrate the fun aspects of learning while still meeting developmental and educational objectives.

In early learning, our purpose is built into what we do. Caring for children and families makes a difference every day. With that purpose in hand, we turn to work on Autonomy and Mastery to complete the necessary parts of our motivation and the motivation of those around us.

Feeling the need to refresh your purpose? Consider taking “I Can't Smile Anymore! Ways to Reduce Stress and Avoid Burnout“ from our online campus.

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Pink, D. (2009, July). The puzzle of motivation [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation?language=en

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