Home > Articles > Business & Management > Personal Development

Choosing to Perform Well

  • Print
  • + Share This
How important is choice in the performance of a task? Pat Brans emphasizes that choice plays a crucial role in getting the best results from any human being, including yourself. Whether you want to encourage your employees, or you need to stop procrastinating and finish a task you've set for yourself, choice is actually more important than reward as a motivator.
Like this article? We recommend

Like this article? We recommend

Throughout history, civilizations have had to learn the hard way that people are not machines. There are no buttons you can press to get a human being to execute a task, much less do so efficiently. You might be able to get slaves to perform menial work, but if your goal is producing higher value, forcing somebody to do what you want never results in a good return on your investment over the long haul.

What motivates people? What are the best ways to get yourself to do something? How can you get somebody else to do things for you?

The Role of Choice

Recently, motivational psychologists have come up with various models to answer these questions. Many researchers maintain that one of our basic needs is autonomy. If we feel we've freely chosen to do something, we are happy to do it, and we perform better. Experiments by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester suggest that even when subjects are forced to perform a task that is intrinsically pleasurable, they find little satisfaction in it, and they don't do a very good job. Conversely, if subjects freely choose an unpleasant task, they gain satisfaction from carrying it out, and they perform well.

It turns out that coercion doesn't just come from the outside. We force ourselves to do things out of guilt or pride, and the effect is similar to cases in which a boss applies pressure.

Still another way in which you might diminish your sense of autonomy is by doing something for a reward. If you are seduced by money to perform a job, you may not perform as well as you would if you did it for pleasure. Conversely, if the task itself is fun, and you freely choose to carry it out, you'll do it well.

Most teachers know this rule: In an educational environment, if you make a game out of learning, retention is higher. Playing is fun in and of itself. But you can't force people to play—they have to choose to do so. Have you ever heard a parent tell a kid, "You're going to have fun, whether you like it or not"? That just doesn't work.

What else happens when you lose your autonomy? According to Joseph Ferrari of DePaul University, author of Still Procrastinating? The No-Regrets Guide to Getting It Done, one of the most common causes for putting off a task is a sense of coercion. The more you feel forced to work toward a goal, the less likely you are to complete the task. Again, whether the pressure comes from a boss or from a sense of guilt or pride, the result is the same.

Threats to Choice

All of these findings are interesting, but what good are they in an environment where most of what we do seems to be out of obligation?

These days, pressure comes in many forms and from many directions. Most people have bosses telling them what to do at work. At home, family members make demands that we can't ignore. And we are bombarded daily with messages from mass media, telling us how to dress, what kind of car to drive, what sports to follow, and a variety of other requirements that impede free choice.

How can we possibly maintain a sense of autonomy amid all those pressures?

Motivating Yourself

The first step in regaining autonomy is to try hard to make the request your own. If there's no way you can do it, consider turning down the task.

Here's what I mean. When we're faced with a new idea, one of three things happens:

  • Rejection. That is, you immediately turn away the new idea.
  • Introjection. This happens when you initially accept the idea, but you don't quite digest it, and you wind up "spitting it out" later.
  • Integration. In this case, you understand the idea and can align it with your system of values. Here, you make the idea your own.

If you want to work toward a goal, a necessary first step in bringing that goal to completion in a timely manner is integrating the objective. Is this goal really aligned with who you are? The worst thing that can happen is feeling that you've "sold out."

When the activity is something you've chosen to do for a reward, spend time thinking about the reasons you want that reward. Make sure that you can truly integrate the demand—which is not a given, even though you are the source of the reward. If you can't find a way of aligning the project to your value system, that's a good argument for setting it aside and focusing your limited resources on a different goal.

If somebody else has asked you to work on an activity, try to understand what's behind the request. Ask questions, and get to the underlying need. In most cases, if you and the other person are acting in good faith, you'll find that what you are being asked to do is reasonable. Once you understand the thinking that led to it, you can take on the goal as your own.

Again, if further reflection leads you to the conclusion that the request is not in line with your personal values, you should probably turn it down right away.

Getting Others to Do Things for You

Likewise, when you need other people to do something for you, give them as much room as you can to make the choice their own. For example, Dan Packer, former CEO of Entergy New Orleans, tells me that he takes the time to explain the reasons behind what he's asking people to do. This technique doesn't always work, of course. Sometimes you just have to say, "This is what I want you to do." But that's relatively rare, says Packer. Most people will listen to the explanation of why something needs to be done, and they'll come to the same conclusion you did. Those are the people who will do the best job.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.

Overview


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information


To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.

Surveys

Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.

Newsletters

If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information


Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.

Security


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.

Children


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.

Marketing


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information


If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.

Choice/Opt-out


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information


Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents


California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure


Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.

Links


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact


Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice


We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020