What's one of the WORST ways to motivate someone? Hint: You see it all the time.

The surprising truth about what motivates us.

TRUE or FALSE: The best way to motivate a certain behavior in someone is simply to reward them for it.


False. Well, kind of.

Of course, it's not entirely that simple. The ideal motivation depends on what kind of task you're trying to get someone to accomplish. Author Daniel Pink cites a couple studies that prove this whole motivation thing is a lot more complicated than we thought. Let's take a look.

The experiment: Give people different levels of cash rewards to perform various tasks.


Seems pretty straightforward, right? People were asked to memorize numbers, solve crosswords, play basketball — all sorts of stuff. And they were promised cash rewards as motivation. Money money money money! So, what happened?

The result: For any tasks that called for cognitive skill, higher pay resulted in poorer performance.

Say WHHAAAAATTT!? Yep. As long as the task involved only mechanical skill, bonuses worked as expected: higher pay = better performance. But as soon as the task called for cognitive skill, bonuses worked in the opposite way: higher pay = poorer performance.

OK, well then how do you motivate people to perform those tasks that do require thought?

Daniel Pink says the answer here lies in three fancy buzzwords: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

First, you gotta pay people enough that money is no longer an issue. Then they can actually focus on the work at hand. That's where autonomy (our desire to be in charge of our own lives), mastery (our desire to get better at stuff), and purpose (our desire to make a difference) come into play.

Purpose is kind of the kicker here. We all want to make the world a better place. Maybe the thing standing in the way of us making a better world is just the outdated way we think about motivation. How about that carrot for thought?

"If we start treating people like people, and not assuming that they're simply horses ... if we get past this kind of ideology of carrots and sticks and look at the science, I think we can actually ... make our world just a little bit better."

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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