Musings on motivation and photography

Recently I was asked to facilitate a session in a teacher workshop on motivation. Listening to the opening talk about what motivates us, I immediately started thinking about my photography. My colleague spoke about three factors highlighted by Daniel Pink that are behind the science of motivation: autonomy, purpose and mastery. These go beyond the traditional carrots-and-sticks paradigm of extrinsic reward. In a nutshell:

Autonomy is the desire to be self directed, purpose is the sense that what we do produces something transcendent or serves something meaningful beyond than ourselves and mastery is the urge we have to get better at stuff and the satisfaction that is associated with that.

What motivates me?

One of the questions asked in the workshop this morning was “what motivates you?” Indeed, what makes me continue to pick up my camera everyday? On the whole, my answer would have to be “to be a better photographer and to develop my own style”. Ok, so I guess that is my purpose and mastery factors rolled into one. Autonomy… well I have to be self directed, as photography is my hobby and not my job. I constantly read articles and books, try different challenges and try to continue with my 365 project.

Now into my 4th year of doing a 365 project, there are often times (and I mean often) when I feel completely unmotivated to continue and the thoughts creep in that surely I have taken all the photos I can of the world I inhabit on a daily basis. How do I stay motivated on a daily basis, when the realities of work and living kick in? This is when I remember my search for Everyday Delights … this is a huge motivator for me and keeps me interested in my ongoing photography project long after my initial excitement has left the building.

Its funny how things connect to each other… earlier this week I read Kristen Baker’s blog post on “What To Photograph When You Think You Won’t Find Anything New”. In re-reading at her post today from a motivational perspective, there is much that resonates with my own experiences. Now into her 5th 365 project, she described her ‘trepidation’ (incindently one of my favorite words and one I used myself this week in embarking on a new photo challenge) and anxiety that she will not find anything new to photograph. I hear you Kristen!

Although her photography has improved over time, that has not been her primary motivation (there’s that word again!). Her purpose in starting and continuing with her 365 project is to make her life better. Intrigued by what she means by ‘better’ and the connections to motivation, I read on. She says that:

“Life is more beautiful and joyful when we accept the challenge to see the world differently, to see it in a way that leads to being thrilled by all of the little, seemingly boring things that make up our everyday. The reality is that most of us have no problem remembering the thrilling things in our lives without taking a photo; it is the simple, perhaps mundane, little things that we often take for granted and quickly forget. Yet, these little things are the glue of our lives. They fill all of the cracks and crevasses and hold everything together in between the big things.”

hibiscusAaah, there it is, the heart of the matter. The little things are the glue that hold everything together. What a wonderful way to motivate for taking photos every single day without fail.

I am in need of motivation right now. So I returned to a post I wrote almost a year ago, where I said that if we don’t look for something of value in everyday, our lives will simply pass us by. We will live wishing and waiting for the next exciting thing to happen and whoosh, our allotted time is gone!

Doing this through my 365 project and my Everyday Delights blog forces me to notice the stuff around me and look at it differently, even if I have seen it a million times. Then there is the small thrill I get when I upload the pictures I have taken to my computer and I get another chance to look at the world with fresh eyes.

I’ll end off with the quote (often attributed to Kurt Vonnegut) written by Robert Brault in 1985 that keep returning to again and again:

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were the big things.”

What motivates you? I’d love to hear your thoughts…​​

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