Why do we work?

prined to perform book blog

Why do you go to work? Chances are it’s got something to do with money. But as most of us know, it’s more complicated than that. “There is a spectrum of reasons why people do their jobs,” write Neel Doshi and Lindsay McGregor in Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation. “Understanding that spectrum is the key to creating the highest levels of performance.”

The authors argue there are six reasons we do anything. The first three they call indirect motivations and the latter three are direct motivations.

sources of motivation

The Direct Motives


You’re most likely to lose weight—or succeed in any other endeavor— when your motive is play. Play occurs when you’re engaging in an activity simply because you enjoy doing it. The work itself is its own reward. Scientists describe this motive as “intrinsic.”

Play is what compels you to take up hobbies, from solving crossword puzzles to making scrapbooks to mixing music. You may find play in weight loss by experimenting with healthy recipes or seeking out new restaurants that offer healthy options. Many of us are lucky enough to find play in the workplace too, when we do what we do simply because we enjoy doing it.

Curiosity and experimentation are at the heart of play. People intrinsically enjoy learning and adapting. We instinctively seek out opportunities to play.


Play at work should not be confused with your people playing Ping Pong or foosball in the break room. For your people to feel play at work, the motive must be fueled by the work itself, not the distraction. Because the play motive is created by the work itself, play is the most direct and most powerful driver of high performance.


A step away from the work itself is the purpose motive. The purpose motive occurs when you do an activity because you value the outcome of the activity (versus the activity itself). You may or may not enjoy the work you do, but you value its impact. You may work as a nurse, for example, because you want to heal patients. You spend your career studying culture because you believe in the impact your work can have on others. Dieters may not enjoy preparing or eating healthy meals, but they deeply value their own health, an outcome of healthy eating.

You feel the purpose motive in the workplace when your values and beliefs align with the impact of the work. Apple creates products that inspire and empower its customers, a purpose that is compelling and credible. …

The purpose motive is one step removed from the work, because the motive isn’t the work itself but its outcome. While the purpose motive is a powerful driver of performance, the fact that it’s a step removed from the work typically makes it a less powerful motive than play.


The potential motive occurs when you find a second order outcome (versus a direct outcome) of the work that aligns with your values or beliefs. You do the work because it will eventually lead to something you believe is important, such as your personal goals.

Dieters motivated by potential eat healthfully to achieve other things they care about—the ability to run faster on the football field, for example, or to keep up with their kids. When a company describes a job as a good “stepping-stone,” they’re attempting to instill the potential motive.

These are the direct motives. Direct because they generally connect to the work itself.

As a result, they typically result in the highest levels of performance. If you remember only one thing from Primed to Perform, it should be that a culture that inspires people to do their jobs for play, purpose, and potential creates the highest and most sustainable performance.

Not all motives correlate with higher performance. Motives that don’t connect to the work itself typically reduce performance.

The Indirect Motives

Emotional Pressure

The first indirect motive, emotional pressure, occurs when emotions such as disappointment, guilt, or shame compel you to perform an activity. These emotions are related to your beliefs (your self- perception) and external forces (the judgments of other people). The work itself is no longer the reason you’re working.

You may practice the piano so you don’t disappoint your mother. You may stay in a job because its prestige boosts your self-esteem. A dieter may eat healthy meals because he’s embarrassed by how he looks, or because he feels guilty when his partner catches him with his hand in the cookie jar.

In each case, the motive is not directly connected to the work. It is indirect.

When your motive to work is emotional pressure, your performance tends to suffer. … High-performing cultures reduce emotional pressure. … [E]motional pressure is the weakest of the three indirect motives. The effects of economic pressure can be much worse.

Economic Pressure

Economic pressure is when you do an activity solely to win a reward or avoid punishment. The motive is separate from the work itself and separate from your own identity (see Figure 3 for an illustration of this separation). In business, this often occurs when you’re trying to gain a bonus or a promotion, avoid being fired, or escape the bullying of an angry boss. Economic pressure can occur outside the workplace, whenever you feel forced to do something.


The biggest misconception about the economic motive is that it is strictly a matter of money. In a study we conducted involving more than ten thousand workers, we looked to see how the economic motive changes with household income. We expected to find that the people with the least income experienced the highest economic pressure. Instead, we learned that income and the economic motive were statistically unrelated. People at any income level can feel economic pressure at work.

This is an important insight. Money alone does not cause the economic motive.


There are situations where money works, and situations where it doesn’t. It all depends on whether or not the reward or punishment is the motive behind the activity, and whether the activity would benefit from adaptive performance.


The most indirect motive of all is inertia. With inertia, your motive for working is so distant from the work itself that you can no longer say where it comes from—you do what you do simply because you did it yesterday. This leads to the worst performance of all. … As destructive and insidious as it is, inertia is surprisingly common in the workplace.

I’ll have more to say on culture but needless to say, this is only one lens.

Source – ‘Primed to Perform’ book and https://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2015/10/reasons-we-work/

You can apply for Young India Challenge #DoWhatYouLove here http://www.humancircle.in/youngindiachallenge/apply-now.html




The Final Year Fear!

manasi blog pic

The scary study table!

This time summer vacations are not the same. It seems more like a preparation leave than holiday. The scorching heat of Lucknow and my entrance exam books. Oh yes! These are the holidays before the beginning of my final year of graduation.

Everything seems different this time. I was not feeling any sort of pressure unlike my 10th and 12th standards. That fear of board exams was inculcated in our minds by everyone around us. I still remember the reaction of my neighbour when I passed my 9th class exams:

“You have had enough of fun. Now it’s time to study. You have your BOARD EXAMS this year.”

The pressure felt the same even after two years. This time, it increased. All thanks to the  various entrance exams where I had to compete with my batchmates and my colony mates! I always had a constant fear in my mind that I won’t be able to clear any exams and would end up embarrassing my mother.

And then Delhi University happened! My mother was happy. At that time that was the only thing that mattered. But the place changed my life forever.  It has taught me so much in just two years. Some has rightly said that staying away from your parents automatically turns you into someone mature and sensible.

This time the feeling is different. This time, I am happy and content. I am not feeling any sort of pressure on my mind. I guess I know why. Because this time, I am doing it for myself.

YES.This time it is not for my parents, siblings,  teachers,  neighbours or to defeat any Sharma ji ka beta! This time i am doing it for myself.Doing something I love!

A two day conference and it has changed me to the core. The Young India Challenge inspired me to #DoWhatYouLove . I am enjoying it for the first time. I am feeling enthusiastic and full of energy. The dreams are the same. The entrance exam is the same. But the feeling is different.

These two years have taught me one lesson very well. You cannot satisfy everyone. The best you can do is to make yourself happy. As Piyush Mishra says:

“Karna hai toh kuchh apni khushi ke liye karo. Duniya toh bhagwaan se bhi dukhi hai.”

So this time, cheers to life. Cheers to the final year. I hope that the year is full of joy and love and success for everyone facing this fear.

Aur, jaane se pehle:

Stay happy. People will come and go. All what will stay with you in your success and hardwork. Work hard. Become successful. Live life to the fullest. 🙂

Author – Manasi Tripathi (Young India Challenge participant)

You can read more here – https://realitycheckout.wordpress.com/

You can apply for Young India Challenge #DoWhatYouLove here http://humancircle.in/youngindiachallenge/apply-now.html


Can You Pause For A Minute In Your Chaotic Life Today? And This Is Why You Should.

“I want to do something that would create an impact in this world. I want to be famous. No, that’s a wrong word. I want to be known for doing something good. Yeah, that’s better.”

When I returned home for my summer break from college, I was truly stunned by the words my fifteen-year-old niece did string together to make an impact on my mind, if not the world.

She wants to see the reason of her existence.


Well, in the deepest corner of your heart, there lies a wish. A wish to be whoever you are. A wish to do whatever you want. A wish to go wherever you desire to. But of course, when is this wish ever fulfilled? When is everything in favour of us? Or rather, when is it that we ever let that cornered voice come to the surface?

We don’t.

We are scared of what might the world think? We are apprehensive of our duties towards our society. We think about the way our friends might look at us if we choose another way. We care too much. Not for others. Instead, we care for the thoughts people bear in their mind about us. We tend to be running in the same direction everyone else is, afraid we might become an outcast if we choose another way. We are in an unrecognisable Anarchy. And even if we do realise it one day, we forget to accept it.

Acceptance, I was told, is the first step to realisation.

Pause.For.A.Minute. Reflect on your life. Think about all the ways that make you happy. Think about all those moments that your heart cherishes the most. Think about all the emotions that went down that memory lane. And then, most importantly, think what you might want to see yourself doing in the coming future. Is it something that society is forcing you to do? Or is it something that speaks out the hidden talent in you?

If it’s the former, you better contemplate over it, mull things over in your mind. Look for all the right reasons to leave it or to choose it. The choice is always in your hands. It really never goes away unless you let it go yourself.

But if by any chance, it’s the latter, you know where you are headed to. That’s your destiny. And if that doesn’t work out, the best part is you won’t regret because you did not allow anyone else to make this decision for you. You will be happy because you enjoyed what you did.

Similarly, even if you are good at something, it doesn’t mean that you love doing it. It simply means that you can do it. All that matters is, what you love doing! If you want to think differently, THINK. If you want to explore all possibilities, EXPLORE. If you want silence to be your partner, STAY SILENT. If you want to raise your voice over an issue, SPEAK OUT. It is simply your sole decision. Don’t let anyone ruin your choices for you. They are the only things you will always have control over.

Let life roll out its way for you. But remember, the decision is always yours, which way to take.

Author – Hashmat Naiyareen (Young India Challenge participant)

You can apply for Young India Challenge here http://humancircle.in/youngindiachallenge/apply-now.html