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How our mental toughness is key to our intrinsic motivation as well as for developing this in others. 

Intrinsic motivation is defined as the motivation to do something because of the satisfaction of doing the activity rather than doing it for a reward or specific outcome. 

It is rooted in self-determination theory (SDT). Its “alternative” is extrinsic motivation. There the motivation is to do something for reward (often money) or to avoid penalty.  

For a very long time, a good deal of motivational practice has been centred on extrinsic motivation – pay/bonus systems, grading systems and many performance management systems. Many now argue that this does not deliver the desired outcomes for any of the parties to the transaction.  

Extrinsic motivators tend to be short-lived in impact. But they still have a role in motivation and can attend to the fundamental needs of most employees – food, shelter, etc. 

There is a change in the air. The COVID-19 pandemic caused many to re-evaluate the way they live and work. New generations entering the workforce do so with different values. No longer is money the main motivator for many. Most appear to value doing something worthwhile, interesting and challenging in work and life. Assuming Maslow’s basic needs are met, they seek to find contentment in what they do. Even joy and pleasure. 

The employee landscape is changing rapidly in line with intrinsic motivation. 

SDT suggests that the three core elements of intrinsic motivation are autonomy, mastery and connectedness. Practitioners such as Daniel Pink* now add a fourth element – Purpose.  

Now successfully applied to large and complex settings with impressive results. RAMP stands for 4 needs: 

Relatedness: The need for a sense of belonging and of connectedness with others – interacting, supporting and being supported by others.  

Autonomy: A need to have sufficient control of your life and work, to control what you do and to accept the accountability that goes with this. 

Mastery: A need to feel competent in handling what is important and believing that this can be developed. 

Purpose: To feel that what you are doing is worthwhile around which you can identify meaningful goals for yourself. 

We know how to develop these behaviours and qualities in self and others. 

All this might seem obvious, but the challenge lies in its application. Research shows that abilities and behaviours are one thing, but they nearly always need to be associated with a resilient and positive attitude to optimise their impact. 

Resilience + Mindset = Better Outcomes

And this is where the mental toughness concept comes in. 

Mental Toughness is that aspect of your personality that describes your mental responses to challenge, adversity, opportunity and setback. Also, very well evidenced and widely used in development programmes, the 4Cs concept consists of 8 independent factors creating 4 elements – Control, Commitment, Challenge and Confidence.  

Each factor describes a separate aspect of our mental responses – our attitude; 

Usefully a high-quality psychometric measure, MTQPlus helps users to assess this. 

It’s not too difficult to see how these attitudinal factors link with the behavioural factors associated with intrinsic motivation. These combine to enable consistent adoption of these behaviours, thus achieving the desired outcome of intrinsic motivation. 

Briefly, we can see that:

  • The two Control factors provide the underlying mental approach to autonomy. 
  • The Goals and Achievement Orientation factors are essentially about having purpose. 
  • Mastery is about Confidence in Abilities and Life Control.
  • Relatedness involves all the factors but especially those at the bottom half of the image. 

With careful application, we have the makings of an approach which can deliver the “holy grail” of intrinsic motivation. 

For information about becoming a licensed user of the MTQ suite of measures (available in 14 languages) contact: 

Completion of the AQR Licensed user training programme is recognised by EMCC and ICF for CPD purposes. 

A RAMP assessment measure is being developed in collaboration with AQR International. 

*Pink DH. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. Reprint, paperback ed. Riverhead Books; 2012.