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Susan Weinschenk Ph.D.
Susan Weinschenk Ph.D.

Give People Autonomy

Giving people control over what they are doing makes them work harder.

In a previous blog post I wrote that one of the best ways to motivate people is to stimulate a desire for mastery—and that breaking things into small pieces and showing progress through the pieces encourages the desire for mastery. Another tip for stimulating the desire for mastery is to give people autonomy. When people feel that they have some control over what they are doing and how they do it, their desire for mastery increases. They will then be motivated to continue and keep learning. If people feel that they don’t have any control or autonomy then they lose the desire to learn and do more—they lose the desire to master whatever task you are asking them to do.

Here’s an example: Let’s say that you have created a language learning app. The desire for mastery will be automatically in play if the person wants to learn a language. However, if you want people to continue using the app, and use it frequently and often, then you need to do more than just present lessons in the app. One way to further stimulate the desire for mastery, is to give them some control over how they use the app. You can provide different types of exercises and interactions, such as listening, writing, or speaking the language, and let them choose which exercises and activities they need or want, and in what order to do them. If they feel they have control over how quickly they go through the lessons, which ones they repeat, which activities to engage in, and in what order, then they will be more motivated to keep learning. What do you think? Have you used tried giving autonomy to keep people motivated?

About the Author
Susan Weinschenk Ph.D.

Susan Weinschenk, Ph.D.,is a behavioral psychologist, author, coach, and consultant in neuropsychology.