Is Money Really the Ultimate Motivational Tool?

Some people might tell you that money is the root of all evil. Other people might say that it is the pursuit of money that is really the root of all evil. The reality is that we all like money and we all like to have shiny new things in our lives and it takes money to buy those shiny new things. We need money to keep the lights on, put food on the table and to provide for our families.

That much is clear, but what happens when money alone becomes your sole source of motivation? What happens when the only reason why you’re doing something is to turn a profit? What does this all mean in the context of Internet marketing and making money online? Well, the picture is a little more complicated than you might think.

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Smart Students Drawn to Money Too

Expert economist Dan Ariely conducted a study, along with three of his colleagues, that looked into this very question. They took a number of students from MIT and split them up into two groups.

One group was offered a reward of $30 for perfoming a task particularly well while the other group was offered a reward of $300 for perfoming the same task. When the task involved basic mechanical skill, like mashing on a key as many times as possible in the span of a minute, the larger monetary reward was very motivating. The $300 group outperformed the $30 group by a sizable margin.

But things change when the task becomes a little more complex, involving more thought and creativity. In that scenario, as counterintuitive as it may sound, the exact opposite was true. The group with the smaller financial reward actually did better than the one that was offered more money. Why?

Hey Look! A Castle!

It’s because money is distracting. Even if you go about and set effective goals, if you are guided solely by the monetary reward, you’re not going to focus on the actual things you need to do to achieve those goals. You’re going to keep your eyes on the prize and on the prize alone rather than the hurdles you need to leap in order to get there. You’ll trip. You’ll fall. You’ll fail.

In talking about this MIT study, columnist Davide Casali concludes that:

If you are trying to build a community, to foster creativity, to solve problems, DON’T use monetary incentives.

And believe me, making money on the Internet is something that requires building a community, utilizign your creativity, and solving innumerable problems. This doesn’t mean that you should forget about tracking your revenue, conversions and effective earnings per click. Those who don’t measure their performance end up doing pretty poorly too. What it means is that your end goal isn’t the money; it’s the lifestyle. It’s the dot com lifestyle.

The Real Reason to Do Anything

Money is undeniably appealing. Money is important. We can’t even begin to fathom how glorious it would be to earn six or even seven figures a month, sitting in front of a computer in our pajamas and bunny slippers. But the end game is to do what you love, not for the money, but because you love it.

Indeed, it has been discovered that the single greatest motivator when it comes to more complex and creative tasks isn’t money at all. It’s play. You’re far more likely to stick with doing something if you actually enjoy doing it. And if those activities have the desirable side effect of making you rich, then you will be truly wealthy in every sense of the word.

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