Research shows that classic career advice—”find a way to get paid to do what you love”—may be way off the mark. The Washington Post’s Shankar Vedantam reports that paychecks and pink slips aren’t good long-term motivators:
Beliefs about the utility of rewards and punishments in motivating human behaviour are deeply ingrained, and most people don’t know that more than 100 research studies have shown that motivating people in this manner can have the unintentional effect of undermining their internal drives.
Once you replace someone’s internal motivation to do something with an external reward or punishment, their inner drive reduces, these studies show. I’ve turned a hobby into a job and vice versa, and my internal truth-o-meter hit a high note reading this.
No matter how much you love an activity—whether it’s writing, painting, programming, being an activist, home decorator, whatever—assigning a deadline and a paycheck to it fundamentally changes the nature of the task. Suddenly it’s “work,” and there’s a big difference between work and play. Of course, as the lucky ones will attest, you can love your work and do it well even when there’s money involved. But these studies show that humans are more productive and motivated when they’re driven by inner desire instead of external expectations. Have you turned a hobby into paid work? Did it change your motivation to do it? Let us know what you think in the comments.