Skip to main content

Unlocking the Superpower of Motivation

· 6 min read
motivation is a superpower

Motivation is truly a superpower, and with the right strategies, it's possible to unlock its potential to achieve seemingly impossible challenges. In today's post, we explore insights from Daniel Pink's book, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us" and his TED talk, "The Puzzle of Motivation." We look at the traditional carrot-and-stick approach, and then break down the puzzle of motivation into its three key elements: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Lastly, we discuss how HeroMode taps into intrinsic motivation to help people reach their goals. You too can unlock the superpower of motivation with HeroMode!

The more I think about it, the more I feel motivation is truly a superpower. Just like "conventional" superpowers such as invisibility or time travel, having a high dose of motivation can help you achieve seemingly impossible challenges. And just like invisibility and time travel, motivation is equally elusive and mysterious. We still can't precisely explain how it works, and we don't know how to reliably generate it. We just know we wish to have more of it, to be more driven, more focused, more productive, and reach our goals with determination and gusto.

Fortunately, research and science have been revealing little secrets about motivation. Many insights have been uncovered, helping individuals and organizations alike to understand what motivates people and how to tap into the superpower of motivation to achieve great things.

In today's post, we will explore some of these key insights, as presented by author and TED speaker Daniel Pink. In his popular work, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us," as well as in his TED talk, "The Puzzle of Motivation," he challenges the traditional view on motivation, and offers a new framework to understand its true nature.

The Flaws of the Traditional Approach

Regarding motivation, most of us are familiar with the carrot-and-stick idea: reward for a good job, and punishment for a bad one. Throughout our personal and professional lives, such approach is widely used. But according to Daniel Pink, this approach needs to be updated like a rotary phone.

Pink argues that the carrot-and-stick model assumes that people are best motivated by external rewards like bonuses, promotions, and incentives. But in reality, motivation is much more complex than that!

The Key Elements of Motivation

To understand the puzzle of motivation, we need to break it down into its fundamental elements. Daniel Pink believes that there are three key ingredients to an effective motivational stratrgy: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.


Autonomy is the desire to be self-directed and have control over one's life. Pink argues that giving people autonomy can lead to increased motivation and better performance. Autonomy can be achieved by allowing people to make decisions, choose their goals, and work in their own way.


Mastery is the urge to get better at something that matters. Pink suggests that we all have inherent desire to achieve mastery, and, therefore, having the support to develop skills and knowledge is inherently motivating. This can be done through training, education, and mentoring.


We all want to do something meaningful and important. Having a sense of purpose increases motivation and engagement.

The Power of Intrinsic Motivation

It's not that "extrinsic motivation" like bonuses, promotions, and incentives doesn't work. We are certainly motivated by external rewards. But when the difficulty of a task goes up, and requires more effort such as creativity and deeper thinking, at some point extrinsic motivation hits the level of diminishing returns.

That's why many innovative companies are finding creative ways to tap into "intrinsic motivation" that incorporate elements of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. As Pink describes in his book, the software company Atlassian allows its employees to work on whatever they want for one day each quarter, also known as "FedEx Day." And the shoe company Zappos encourages its employees to spend time on the phone with customers, even if they're not in the customer service department, which has led to happier customers and more engaged employees, a policy known as "the Zappos way."

How HeroMode Taps Into Intrinsic Motivation

We are a big fan of Daniel Pink's work, as well as the many research studies that have taught us important lessons on psychology, decision making, and motivation. When designing HeroMode functionalities, we incorporate these insights to help us tap into the superpower of motivation.

  • Purpose: It's always been important to us that when doing a task, we should also know why we are doing it. That's why each quest can be associated with an Adventure, and each Adventure is highly customizable with images and colors. We want to highlight the purpose of each quest, so that when we do a quest, right away, from the quest card, we know the deeper, personal purpose of why we're doing it.

  • Autonomy: As you can glean from the amount of customization you can do in HeroMode, individuality is an important aspect in designing HeroMode. We provide users with many controls on how they want to "decorate" their quests and adventures. For example, you can choose your own color for an Adventure, or even your own Piggy setting, even if your buddies on the same Adventure have different choices! Everyone gets their own unique experience, even if they are on the same Adventure together, collaborating towards the same goal!

  • Mastery: Our desire to achieve mastery is manifested differently for each person. Each of us wants to be better at different things. So HeroMode makes it easy to track and visualize progress. You can define important milestones along your path to mastery, see all your efforts in the activity calendar, and use the stats section to see how your points are accumulating over time.

Not to mention the recently released Piggy Reward System! Users can define rewards that drive them, and everyone can establish whatever Piggy Rewards Inventory they want. It's essentially an economic system where you can convert things you don't want to do into things you want to do! We've all used the mental trick of "After I finish the homework, I can watch a little TV." With Piggy, you can turn this trick into a full reward system!

The Takeaway

With the rise of remote work, as well as AI, motivation is becoming an even more important resource. Why? It's because remote work requires more self-discipline as we are not surrounded by our colleagues to provide the social motivation. And AI has proven to be mind-blowingly effective for many routine tasks, meaning that we will be evolving the way we work. Our work will have to be more creative and innovative, requiring more cognitive effort and deep thinking. And as Daniel Pink has pointed out, extrinsic motivation is not effective for such higher-order work.

So, for individuals and organizations alike, it's important to have a motivational stratrgy that taps into intrinsic motivation. We hope HeroMode can be a useful tool in this regard!