Motivation part 2 – Rewards and Punishment

In my previous post on motivation – Motivation and the Secrets to Getting Things Done – I introduced the distinction between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. In today’s post I will try to briefly summarise some of what we know about extrinsic motivation. As a reminder:

Extrinsic motivation refers to external forces that influence our behaviour. Praise, financial rewards and punishment are all examples of extrinsic motivation. If I say I drove to the beach because my friend paid me $300 to give him a lift, I am referring to an extrinsic motivation.

Operant conditioning

Operant conditioning is the technical term used in the behavioural sciences for learning from consequences. If you repeatedly experience static electric shocks when you touch a particular door handle and this causes you to insulate your hand with your sleeve whenever you go through that door, or to use a different door, this is an example of operant conditioning: You have learned to alter your behaviour to avoid experiencing the unpleasantness of a static electric shock.
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Motivation experiment days 7 & 8

One week into my experiment with drawing daily and it’s effects on motivation the challenge for drawing ideas has gotten no easier. Drawing cartoon-style faces is a common absent-minded doodle I’ve done in the past; so I drew another cartoon face.

Smiling cartoon face with beard

Motivation experiment day 7 – drawn 27/04/2014

On day eight I decided to go back to doodling some abstract, bold black lines. I tried experimenting with the smearing technique I’d discovered on day three. I liked the effect and it reminded me of an eye. So I found a photo of a cat’s eye and traced it into the background:

Abstract cat's eye

Motivation experiment day 8 – drawn 28/04/2014

Now, for the second time I’d drawn something I quite liked.

I was posting daily on facebook and had some positive feedback on specific pictures on days five, six and seven, and positive feedback (likes or comments) on my drawings most days. That feedback, plus having drawn two things I liked myself in just over a week gave me a boost of interest in continuing this drawing exercise. I started to look forward to drawing, which meant thinking about it sometimes during the day – which finally generated ideas for things to draw.

Motivation experiment days 5 & 6

Come day five of my experiment in committing myself to draw a picture every day there was still no real inspiration for what to draw. I vaguely remembered seeing a “how to draw” video with my children and tried to replicate the steps as far as I remembered them to draw this face:

Cartoon face with beard and hat

Motivation experiment day 5 – drawn 25/04/2014

I’m not a real fan of it, but I was happy to be pushing myself to try new things.

Day six and once again I couldn’t think of ideas. I started with another drawing using abstract lines and shapes. Then I scribbled some wings around it, which made me think to draw a weird-looking bird. With an egg.

Abstract bird with an egg

Motivation experiment day 6 – drawn 26/04/2014

Again, I don’t really like this drawing. But I was doing something new and different, and I liked that because if I hadn’t pushed myself to draw daily then on the rare occasions I drew I would be likely to just be drawing the same style over and over again.

Motivation experiment days 3 & 4

Sitting down to draw on day three of my motivation experiment I couldn’t think of anything at all to draw. So I scribbled a few lines and shapes and played with smearing them:

Brown stripes and shapes

Motivation experiment day 3 – drawn 23/4/2014

I really don’t like this drawing at all. But forcing myself to draw something led me to experimenting with a technique that I later used in a drawing I did like.

Come day four I found myself again feeling completely uninspired. So I scribbled a few lines. Those lines made me think of a bat, so I developed them into one:

Bat against a night sky

Motivation experiment day 4 – drawn 24/04/2014

Four days into my experiment I had done the first drawing that I really liked something about. It was really not much more than a rough scribble … but I liked how it looked. That made me look forward to possibly drawing something else unexpected that I liked in the future: the beginnings of intrinsic motivation to continue drawing.

Motivation experiment day 2

Below is my drawing from day 2 of my motivation experiment.

Abstract lines and colours

Motivation experiment day 2 – drawn 22/4/2014

The main motivator to do this drawing was having committed myself to doing a drawing each day for this experiment. There wasn’t a sense of inspiration and I had no idea what to draw. You can see it is a very similar, abstract style to the previous day’s drawing.

There was some additional motivation created by experimenting with a digital pen, which was a relatively new toy.

Overall, though, I had to push myself to keep to my commitment to draw this, and struggled with feeling I didn’t know what to draw. I managed that obstacle by telling myself it didn’t matter if I just scribbled – as long as I drew something.

Motivation and the secrets to getting things done – part 1 – Intrinsic and Extrinsic motivation

What makes you get out of bed in the morning? What makes you go to work? What makes you read a book, or sit down to watch tv?

All of these actions in our daily lives are driven by motivation. But what does that really mean?

Motivation is something I have been thinking about – and researching – a lot recently. Motivation has been on my mind because one of the biggest challenges in providing effective psychological treatment for depression seems to be overcoming motivational barriers that are a symptom of depression. For example, exercise is known to be an effective treatment for depression – but how can a depressed person exercise consistently enough to experience improvement in mood when two of the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for Major Depressive Disorder suggest significant problems of motivation?
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A Cognitive Behavioural model of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

I have recently added a new PDF of a CBT model of OCD to the self help resources at Thrive Wellness. In this post I would like to provide some detail on this model.

CBT model of OCD

The cycle of OCD all begins with intrusive thoughts: distressing thoughts that seem to pop out of nowhere and are inconsistent with personal values. Pretty much everyone experiences intrusive thoughts from time to time. In OCD, however, these intrusive thoughts become so repetitve and distressing that they are referred to by a different name: obsessions.

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At What Cost?

My last post – The Antidote – linked to a post at the blog Hands Free Mama which was about the journey of letting go of the perfectionist’s desire to do it all for the sake of, paradoxically, having more.

In today’s post I want to make an important acknowledgement: there is a cost.

There is a cost to having more of something. That cost is having less of something else.

Australian currency

There is a cost to having more of something. That cost is having less of something else.


If you want to have more chocolote, you have to be prepared to have less money and, depending on how much more chocolate you intend to have, perhaps a less healthy figure.

Stating the blindingly obvious, right? Well, there is an aspect that may not be so obvious.
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