The Path Motivation takes.

As January is passing I am trying to reflect on the past year’s goals, seeing things I have and haven’t accomplished has made me think about my motivation levels.

How does it even work, why do I get some things accomplished easily, while other important goals really bite the dust quickly?

There was a study done entitled, Investigating the Motivational Paths of Peer Production Newcomers by Martina Balestra, Coye Cheshire, Ofer Arazy and Oded Nov that really tackles the questions of motivation and the different paths it takes for individuals.

The study follows new editors for Wikipedia for a six month duration and had them check in at the beginning of their employment and at the end of the six month mark. The findings of this study were quite interesting but instead of boring you all with the technical stuff and I’ll get right down to it.

Basically, motivation has two different paths. One, being a more internal path that has more personal out comes, such as accomplishing something for fun or for self-expression. They refer to this type of motivation as intrinsic motivation. The second path motivation takes is what the study refers to as extrinsic, which is motivation lead by improvement of skills and enhancement of status for example.

Motivation that is led intrinsically is the one that decreases over time, whereas extrinsic motivation starts at a certain level and increases over time. So my new years resolution that I didn’t benefit externally from would be the things that died out after a couple of weeks. I guess that makes sense, giving up on things that don’t have any real benefit.

My next question about this is, how come?

Well, the study has some theories on that as well. At first the findings that were produces leaned towards the notion that motivation had a “honeymoon” phase, which faded quickly.

The “honeymoon” phase describes individuals who gain motivation to accomplish something, quickly realizing it’s a lot harder than it seems. Goals are hard to accomplish and it takes a lot of dedication, positive outlook and passion to stay motivated, so if you’re just trying to achieve something for fun once it gets past the honeymoon phase and actually becomes work, we tend to give up on it naturally. Life is hard enough without useless added stresses. But if this honeymoon theory was absolute then all types of motivation would decrease. But since extrinsic motivation seems to increase over time, this honeymoon theory is not absolute.

But the next finding that was concluded in the report really struck a cord with me, with intrinsic motivation people have bad experiences that end up really decreasing their lack of motivation. I can really attest to this, I remember when I wrote a personal piece on my experiences with mental health and counselling, I was really motivated to put it out there on the internet for everyone to be able to access. After I pushed it out into the real world I had received a negative comment on it and it really effected me. This bad experience ruined my motivation to start to produce more personal work and I still haven’t bothered to write something of that nature again. With no external benefit connected to it, I had no real loss in discontinuing it. But if I have extrinsic motivation, for example I get a higher pay for writing personal pieces – I would not let that negative experience hinder me. I get money for writing, whether someone agrees with it or not.

This “bad experience” theory makes the most sense to me because I can look back on different things I gave up on and connect them to a) intrinsic motivation and b) a ton of discouraging things that happened.

The study goes into way more detail about the path of motivation but I think I found a reasonable explanation to my original question of how does it all work. I’ll leave the link below for any extra curious minds. As 2018 fully begins and I start to work on accomplishing things this year I just have to figure out how to create extrinsic motivation on all the goals so I succeed in all pursuits.


Investigating the Motivational Paths of Peer Production Newcomers
Martina Balestra, Coye Cheshire, Ofer Arazy, Oded Nov

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