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The Science of Meaning and How to Stay Motivated in Our Work


At TEDx Rio de la Plata, author Dan Ariely gave an interesting talk on motivation and how to feel good about our work. Challenging the conventional belief that money equals motivation, he shows how injecting meaning into our work — be that by making the work itself harder or having others acknowledge it — has a huge impact on why and how we stay motivated.

The video doesn’t specifically mention photography, but the lessons still apply. Without meaning, motivation dies; and the ways we get meaning are either by having others acknowledge/use our photography or by challenging ourselves to push the limits of our skill.

The Myth of Sisyphus is the quintessential example of meaningless work
The Myth of Sisyphus is the quintessential example of meaningless work

Ariely believes this is the difference between those that love what they do and those that don’t. Getting paid certainly helps, but the recognition successful photographers get for putting out quality work is much more important. That’s also why photographers who love what they do are often challenging themselves; by making their work harder, they’re taking advantage of what’s called the IKEA effect.

The IKEA effect is the correlation between labor and affection. The harder we work for something, the more we care for and take pride in it. Even if it’s objectively worse than other work we’ve done, Ariely maintains that having worked harder to make something givs us both satisfaction and the belief (albeit erroneous) that it’s better than what we’ve done in the past.

Understanding the connection between meaning and motivation is crucial in any field. And if you’re trying to become a professional photographer (and you’ve referenced this infographic to make sure that’s the path you want to take), chances are you’ll need a good deal of motivation along the way. Check out the full talk at the top to get your dose for the day.

(via Lifehacker)

Image credit: The Myth of Sisyphus by vintagedept