Motivation: Autonomy, mastery, and purpose

Motivation: Autonomy, mastery, and purpose

Motivation increases when people answer an inner call to perform a certain kind of work.  Finding a vocation means finding the sweet spot between vocation and motivation, where getting in touch with personal passion and societal needs overlap.  For example, a young person who loves music could be called to a vocation as a music teacher and share that love with others.  Being aware of your vocation or other personal motivations can improve goal setting and achievement.


Dan Pink provides a deeply personal perspective on motivation by explaining three factors that lead to stronger performance and more personal fulfillment.  The factors are autonomy, mastery, and purpose.  Autonomy is self-direction.  Mastery is the desire to improve skills in something we care about.  Purpose is the perception that we are producing something deeply meaningful or even transcendent. 


The music teacher may autonomously practice every weekend to reach mastery while hoping for a transcendent performance.  Pink explains that once the teacher has enough money to stop worrying about money, he or she is not motivated by more money but by desire to reach inner potential.  Something similar may be true of scholars who become dissertation writers. 


A faculty committee advises the dissertation writer, however, the intent is to produce a work of original scholarship, which requires self-direction or autonomy.  The dissertation writer reads and writes extensively with the goal of producing a crystal clear research structure (not an easy task, and one requiring mastery of basic scholarship).  The final outcome of research is to add something to the accrual of human knowledge; and, that task could be considered transcendent. 


Ultimately completing the dissertation will lead to personal satisfaction through autonomy, mastery, and sense of purpose.  Daniel Pink has more to say about finding work that is meaningful in a wonderful ten-minute video from the Royal Society of Animators (RSA).  Visit the link to find links to RSA and the Daniel Pink talk.  Explore the site while there to find many other interesting resources.

About the Author



Journal of Leadership Studies-Symposium Piece-Relational Leadership: Perspectives of Key Constructs on Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Equity in Higher Education

Psychology Today
Blog Posts Published


American Psychological Association Conference-Utilizing Clinical Hypnotherapeutic Intervention with CBT to Treat Pandemic-Aug. 13-2021 Symptomology

ILA Conference Geneva Switzerland 2021
Presenter -Topic-"The Stress Arc in Leadership and 3 Powerful Disciplines for Mitigating Major Stress Impacts in a New Era"-Upcoming
Presenter -Topic-“Improving Higher Education’s Role in Diversity and Social Equity through Relational Leadership in the New Era”-Upcoming
Presenter-Topic-"Healthcare Leadership-Using Virtuous Leadership in Chaos to Reimagine Beneficial Practices of Employee Cognitive Psychology"-Upcoming
2021-Knowledge Without Boundaries National Summit-College of Doctoral Studies Research Conference-University of Phoenix-Panel Discussion-"Exploring Emergent Trends in Leadership and Education"-Based on published symposia article from the Journal of Leadership Studies-


Elizabeth Johnston
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