Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us


Do you truly understand what motivates you? And as a career changer, do you need to? In 'Drive', Daniel H. Pink argues you can't create meaningful work without knowing why you're doing it. But Louise FitzBaxter wasn't so sure. Here are her takeaways on this fascinating but theory-heavy guide to doing work you love.

If your career change experience is anything like mine, you've probably often thought that there must be something wrong with you.

All those other people can turn up at work, either enjoying what they do or accepting it as a means to an end. Why can't you?

In Drive, business thinker and best-selling author Dan Pink says the problem probably isn't you.

He argues there's actually a fundamental flaw with most workplaces: the fact that organisations operate on an underlying assumption that you don't – and won't ever – want to work.

For a long time, humans were considered to have only two motivators.

There's a biological drive (to eat when you're hungry, for example), and an environmental drive: to seek external reward and avoid punishment. The world of work was established on the basis of these two motivators.

But scientists later discovered a third drive: 'motivation 3.0'. This is about intrinsic reward: doing something because you enjoy doing it.

And when you're seeking fulfilling work, this is the key concept to start from.

By understanding your personal drivers and seeking opportunities to create more of them, you can begin to live and work in a fulfilling way.

Pink goes on to explain the three key elements needed to feed your intrinsic drive: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

"The richest experiences in our lives aren't when we're clamouring for validation from others, but when we're listening to our own voice, doing something that matters, doing it well and doing it in service of a cause larger than ourselves."

In the final section of the book, the 'Toolkit For Individuals', Pink suggests practical exercises to help you define, understand, work and live by your specific motivations.

But there's a lot of information that comes before these practical steps. And unless you're particularly interested in the flaws of the current system or the theory behind intrinsic reward, most of Drive isn't going to be what you're looking for.

To use this book to move your career change forward, it really all comes down to the toolkit at the end. Work through this to understand your motivations and use them to direct your shift.

Top Takeaways

  1. Set the right type of goals. Studies show that setting purpose-driven goals leads to higher levels of satisfaction and well-being. What matters to you beyond financial outcomes – do you want to help others improve their lives, do you want to focus on your own learning and growth?

  2. Focus on development. It's not about being good at something. Studying French? Rather than fretting about performance, i.e. getting an 'A', focus on the intrinsic reward of the process of learning and being able to communicate when you go to France.

  3. Try a 'flow test'. Set a reminder for 40 random times during the week and stop to reflect on what you're doing in each of those moments. How are you feeling? By looking for patterns, you can find the times you're in flow – experiencing just the right mix of enjoyable and challenging work that makes you forget about time and lose yourself in an activity. Once you've identified your sources of flow, you can create more opportunities to include them in your week.

  4. Play at work. Approach your day like a child exploring the world with moments of flow, joy, curiosity and possibility. Pink quotes psychologist Csikszentmihalyi: "Once we realise that the boundaries between work and play are artificial, we can take matters in hand and begin the difficult task of making life more liveable."

  5. Welcome effort. Pink counsels us that fulfilling work isn't easy. He quotes psychologist Carol Dweck: "Effort is one of the things that gives meaning to life. Effort means you care about something… and you are willing to work for it."


Have you read Drive? Let us know what you thought of the book in the comments below.