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Fulfill These 3 Needs, and Make Your Job More Compelling Than Goofing Off


Ever notice that you can easily spend hours paying close attention to an activity, as long as it isn’t what you’re paid to do? One solution is to try to make work as compelling as play. Addressing these three factors can help.

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(Photo Credit: zzkt/Flickr)

Psychology Today author Jim Stone, Ph.D. asks, “Why are so many activities so much more compelling than work?” Perhaps if we look at what makes an activity compelling, we can apply it to our work and become more productive. First, let’s take a look at some basic human needs.

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1. Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is more than a tool to change behavior. Positive reinforcement also helps fulfill our human need to feel competent. For example, if we participate in an ongoing activity with friends, we might receive positive reinforcement that makes us feel like we’re doing well and persuades us to continue.

While we cannot control whether or how much our boss chooses to use positive reinforcement, it is helpful to understand that this is a component of our feeling compelled to work.

2. Autonomy

According to many psychological theorists, humans have a need for autonomy. In order to feel fulfilled, we have to have decision-making power in some area of our lives. Therefore, if there is something over which we have control at work, we will feel compelled to go to work and be productive.

3. Relatedness

The third component discussed in Psychology Today is relatedness. We have a human need to feel a connection to our community. Our work can give us a sense of connection; for example, if we feel that we are contributing something important, then we feel more compelled to work, to do a good job, and to be productive on our jobs.

Whether or not you have one, two, or all three of these components in your job right now is something only you can answer. But if you can fulfill these needs at work, you’ll be more engaged and productive.

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