Mar 29, 2013

I'm Just Not That Type of Person

You've heard it before. "I don't feel attracted to him. He's just not my type." Or maybe "I would definitely not feel comfortable doing that. I'm just not that type of person." But what do we actually mean when we label someone as "not our type" or announce that "we're not that type of person"? Are we talking about their personality, character, looks (not attractive), worldview (distinct from our own), etc.? Or maybe a mixture of all of the above?

How about someone being a Type X instead of a Type I? Never heard of them before? According to Daniel Pink, who wrote the New York Times bestseller Drive. The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, these two terms stand for people who are generally either extrinsically (Type X) or intrinsically (Type I) motivated. And he has pretty strong opinions on what we need to do in regards to our motivation in order to make our world a better place:
If we want to strengthen our organisations, get beyond our decade of underachievement, and address the inchoate sense that something's gone wrong in our businesses, our lives, and our world, we need to move from Type X to Type I. (p. 77)
But let's back up a little bit first and look at his definition of these two types.
Type X behavior is fueled more by extrinsic desires than intrinsic ones. It concerns itself less with the inherent satisfaction of an activity and more with the external rewards to which that activity leads. [...] Type I behavior is fueled more by intrinsic desires than extrinsic ones. It concerns itself less with the external rewards to which an activity leads and more with the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself. (p. 77)
Pretty simple to grasp, I'd say. He then goes on to make five important observations regarding intrinsically motivated behavior that are worth looking at.
  1. Type I behavior is made, not born. All this means is that you don't have any excuses ("But I was born this way!") and that there is hope for you, even if you've been an obvious Type X all your life. "Type I behavior, because it arises in part from universal human needs, does not depend on age, gender, or nationality." (p. 78f)
  2. Type I's almost always outperform Type X's in the long run. The emphasis here is on in the long run. Focusing on extrinsic rewards can no doubt get you fast results. But it's an approach that's tough to sustain. "The most successful, the evidence shows, often aren't directly pursuing conventional notions of success." (p. 79)
  3. Type I behavior does not disdain money or recognition. This one is pretty self-explanatory. "Type I's don't turn down raises or refuse to cash pay checks. But one reason fair and adequate pay is so essential is that it takes the issue of money off the table so they can focus on the work itself." (p. 79)
  4. Type I behavior is a renewable resource. Pink here compares the two types to coal and the sun. The first might be easier and more efficient to use in the short run. But it also causes unwanted externalities and can become more expensive with time. So ultimately, Type I wins, because "it is the motivational equivalent of clean energy: inexpensive, safe to use, and endlessly renewable." (p. 80)
  5. Type I behavior promotes greater physical and mental well-being. Studies suggest that "people oriented toward autonomy and intrinsic motivation have higher self-esteem, better interpersonal relationships, and greater general well-being than those who are extrinsically motivated." (p. 80)
And if these observations aren't enough for you to start working on your Type I behavior, Mr. Pink finally lets us know that this type of motivation is connected with three things most of us long for.
Ultimately, Type I behavior depends on three nutrients: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Type I behavior is self-directed. It is devoted to becoming better and better at something that matters. And it connects that quest for excellence to a larger purpose. (p. 81)
What does that exactly mean? We'll start with taking a closer look at autonomy next week. Meanwhile, try to remember that even if you're "not that type of person", it doesn't mean you can't become that type -- at least when it comes to motivation.

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