In a growingly competitive world parents and teachers are often concerned with with how to motivate a child to make self-actualized choices when it comes to career decisions.
The most common way of helping children make vocational choices is by consolidating feedback from the environment i.e., paying attention to grades and evaluations in the child’s immediate context. For example, “How did my child perform in biology/chemistry/physics? Does he get good grades in math? Does his art teacher say he is talented?” From there it is pretty simple. A child who excels at science is encouraged to be a doctor whereas a child who excels at art is encouraged to be an artist. A child who gets good grades in physics is reinforced when he chooses a path towards engineering and a child who writes well is supported when he says he wants to be a journalist. However, does excelling in science imply that a child wants to be a doctor? Does being good at writing mean that you should be a journalist? Does excellence say anything about interest? Do good grades say anything about curiosity?
In India only 13% of people consider themselves fortunate enough to be following their “passion” in their current job? (The Economic Times, 2015).
The question we must ask then is how the remaining 87% of people ended up pursuing jobs they were not passionate about. About 17% of these remaining 87% of people said that they were pursuing jobs they disliked for financial reasons. So that leaves approximately 72% of people who are pursuing jobs that they do not feel passionate about for reasons that are not related to financial constraints. Perhaps these 72% of people relied on external factors, like the ones we described above, to guide their life choices.
Research in the field of motivation suggests that internal factors are better able to predict success, satisfaction and happiness with life choices than external factors. Motivations that are external i.e. concerned with feedback from the environment such as grades, evaluations etc. are known as extrinsic motivators whereas factors that are internal i.e., concerned with feedback from within the individual such as curiosity and interests are known as intrinsic motivators. Although external factors such as grades, reward systems and evaluations are important in helping children make informed choices, internal factors such as curiosity and interest tend to be experienced as more autonomous and thus have a more long lasting effect on well being and happiness.
In order to help children make self- actualized choices, it is important to pay attention to internal factors such as curiosity and interests.
In contemporary India, children are expected to make choices on a daily basis and the breath of these choices is immense. Moreover, children are not only expected to select from a large number of choices regarding the subjects they study in school but also after school activities, how to spend their free time, planning how to spend school holidays etc. In India specifically, these choices have greater consequences to a child’s future as the number of choices available severely exceeds the amount of time children have to consider these choices. For example, due to the fierce competition among Indian children, only the top 5 percent of well performing children secure admission into well-reputed schools and colleges. Thus, Indian children spend a lot of their time in academic as opposed to non-academic activities. One could argue that Indian children have approximately 2 hours per day (at the maximum) to attend extra-curricular events and they must choose from a plethora of choices. Choices that are right for them. So, how can we help children choose activities that will maximize their potential and accelerate the journey to self-actualization?
Perhaps we should start with thinking about what motivates children intrinsically towards an activity. Is it a specific quality of an activity in itself that is intrinsically motivating? Or do specific interests drive children towards specific activities? If certain activities were primarily more intrinsically motivating than others then children would not differ in what they were inherently drawn towards i.e. we would find no variation in children’s interests. All children would enjoy math or all children would enjoy video games. But, that is not the case. Some children are intrinsically motivated or interested in sports while others enjoy computers. Some children enjoy dancing while others like adventure sports. So, what is it about certain activities that give children pleasure? We propose that all activities are made up of interest drivers. Interest drivers are factors that influence how we communicate, think and express ourselves. They are also factors that impact how we engage with the social world, what we seek in the environment and factors that trigger our senses. We propose that most interests are comprised of 17 interest drivers that make for what motivates children.
Interest drivers are characteristics of activities that activate intrinsic motivation in a child.
We put forth 17 such drivers of interests that we believe map through most activities; social interaction, self engagement, physical action, working with hands, spoken communication, written communication, visual sense, aural sense, logical thinking, numerical thinking, conceptual thinking, creative expression, nature and environment, care and compassion, knowledge and learning, and thrill and adventure. So for example, an activity like dancing is predominantly made up of physical action, creative expression, aural sense and visual sense. It is these drivers that form the framework of what motivates children towards different activities.
If we gain an in-depth understanding of what drives interests in different activities and unlock the mystery of what motivates children intrinsically, we will not only be able to motivate them to make more self-actualized and informed choices, but also help them better utilize the limited time they have by exploring options in line with their inherent interests. Perhaps the next generation of young adults can be guided by what drives and intrinsically motivates them, to experience higher self-esteem, goal achievement and self-advocacy and most of all life satisfaction. This is our endeavor with Pinwi.
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