Welcome to the first module in the course, which is about motivation. Motivation has many faces but can be formally divided into two main orientations. One is “intrinsic,” an autonomous inside motivation that only you and no one outside can control. The other is “extrinsic,” a controlled external motivation with expectations from others in the form of encouragement or punishment.

It is important to know that motivation is constantly changing, whether it is autonomous or controlled. Strong motivation can suddenly disappear; another emerges from nowhere, depending on external circumstances.

But let’s start from the beginning.

Autonomous motivation (your inside motivation)

My two fantastic grandchildren, Sigrid and Ofelia, when they were a little older than one year, taught me that motivation could be described in two words; aaha (yes) or neehe (no). I want to, or I don’t want to. Their answer comes directly to a question.

Both love to play, and you never need to think about whether they are motivated or not. They are motivated as long as they are interested and experience joy.

Could it be as simple as that? Probably after we peeled off everything around the core.

Children have a natural autonomous motivation characterized by positive emotions, joy, pleasure, and satisfaction. Don’t we all? Yes we do, and autonomous motivation is unbeatable!

But to get an autonomous motivation that is not based solely on dreams and fantasies, you need to feel independent, trust your skills, and feel that you can develop and improve. You should also have confidence in others and feel comfortable with the activities of a group. Your focus is not a result; it’s on what you are doing (The trip is worth the goal). Even if motivation can be stronger or weaker, autonomous motivation always gives you a feeling of lust and pleasure.


Controlled motivation (your external motivation)

Controlled motivation works through reward or punishment, popularly described as a stick with a carrot hanging on the top and a donkey trying to catch the carrot.
You can get a higher salary if you do a job that makes employers happy. But salary will not increase your autonomous motivation because your salary is a path to your real motive. Money is a way to get something but not a motivating factor. However, a salary linked to increased production can make your work faster. If you get more effective and make four cups instead of three within the same time frame, and your boss offers you 20% better payment, you will probably speed up because of the money. But this increases your speed of work, not your autonomous motivation, because your goal is something that triggers you, not your activity.

A control motivation is something we also do to ourselves. Your goal is to run 5 kilometers, and the carrot is that you decide that you can drink a cold beer after your workout. The running is maybe not an enormous pleasure, but the beer can be. That means that you will do the activity not because you like it. You do it because you want to reach a goal.

 Feelings and motivation

As we have described, your autonomous motivation is based on interest, joy, and well-being. In other words, a positive emotion. But emotions can also stop you from possibility of creating an autonomous motivation. The most substantial feelings to be unmotivated are injustice and control.

Let me take an example: About 30 years ago, the Swedish school was introduced to a system where I, as principal, should value some of the teachers better than others. Note that the starting point was that all teachers were good, but some were better. Although this can sound like playing with words, it was essential to state that everyone was good, and no one was bad.

We went from a structure with collective thinking where working time and loyalty were connected to a better salary to a system where leaders subjectively rewarded some teachers more than others. The thinking was that those who were considered better would be like a “carrot” and stimulation for others to increase their striving.

If I rallied a little, research has taken thirty years, even on the employer side, to agree that a subjective assessment is polarised. Teachers I have talked to about this often describe how their autonomous motivation is nibbled at the edge and reduces their focus on the task. The reason, according to them, was that their expectations were a shift from activity to goal both for students and teachers.

Autonomous motivation and goals

The best way to reach a goal is to like what you are doing and that the target is not the goal, the goal will be a spin-off effect from your activity. Players in different sports can be outstanding in practice. They try new things, enjoy what they are doing, and they do not focus on their mistakes. But when it comes to the matches, they will get a clear, controlled motivation where the activity “must” lead to winning.

Autonomous motivation is unbeatable, which is why we, over and over again, try to do what is almost impossible, to create autonomous motivation for others. To help people create their motivation are possible, but it takes honesty and genuine interest in what they are doing. Let’s talk more about this.

School and working market

Two of our most important functions in society, the education sector, and the working market, are constantly struggling with the question of how to motivate workers and students. Let me refer to two concepts (2022). One is how we can help students receive “grit,” which means to make them want to do activities and not give up (working with joy until they are ready).  The others are “mood management,” which are described as a theory aiming to make the employees like their workplace.

If we start with a question about the need of “grit” (to want and be persistent), does this mean that we look at the students as unmotivated persons with and lack perseverance? If we do so, it’s probably totally wrong because all students carry on an autonomous motivation. So the question should be; what is the reason for the lack?

We know that younger children feel a great autonomous motivation. And in the school, we support this for the youngest with learning activities connected to singing, dancing, and drawing.

 Let’s think about the need for “grit” again. Autonomous motivation will give you pleasure, joy, and also “grit.” Younger children that carry on a natural autonomous motivation also have “grit” as normal behavior.  Look at a child drawing, and you will recognize that they like to finish the drawing because they want to draw.

When they get a little older we starting to take away the pleasure, and more and more use controlled motivation with reward and punishment as a method.
Play and pleasure have never been seen as good ways of learning. Learning has historically been something serious, and the time being a teenager, you will understand that by a system of succeeding or failing.

If we look at this method in connection with a Swedish compulsory school (2022) need children collect points in 17 different subjects to get into the upper secondary school’s different lines.

Let’s stop for a moment and think about how we think. Do we think that a person can have an autonomous motivation for 17 different subjects? Do we think it is important that students have a broad base that they benefit from later in life? Or do we believe that a system of points will motivate them to develop their learning?

Regardless of how we think, we can state that external motivation is the common motive for creating acting in this period in life. We can also state that students are in the same structure as the teachers, with a thinking that if we separate the successful, it will motivate others to become better. Something that risks leading to an experience of injustice and control, two of the biggest factors in becoming unmotivated.

If we are born with a natural autonomous motivation that is unbeatable it is interesting to understand why we reduce it systematically the time we get older. And also why we think we can get it from a system of reward, and punishment.
We are going to leave that question for you to take with you for your certification.

Motivation and humanism

Can humanism create an autonomous collective motivation?
Today (read 2022) Poland is the country that undoubtedly received the most refugees from Ukraine. One contributing factor is that Poland is a neighbour of Ukraine.
Taking a lot of refugees has made Poland a humanistic country, which is also something the country use for marketing. But below the surface, however, we can state that Poland’s decision-makers are normally very negative about immigration.

According to media and official websites, most of the refugees are staying close to the border, which means in the poorest parts of Poland. The reception is more or less entirely on a voluntary basis, by the people who live in these areas. The support from the government is minimal. What we see here can be described as a collective behavior based on autonomous motivation. This autonomous motivation is built on people’s feelings and nothing that a government or an organization can create.

Rich work better by the carrot, the poor by the whip?

Easy thinking can sometimes be black or white, and this is something our brains like; to support us with simple answers. In this part, we will do the same. We will have a discussion based on the extremes of the whip and the carrot. The question is: Have a rewarding system for rich people and a more complex situation for the poor a positive impact on society?

Historically, we can see examples of how that kind of thinking has been normal, and that separated people somewhat naturally. We did call this civilization. You will read more about this later.

Back to the question that is inspired by an article by Zina Al Dewany who writes editorials for a major newspaper. She believes that politics are motivated by this way of thinking. She notes a number of current political decisions (2022) that will benefit the richer at the expense of restrictions for those with poorer economies.

Some examples that you probably heard before are motivating families who do not have a good financial position to get fewer children. Another is a working market based on low salaries and black money that takes away the possibility for pension and security systems for the poorer and life conditions for people with good ecomomy.
Note; this is not written tinking connecting to justice. It’s written to understan the stucture of thinking about carrot and wip.

The economy is an important factor in people’s lives. People with good finances have, if we think logically, been successful when it comes to acquiring a good economy. They know how to handle the system. And therefore will the “rich” with knowledge about economics that are rewarded in different ways support other’s well-being?

Will this way of thinking give an external motivation to rich people or organizations that make them more autonomous with good intentions that going to support poor people’s conditions?

Whip, carrot, etic and moral

If you personally want to be good and develop, you know that the best situation is when you have an autonomous motivation. But this motivation will always be connected to ethics and morality. Ethics and morality constant struggles between the good and the bad.
A control motivation can stop our autonomous motivation and easily lead across the negative border where we do not stand up for a humanistic.

We can find countless examples from both the present and history. One of the most destructive is when people face the situation of living or dying.

During World War II, in one of the Nazi concentration camps in Poland, Jews were placed around the edge of large holes to be executed. Then the soldiers failed to execute enough people based on orders the solution was that forcibly recruited civilians, e.g. teachers from Poland. Their motive for carrying out the mission to shoot Jews was to live or to be executed. Since the brain’s main mission is to keep us alive, there was a predominant motive to kill and become one of the executioners.

Although this is a unique example, this type of motivation is used for anyone who chooses to become a soldier. Those who do not show solidarity will be condemned as deserters (traitors) and will be imprisoned or executed.

But the most normal situation for controlled external motivation is based on good intentions and is often used in homes, and education by parents, teachers, and leaders.
Most of us have probably met a teacher who motivated us like this; if we perform the task satisfactorily, we can go ten minutes earlier.

The control motivation is based on a goal. And to make up goals make us many time mix motivation with something we want to achieve, and this can put us in a situation where we can be pressed to tighten the bow a little too hard. It is easy to be attracted by descriptions like: If you just think, you can! If you are motivated you will succeed! Follow your dreams!
But wanting without autonomous motivation will make the power and perseverance reduce.

Can one influence autonomous motivation?

We know that it is not possible to create an autonomous motivation for someone else. But the “right” stimulation can help us create our own autonomous motivation.

Does this mean that if I make someone happy, will they be motivated? No!

Let’s talk about “mood manager”. A “mood manager” mission are to create well-being among employees through encouragement and enjoyable activities. This is obviously something positive but will not create any people’s autonomous motivation but bring joy and a more satisfying work situation, something that is positive. So in one way, they can put you in a path that helps you create an autonomous motivation.

The model with “mood manager” has been tested before. A slightly older example is when a factory that made telephones hired a group of researchers with the task of seeing if external encouragement could make the workers more at peace with their situation and thereby increase their productivity. As I understand, the company’s main goal was to manufacture more phones in a shorter period of time and increase the company’s profitability.

The researchers chose two separate sections for their study, one where encouragement was given in different steps, and a reference group where no changes were made. It turned out initially that all activities such as nicer premises, snacks, music, etc. had a positive impact on the workers. After a while, the researchers were confused that it always seemed to get better and better so they tested to take away positive elements. They discovered, to their surprise, that even then it had a positive effect on the workers. This was a total paradox that both reward and reduced reward increased well-being. So they started to analyse the reference group and did recognize that they also did get a feeling of well-being like the supported group.

The conclusion they made was that the key to increased motivation was the researcher’s interest in the workers. The researchers, no matter which group it was, had a genuine interest in the persons.

This discovery became very attentive and as we can see is a method used even today.

But many employers didn’t understand the real reason and saw this as a model where nicer premises and encouraging activities would increase their production, and many times it turned out that the result was not forthcoming. I have listened to a number of entrepreneurs who have used the method with very successful results. All of them have also described that when they spread their business as a good example and others tried, they were met with comments such as: it sure goes well with your workers but mine are “sluggish devil” that you cannot influence.

Here, a word becomes very interesting. The word is “influence!” Those who do not succeed try to “influence” and those who succeed did “trust”. Without an honest intention and a genuine interest in individuals and what they do, the model falls flat. The same applies in the education sector. A genuine interest in the students’ work and less focus on results increases the preconditions for autonomous motivation. If you are interested in real, simple questions such as: What do you do? How do you do that? Can help; will increase student confidence and their ability to feel joy over the activity, and the possibility of creating autonomous motivation.

Psychology professor Ed Deci, one of the persons behind Self-Determination Theory – SDT – which is the basis for much of the modern research on motivation theory today (2022), believes that to support an autonomous motivation we should never think about how to motivate others but think about how you we can create conditions and spaces for people to motivate themselves.

Your motivation

Now to the most important, and this is your thoughts and reflections about motivation.
For every model in the course, you will get questions that hopefully help you expand your thinking.
You will find this question under the title certification. If you share them with us by writing or in an online meeting you can get feedback, and if you want, a certification.   
You will also have the possibility to share your thoughts with others in a “forum”.

Note that we see this as one of the most important parts of the course. To “Be As Good As You Can” is about yourself and your thoughts.

Read more about it. (link)