We want to do it!

Why autonomous motivation is the key

To recall, autonomous motivation has two key parts to it. When we do things that are interesting or enjoyable to us and there is no pressuring through rewards or punishments then we will gladly and willingly do the work and continue to do so whilst the interest and enjoyment continues.  Many video games are based around this premise and, as we know, children can go for hours in such activities.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of effort in schools goes into lesson design in order to create tasks for students that they find interesting and enjoyable.  There are a wide range of such activities run in schools every day.  The downside risk, of course, is that the activity is more interesting and enjoyable than educational – students are engaged, but not learning as they need to be.


However, not all learning activities can be made interesting or enjoyable and so the second component of autonomous motivation is when we willingly engage in an activity – that is not interesting or enjoyable – but because it is connected to a dep value we have.  That deep value can be a long-term goal we have and to achieve that goal we need to engage in this activity.  Learning a musical instrument to be able to play in a band, playing a sport so we can become a professional athlete, needing mathematics for a career in medicine.

The deep value can also be connected to another person, a parent or teacher whom we do not want to disappoint or let down.  We so value our relationship with them that we will engage in this activity if they want us to.

A teacher having such a connection with each child guarantees that the uninteresting, but essential work, will get done as well as the work that is interesting and enjoyable and it is much easier to ensure that all the work has the right educational level.


John Corrigan is an expert in helping individuals to bring their whole of mind to their daily life and increase their effectiveness and the effectiveness of those around them. This expertise scales from the individual to the team to the organisation. At the core of this work is the practice of encounter.

John Corrigan