Autonomy + Mastery + Purpose = ???


June’s theme is energy… energy to keep going, stay motivated, to maintain a high level of productivity. Energy is a core ingredient in the entrepreneurial success story. Whether you have energy or not – internal or external – can make the difference between getting a lot done or getting nothing done at all. And as you know, as an entrepreneur your income is closely tied to how much you get done (provided what you are doing is strategic).

In my mind, energy is closely linked with motivation. If I have energy, particularly internally generated energy because I’m excited about what I am doing, I am motivated to work hard, stay focused, and be more efficient.

When I explored the energy concept, I came across a TedTalk by Dan Pink’s on “The Puzzle of Motivation.” In the Ted Talk, Pink explores the concept of external versus internal incentives as motivators and makes note that the traditional “money” incentive doesn’t always have the results one would expect. Instead he proposes that Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose are better motivators in today’s busy world.

"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. These are the building blocks of an entirely new operating system for our businesses.”

When Pink is exploring motivation, he is speaking from the perspective of motivating a team of staff. However, I would propose that as entrepreneurs the concepts of autonomy, mastery, and purpose drive us even more than they drive employees or teams.

While I’d never really thought about it before listening to Pink's TedTalk, the concepts of autonomy (doing my own thing and realizing the benefits), mastery (the sense that I didn’t want to be limited by externally constraints around the work that I did – especially when they didn’t make sense), and purpose (my desire to craft work that I loved and that fed my soul) – really are what pushed me to become a solo-entrepreneur. They are to this day what keeps me going and gets me up in the morning. They are what keeps me from going back to that traditional job with the regular paycheque, limited hours, and paid vacation.

So knowing this, how do we use autonomy, mastery and purpose to ensure that we are designing internal and external systems and processes that motivate both ourselves and those we work closely with?

I am much more motivated when all three elements exist in my work: If I lose my autonomy – my ability to define how my work looks – I become less likely to get up and get’r done; if I lose the opportunity to “master” a new skill and get stuck doing something routine, I dig in my heals and become stagnate; if I accept a project that derails me from my purpose, I lose energy and become less motivated. None of these results are pretty. None help me move forward. And none are good for business.

As an entrepreneur how do you related to the themes of autonomy, mastery, and purpose in relation to staying energized and motivated? Do you notice a difference between how you relate to these themes as an entrepreneur versus how you might as an employee? Please share your thoughts in the comment area below.


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