This is one of those things that seems to happen from day to day without our being noticeably focused on it. It has to do with motivations–what moves us to do the things we do, to accomplish the things we are motivated to accomplish. You might be interested in comparing your own motivations with those of Daniel H. Pink, the author of several best selling books including Drive and A Whole New Mind.
He claims there are three basic motivations–compensation, escape from punishment, and intrinsic motivation. What he has discovered is easy to believe even if we are not aware that these things are constantly working. Here are examples of how they work:
1. Compensation: If you are promised a pay raise or other money for accomplishing a given task, you are likely to exert extra energy and time to accomplish it. If you are a student and are promised an “A” for a certain degree of accomplishment, you would likely put forth greater effort to earn it. That is the compensation side.
2. Escape from punishment: On the other side, if you will be deprived of something desirable or are threatened with some sort of punishment for an undesirable behavior, you will likely refrain from doing it. For example, if you will have your pay docked for coming to work late, it is likely that you will be prompt. If you break the law, you will likely pay a fine or even go to jail.
That takes care of the first two and most prominent types of motivations. But now comes the number three form which perhaps you experience on a regular basis without realizing it.
3. Intrinsic motivation: This is doing something for the pure enjoyment of helping something to happen or be accomplished. Donating money to a charitable cause would be one example of this. Working on a worthwhile community endeavor would be another example along with bringing aid or sending food to flood or earthquake victims. It would involve accomplishing things that others are perhaps unable or unwilling to do. Intrinsic motivation may not be as common as compensation or escape from punishment but is equally important.
Once you feel the exhilaration of giving something voluntarily without expectation of the other two sources of reward, you will know that intrinsic reward is real and truly rewarding.