While access to basic education should be considered a privilege with gratitude, it also comes with a yardstick rooted in archaic and often unrealistic ideals of achievement. Success in schools is largely measured by grades, students incentivized and rewarded through comparison and competition with peers. All this in the service of getting a job that continues this pattern of continuous comparison and recognition through promotions and raises as a measure of success.
Fear and reward are the two primary drivers for achieving this definition of success. Parents often fear failing to provide the best opportunities for their kids to succeed in life, impacting life decisions about their careers, finances, and neighborhoods to live in. Children often fear not being able to “make it” in their lives, of not achieving preset educational standards, or gaining admissions to certain colleges. This fear only leads to compliance, not engagement.
Rewards work to motivate for sure. However, as demonstrated by the famous psychologist Karl Dunckar in his Candle problem, rewards are effective only for as long as the tasks involve mechanical skills with a clear path to achieve the goal, but fall short if there is even a rudimentary cognitive skill required to complete a task. Life, unfortunately, comes with no instruction manual to navigate a clear path to success and happiness.
The added pressure of conformity, regimented routines, and distraction through social media and gadgets eventually leave us struggling to find our individualistic self, wondering how any of this contributed meaningfully to us or the society. Worse still, this awareness often comes at a time in our lives when its possibly too late to re-navigate towards a more fulfilling life goal.
So how do we break from this regressive template and realize our true potential?
Dan Pink, author of the best selling book, Drive, says scientists have already given us what works - it’s called Intrinsic Motivation. He goes on to say that intrinsic motivation revolves around three things:
Autonomy: The urge to direct our own lives
Mastery: The desire to get better at something that matters, and
Purpose: Yearning to do what we do to serve something that is larger than ourselves.
These are the building blocks for an entirely new operating system based on intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation may seem diagonally opposite to the established paradigm of fear & reward and it might seem hard to change directions so radically. Not necessarily. The secret to finding intrinsic motivation is surprisingly straightforward: Simply redefine what success means to us. There is a lot in our lives which is already predetermined - our parents, our socio-economic status, our upbringing - but our definition of success does not have to be. After almost a decade of research on thought leaders and working with educators, children, and parents around the globe, I have come to understand that:
Success, true, meaningful success, is not about an achievement or a destination, it is a journey. A journey of continuously striving, achieving and exceeding your potential. A journey of Personal Leadership.
Personal Leadership is what makes success meaningful and lasting. Meaningful because it is a personal quest to break out of your status quo, not for external praise or reward but out of intrinsic motivation. And lasting, because it is continuous improvement.
THE FOUR PILLARS OF PERSONAL LEADERSHIP
Continuously striving to excel in whatever you do, for the simple pleasure of doing so for yourself, with self-awareness and self-control. The first pillar is Emotional Intelligence.
Expanding your comfort zone to become more than you have ever been by taking risks, thinking out of the box, and embracing failures, to continuously redefine your potential. The third pillar is Creative Problem Solving.
When the journey becomes excruciating and the challenges exceed your talents, endurance with resiliency, by leaning into the mundanity of consistency, to follow through on your goal. The second pillar is Resilience.
Giving back to the society by enriching lives with equity and compassion. The fourth pillar is Giving Back.
Those with an insatiable desire to continuously strive for improvement will eventually change the world for the better. Because when their motivation expands beyond personal improvement - to their society and the world, they are equipped with skills of becoming true leaders, of their personal lives and, if they so choose, to the society and the world.
Mastering these skills of Personal Leadership required to thrive in the 21st century need to be rooted from childhood in order for them to become an integral part of an individual’s attitude. Making progress in the attributes of perseverance, empathy, innovation and self discipline are just as important as in the subjects of math, language, social studies, and science.
At Frolific, we are striving to make this vision an everyday reality.