Once again viewers to BBC Young Musician have been treated to another impressive competition. Even if their parents had first dragged these contestants – perhaps carrot and stick style – to their early music lessons, these teenagers were a fine example of what happens when self motivation kicks in.
In contrast, and also for many years, the BBC has aired the weekly radio programme, Private Passions. It features guests from a variety of professional backgrounds, who rarely play themselves, selecting music and talking about why it’s important to their lives. If you like, it’s the antithesis of Eurovison. Yes, it’s mostly classical music that gets featured, but it’s interesting to hear how, in some measure, learning about the pieces has enhanced their enjoyment. A little effort and determination to examine musicology or some history of the composer, for example, has informed and somehow strengthened their engagement with certain music.
In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink breaks down this intrinsic motivation to the essential elements of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. And he writes that mastery is closely coupled with engagement.
Intriguingly, mastery is cited as asymptotic: a line that continually approaches a given curve but never meets it at a finite distance. In other words, none of us in any field of human endeavour can ever say we have truly mastered something, but working towards it has so much appeal and provides so much satisfaction. We witness and experience this in our private lives, but at work could it be a lack of mastery that in part explains such low levels of employee engagement?
A little more self direction at work on our part might reveal some challenges or assignments we could tackle in order to gain some learning, increase out capabilities, yield some value, engage us and inch us ever closer to mastery.