The Why behind “The Why?”.

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion in motivation circles on “The Why”. One of the most prominent voices on the subject is Simon Sinek who was able to provide great information on the topic for leaders. While working on my dissertation I came across some interesting information related to motivation, which I think is beneficial for understanding the concept of the “Why”. Researchers Ryan and Desi (2000) introduced the concept of Self-Determination Theory, which provides a framework for understanding motivation. Within the construct, motivation is bifurcated into two classifications: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation occurs when an individual engages in an activity because it is enjoyable or of high interest. In contrast, extrinsic motivation is engaged in for the sake of an external reward of some kind. A key differentiator between both classifications is the fact that extrinsic motivators can be enjoyable or non-enjoyable.

Understanding these concepts is important because we all have goals and our level of motivation is important for realizing our objectives. When we select a goal we are often looking for a reward and are therefore extrinsically motivated for its accomplishment (Ryan and Desi, 2000). However, there are often challenges that we face en route to goal-attainment. It is, therefore, critical to tap into our “Why” or reason for what we do. Knowing the why allows the individual to connect to the core of their motivation faculties so that they can have the resolve to overcome the challenge. This represents a scientific application of motivation that can help professionals, regardless of industry, to locate ways to win when faced with difficult scenarios. It is critical to know your why, and it is necessary that your why be big enough to empower you to overcome your challenge. This is why Tony Robbins continuously emphasizes the importance of our emotional states: the power of our emotions activated by our why allows us to overcome our obstacles and achieve our goals. Both phenomena work in conjunction to create motivation.

Hopefully, this has been informative.



Ryan & Desi (2000) Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New

Directions. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 25(1) 54-67.

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