Why do you (or don’t you) like your work?

Psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan study motivation. In particular, they have been interested in what makes people intrinsically motivated at work, school, etc.  The theory, called Self-Determination Theory, states basically that humans have three primary needs, and you will be highly intrinsically motivated to do whatever meets those needs.

I think of the three as the A-B-C of human needs.  A stands for autonomy – we like to feel like we're in control of our destiny.  B stands for belonging – we like to feel like we're connected to other people (the theory usually uses the term "relatedness" for this one).  C stands for competence – we like to feel like we are good at what we do.

If your job grants you autonomy, allows you to feel connected, and you feel like you're good at it, then you will likely love your job and be highly motivated to work at it.  If you feel like you don't get to control your workday, you don't have any friends or meaningful connections, and you are made to feel incompetent, then you will likely hate your job and not be motivated.

Understanding this may be beneficial in a couple of ways. First, it may help to be mindful of where you feel autonomy, relatedness, and competence. In this way, you are not focused primarily on the everyday annoyances that may also come up.  Second, you may not be able to change the circumstances of your job, but you may be able to do things that help you to feel more autonomy, relatedness, and competence.

Interestingly, this research team has also begun doing research on mindfulness, although it hasn't yet been fully integrated into Self-Determination Theory. 

Does this conception fit with your experience?


Image credit.  Dr. Douglas Gentile is a member of and regular blogger for the Interdependence Project.