April 3rd, 2019

Daniel Pink: The 3 Things That Motivate Us

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Imagine for a moment that you’re sitting at a table beside a wall. On the table is a box full of thumb tacks, a book of matches, and a candlestick. You’ve been given the task to attach the candle to the wall in such a way that, when it’s lit, the wax won’t drip on the table. It might take you a few minutes to figure out that you must remove the thumbtacks from the box, use the tacks to attach the box to the wall, then place the candle inside the box, but according to Daniel Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, it would take you even longer if you were offered a reward for solving it.

Why is that? According to Daniel Pink’s research, extrinsic motivation–what he calls the “carrot on a stick” approach to motivation–is great for people performing thoughtless or menial tasks. In other words, it’s great for 20th century industrial work.

But for our modern, 21st century jobs and problems, intrinsic motivation–doing things simply for the pleasure of doing them–is what brings about results. When you do things simply because you enjoy them, you don’t need to rely on external factors to keep you going. You don’t feel the pressure to perform when there’s a reward, or punishment, on the line. You can work unfettered by others’ expectations and, according to the research in Drive, you’ll get the job done better and faster than you would with external motivators pushing you.

Pink identifies three qualities of intrinsic motivation in his book. In today’s blog, we’ll discuss what they are, and how Fabulous can help you develop those qualities.


Autonomy is the ability to work unsupervised. When you’re autonomous, there’s no manager hanging over your shoulder, judging your every move, waiting to punish or reward behavior. You’re free to work at the pace that suits you.

Working without supervision or management might seem like it’d be a sure gateway to laziness but studies show this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, companies that have a Results-Only Work Environment (or ROWE) tend to report an increase in productivity, despite not having set work hours!

A ROWE-based business model benefits both the worker, who can work on a schedule that suits them, and the manager, who can spend less time micromanaging and more time improving the work environment. But ROWE requires tremendous discipline. Fabulous’s Self-Discipline: Mental Toughness exercise can set you up for autonomous work success. Give it a shot!


Think back to the last time you really struggled to master something but finally did. It was exhilarating, right? You probably felt confident and proud of yourself, and like you could overcome anything you put your mind to. Now ask yourself this: Do you ever feel this way at work?

Overcoming challenges and mastering new skills feels good because it’s what you’re designed to do! Humans are deep, creative thinkers; we love to solve problems. But mastery requires constant and consistent engagement. Modern-day work incentives like bonuses, however, don’t increase engagement. In fact, employees are less engaged in their work than they’ve ever been.

You may not be able to change your workplace culture but you can absolutely increase your own ability to engage with your work. One way to do that is by developing your focus and concentration. The Fabulous Concentration Training Meditation is designed to do exactly that.


It’s perfectly natural to want your work and efforts to mean something. But your craving for purpose may be more important to your wellbeing than you realize. According to Pink, injecting a sense of purpose into the workplace increases productivity and employee engagement. The happiest employees are the ones that feel their efforts serve something greater than themselves. When you feel like your work has meaning, you become more invested in it. You care about the quality of what you produce. And that care shows.

Science has shown that, after a certain (and surprisingly modest) amount, money doesn’t buy happiness. What does consistently make people happy, however, is the ability to create or contribute to something that will outlast themselves and that makes the world a better place. And luckily, there are so many problems that need solved in the world, there’s plenty of purpose to go around!

Do you know your life’s purpose? What will you do to make your mark on the world? Sign up for Fabulous’s The Purpose-Driven Life to discover your purpose and all the wonderful things you can do with it.