How to Motivate People

Are you struggling to get motivated or to motivate your team at work? Let's take a look at what really works.

“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” — Daniel Pink

It is in our nature to be curious and self-directed, not constrained and commanded.

If meaning is our inner drive, then autonomy is what sets it free. Many of us shackle ourselves to jobs with little meaning and to people who direct our lives for their own purpose. Money is a primary motive, but beyond a certain amount, money does not motivate.

Traditional management theory uses the carrot and stick to set constraints and motivate with extrinsic rewards. This approach runs counter to the way humans are wired and stunts creativity. We are not beasts of burden.

Autonomy does not mean independent or isolated. Even the introverts among us crave a connection with others on some level. Autonomy simply means they do so on their own terms.

We are prolific when self-directed. Google creates half of its new offerings during what it calls 20% time, where employees are paid to work on personal projects.

So what is autonomy? Author Dan Pink breaks it down into four aspects:

  • Tasks → What you work on

  • Schedule → When you work

  • Technique → Principles, techniques and best practices

  • Team → Who you work with

We want self-direction with our time, what we do, how we do it and who we do it with. That is autonomy in a nutshell. When all four of these aspects are in full alignment, we reach peak motivation and experience flow.

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Unshackle yourself today and put meaning into motion... on your own terms.


You can enjoy your work and make a good living at the same time.

I get it, life requires certain responsibilities of you. Family, friends, community and an avalanche of material items we think are necessary leave you trading time for money.

But at some point, you must take stock of your life and look inward at what is truly meaningful. With that meaning in hand, you must begin to self-direct your life.

What is the alternative? The pain of regret for what could have been.