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One type of motivation may be key to success

Stashed in: 106 Miles, Best PandaWhale Posts, #success, Motivation, Goals!, Awesome, Kaizen, Military!, Feedback, Parenting, Mindfulness, Motivation, Personal Development, Growth Mindset

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Fascinating study of West Point cadets' motivation shows that ONLY internal motivation correlates to completion of the demanding program. Those with MIXED internal and external motivations -- they want to be officers but also their parents pushed them to do it -- are actually less likely than average to graduate!

Intrinsic motivation is powerful, yet fragile:

Getting access to that information wasn’t easy. Amy Wrzesniewski and Barry Schwartz, psychologists at Yale University and Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, respectively, asked West Point 7 years ago if they could work with these data. "This then began a process," Wrzesniewski says, of navigating bureaucracy and orchestrating official approval from the military and their home institutions. In the end, they got 14 years of data on the motivations and outcomes for more than 10,000 cadets.

The first task was teasing apart the different types of motivations. West Point asks its incoming cadets to describe their motivations using a series of questions and numerical scales. The researchers created a composite score for each cadet that captured the ratio of internal to external motivations. For example, cadets had to choose a point on a scale for "Desire to be an Army officer"—which by definition is an internal motivation—and also for "My parents wanted me to go," which is an external one. Then they measured how much of the variation in career outcomes matched up with that ratio.

At least for military officers, intrinsic motivation is the only thing that matters. Even when other factors were accounted for—such as race, religion, gender, socioeconomic background, and scholastic scores—cadets with primarily internal motives were about 20% more likely to make it through West Point than the average. For cadets who did not have primarily internal motivations—even if they were equally driven by internal motives and external motives such as getting a good job or becoming physically fit—their chances of graduating were worse than average, the team reports online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And compared with the cadets with primarily internal motivations, the mixed-motive cadets had a 10% lower chance of sticking with a military career and a 20% lower chance of being promoted early. 

Is intrinsic motivation linked to conscientiousness?

Yes, they both come from the same place: mindfulness.

I think you guys are gettin' a little too ZEN here. Remember that commencement speech that someone stashed a few weeks ago from the top Navy SEAL? One big thing that I took away from it is that if you're doing things for intrinsic reasons, every barrier becomes part of the process! You WANT it to be hard to become a SEAL or an Army officer, because that is part of the experience you signed up for. It's easier to laugh off having to sit in a sand-crusted uniform all day, or sing your way through a cold dark night, or all the difficult challenges they encounter... because it's all part of what you're working to become.

If you're in it because your mom wants you to be a SEAL, or you think chicks will dig it, or you imagine you'll have a steady job at the end of the road... man, there's always an easier way to make a living, you know? It becomes too easy to see things as means and ends -- if I do this, I will get this -- rather than as part of a process you will cherish for the rest of your life. And also if things start going sideways, it's easy to become disillusioned with the whole thing because the promise of "if I do this, I will get this" doesn't seem to be working out.

Halibutboy, your story reminds me of Scott Adams' point that systems are better than goals:

When you have a goal and miss it, it's very demotivating.

When you have a system, all failures are part of the process and feed back into the system.

A good system leads to success eventually because the feedback leads to continual improvement.

This article actually encapsulates something I have been worrying about with 106 Miles: people who want to be entrepreneurs because they think they will get rich and famous, rather than because they have a technical question or mission. I try to tell people that giving a startup 110% of everything they have to give will still only buy a lottery ticket, not a win... but with all the media hype, I'm not sure they care what I think.

One way or another, they'll eventually learn that you are correct.

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