As the challenge to be self-motivated always follows me around like Marley’s Ghost, I found this little article the other day from The 99% in my twitter feed. Over the past 3 years or so most of the work I’ve produced has driven to motivate people to something- a change of thinking or action or approach. I like this article for what it says about my own life, but also for how I can better understand motivation in my own work in the future.
If we can imagine an achievement, see ourselves progressing toward that goal, and understand that we are gaining new skills and knowledge, we will be driven to do great work…once the barest amount of brainpower is required, higher financial rewards fail to produce better work. In fact, they actually inspire worse performance.
This is an illustrated video of Daniel Pink’s talk at RSA on the subject:
These are interesting concepts that I’ve lived out but not been able to articulate.
I actually enjoyed this article so much that I asked a few friends to read it and respond!
First is Ashleigh Newberry-Mills, a single mother seeking a degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in History and Fine Arts. She is one of my oldest friends and I always love listening to what she has to say. Ashleigh is a dreamer- always has been- and I think that’s part of why we’ve stayed friends for so long. The woman just doesn’t give up. As the mother to a 3-year-old seeking her degree mostly online, I’d say she’s a pretty motivated individual.
The article mentions autonomy, mastery, & purpose as key motivators. Would you say these played a part in how much you accomplished/ how well you learned anything in your undergrad studies?
I think what helps me personally create and grow is a compilation of all three of the mentioned drives. I always want to better whatever I am working on. It’s the primary drive of everyone that is creating. I, unlike most creative people I know, fail miserably without an assigned task. Most of my creative friends have to develop that skill. They have to learn to reign in their creativity and assign it to something while having the urge to manufacture something completely separate and unrelated. I wish someone would tell me what they wanted to see more of. I wish some person in the world would say “create me ____.” That being said I have to be autonomous to what I’ve been charged with creating. I have to be able to see it develop on my own time and in my own head. Self-governing is the only way I can effectively create something out of nothing. I always see myself as a “crafter” and not really an artist, so I am constantly striving for something that is wonderfully magnificent to throw me over the cliff into the land of no return: the land of the talented ARTIST! Mastery is a huge part of why I work so hard when developing an idea. For as long as I can remember my family has always told me that there is a practicality to life, and then there is a side of everyone that is creative. They have also made perfectly clear that practicality is always far more important. In my rebel days I told them to shove it, but now, more than ever I have a huge understanding of why practicality is important. I also feel as if I reach a level of mastery, a place where people look at my creations and “awe”, my family will finally be okay with me being exactly who I want to be…
Which of these 3 are you most aware of as a personal motivator.
The main drive behind all of my studies and work is, by far, purpose. I used to say growing up, that my main goal in life was to change one person’s world. I gave up on that goal until recently. I know now that I have a responsibility to practicality (as much as the rebel in me hates to admit it.) I also have a responsibility to follow my dreams. I have 38 inches, 33 pounds, a head full of blondish hair with a funky little cowlick, and bluish green eyes to inspire and change the life of. I don’t want my son to grow up thinking that making money and being normal is the life he should strive for. I want him to see my world as color filled, paint stained, gritty, messy, beautiful, awe inspiring, and dingily delightful. My purpose, while to provide a wonderful and comfortable life for him, is to inspire him and show him that dreams, when chased & pursued, can and will come true. His future happiness is my singular most important drive and purpose, and I want him to be okay with following his dreams because he grew up watching me chase mine.
Are you currently using any part of your degree?
Nope…bummer. I will one day though, just have to wait for that day.
If you aren’t in a ‘creative’ field right now, do you think you’ll go back to doing something art-oriented in the future?
I know that one day my job will be creative. I think that teaching will be creative in how I apply information to develop student’s knowledge. The perks of being a teacher to a single mother like me are undeniable and alluring, but as soon as Treyson is grown I know that I will fully throw myself into creativity. I know that eventually, when the time is right, it will become my 100% focus.
What’s your biggest road block to doing what you want to do, now that you are out of school?
My biggest roadblock is also the biggest blessing. It’s awful to say that, but it’s true. If I didn’t have Treyson, I would totally be bumming it, living in some loft with splatter on the walls and strangers coming in and out buying art as they saw fit. Never earning a substantial income, always squeaking by, but rich in happiness and satisfaction. That being said, I look forward to the day when that will be my life. I’m (sometimes) the definition of dramatic dark artist, and one day I’ll get to live that life. I’m just lucky that I have the next fifteen years or so to perfect that in small doses until I can completely submerge myself into it. I think it’s probably best this way though. It will be good for Treyson to see me work diligently towards a goal that I can’t ever really achieve until he’s an adult. Paying your dues and development is always a big part of any life goal.
If you could change something about the current structure of education at any level, what would you change?
I think education should be more of an experience. Not a social experience as most people see it, but a developmental experience. I think that each teacher should give their students a chance to take an idea and baby, nurse, and stumble with it until it’s ready to take its first flight on its own. Dr. Seuss said “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” I think that teachers should allow students to be more individualistic and allow them to express themselves without a judgmental eye, with just pure appreciation of whatever that photograph, speech, paper, painting, sketch, or design that they created did for the world. What it did for the one person whose life it could change. I wish more educators would change and take a little extra time to appreciate the world their students create and live in.