Finding Your Why

By Ron PereiraHave you ever been part of a corporate wellness program?  You know… where everyone has Fitbits, or something like that, and if you meet your goals you get some prize?

Well, my company is doing our own version of this.  We also have a “prize” that can be won if certain accomplishments are met at the end of the year.  We started the program in January and it’s going OK.  Not great.  But OK.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how to improve the program.  You see, right now we’re using “extrinsic” motivational methods in hopes of getting our team members interested in improving their health.  We have this prize waiting for everyone if they complete the mission.

Well, as it turns out, extrinsic motivation isn’t always the best way to go about motivating people.  Instead, a far better approach is to help folks develop intrinsic motivation.

Dan Pink wrote an excellent book called “Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.”  In the book Pink explains that intrinsic motivation requires three things – autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy means we need to be allowed to think and act on our own.  Put another way, we aren’t going to be micro-managed and told what to do.  Instead, we’ll be allowed to think and figure things out.

Mastery is developed when we’re able to work on something challenging but doable.  Think about an exercise like pull-ups.  You may not be able to do one but you’re working on it and getting closer.

This is mastery in action.  There’s a challenge, you’re working on it, and you’re getting closer.  And then, when you finally get that first pull-up you’ll be able to set a new goal like 10 pull-ups in a row.  Put another way, mastery is never fully achieved but you still experience victories along the way.

And, lastly, there’s purpose.  In order to be intrinsically motivated we must know why we’re doing what we’re doing.  And we have to believe in the cause.  In other words, I may know why someone does what they do… but if I don’t agree with the choice I’ll never be intrinsically motivated to follow along.

Sadly, this “purpose” piece of the formula is where I believe corporate wellness programs often fail.  Most companies, mine included, get so caught up in the prize we fail to help folks reflect on their why.

So that’s where I’m going to direct my focus with my company’s wellness program.  I want to help folks discover their why.  And, sure, we may still have a prize at the end of the year if things go well… but it’s my hope that this extrinsic motivator will simply be, metaphorically speaking, icing on an already perfect cake.

I’d also encourage you to remind yourself of your why.  Why is living a healthy (spiritually & physically) life important to you and what are you willing to do in order to turn your why into action and results?

Until next time… be holy, eat clean, and do more push-ups!