Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose

I just watched a TED video by Dan Pink on the science of motivation. He makes the case that there is a huge gap between what science knows about motivation and what companies do. Over and over again, study after study prove that the carrot and stick model of rewards and punishment are not effective.

Actually, he says they are effective in the kind of work where the tasks are specific and known, where all you do is follow the predetermined steps to accomplish the work. But in work that requires some creative thinking, or some unknown process or outcome, then the reward model actually makes performance worse.

The new model, that is most effective for the kind of right brain work we do, revolves around three principles: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

Autonomy:  The urge to direct our own lives.

Mastery:  The desire to get better and better at something that matters.

Purpose:  The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Makes sense to me. I’m realizing more and more that this is the kind of work environment model where I would flourish.

And I would venture to guess that a lot of you would too.

Check out the presentation at

5 replies on “Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose”

I’m going to try to implement this in our homeschooling environment this year, because regardless of the assignments that need to be checked off, creativity is what I’d prefer to nurture.

That’s great, Leslie. I’m glad you found something useful (again 🙂

Yes, I can really resonate with this concept because I am currently in a position where I’m feeling less autonomy than I’d like. It appears that when you go higher in the corporate leadership ranks, there’s even more of “do what the boss says” attitude, not less. It’s kind of a shame, because there are lots brilliant people not being allowed to reach their full potential or use their own minds to make great things happen.

I’m glad you plan to create the kind of autonomous environment that helps people develop themselves and allows them to use their ingenuity. That takes real leadership.

Good Luck!

Autonomy is truly important, the need to take control of your own life and be accountable for it is absolutely the first step. When we feel trapped and depressed, it’s so much easier to blame it on your circumstances.But the very act of deciding you have a choice – when you realise YOU are really the one in charge – then you can start driving the boat and “getting out of the wake” as Dr Wayne Dyer says so brilliantly. Great post, thanks!

Thanks Natalie. Your comment has helped me take a more proactive approach to my autonomy. Instead of wishing ‘the boss’ gave me more, I need to use whatever level of autonomy I have to create the circumstances that will allow me to have more. I am in charge.

I have actually grown up with this concept constantly taught to me by my father. He always had sayings like, “There are no ‘have to’s’ only ‘choose to’s’.” And he was a big fan of Dr. Wayne Dyer back in the ’80’s. So I am very familiar with his work.

But even though I know it, I still need reminders every once in a while. Thanks.

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