What are you proud of? Understanding how pride and motivation relate to learning and achievement.

My bike is sat in my hallway, gleaming and smelling faintly of oil. Just like new. Only it’s not new, it’s ten years old, it’s just had the service of it’s life. Dave, who carried out the service in his mobile bike workshop, is a man proud of what he does. Photos of ‘before‘ and ‘after‘ have been posted on his Facebook shop page (casting me in the role of evil cycle neglector), showing worn and filthy sprockets being changed for silvered, shining new ones. Dave used to work for other people, but now he just works for himself, and he’s proud of what he’s achieved. It shines through.

This got me thinking about what makes us proud and how that pride motivates us to do things, so i thought i’d put the word out, to ask the question of the community, what makes you proud? Pride is clearly a motivating force, and we tend to be interested in motivation, because it drives engagement.

I gave people five possible responses: achievements in business, something you’ve made, physical achievements, family and ‘other‘. (http://lnkd.in/7jjeRJ)

Many people agreed with Yvonne that it was a “tough choice, i would argue at different times: different sources of pride and each motivates or inspires in different ways“. This is unsurprising as ‘pride‘ can come from achievements that take place over time, like getting a degree, or from things that happen in the short term, such as winning a race (although you could argue that the pride here relates to the effort put in for preparation over long periods of time).

Academic accomplishments rated lowest, with only 8% listing this as their first answer. As so much of our educational system is geared around accomplishment and results we attain, this may be surprising, although maybe exam results are something we are proud about ‘in the moment‘, but have a transience about them. It does raise questions around the focus we put on achievement in terms of certificates and accreditation in courses we run, as we may be missing the mark by thinking this will make people happy to get a ‘pass‘.

Business success also scored under ten percent, although this could easily reflect that fact that only a small percentage of respondents were self employed or business owners. You’re probably more likely to be proud of your achievements in building your own business than you would be in working for a global conglomerate. Nevertheless, we could extrapolate this (at a push) to see that making money alone is not a key driver. Maybe there really is more to life than money? There’s certainly more to pride than pure success at work.

Having pride in something that you’ve made scored similarly low in the results, under ten percent. This surprised me slightly, as for me it’s one of the things i would be most proud of: my paintings are things that make me proud. Also, i put the question out in my network across all channels and a disproportionate number of my Facebook and MySpace friends are musicians, so i kind of expected a bias towards this, but it just goes to show why you shouldn’t double guess results…

Physical achievement was the thing that made 16% of respondents most proud, although i failed to correlate whether this was linked to age, which could be an interesting dynamic. Maybe our sources of pride alter as we get older, moving from more physical to more intellectual ones?

And this bring us to the main result: family. Forty percent of respondents said the thing that made them most proud was family. As Nick said, “all of the answers could ring true, but every time I think about it family comes through louder each time – the most memories, the most achievements and they continue to grow through the rest of the family.” So forty percent of people are most proud of things that other people have achieved. Isn’t this great?

If we believe that pride can motivate us, and that many people derive pride from the accomplishments of other people (particularly family), then this must surely have an impact on how we consider motivation in learning. If we are training managers to manage teams, should we investigate to what extent their pride will come from the achievements of that team, rather than their own attainment of a pass mark or certificate? It’s a case of starting from the end and working back: understanding that people will be more successful if engaged and motivated to learn, understanding where that engagement comes from and understanding if we are targeting our measures of success and approaches in the right way.

Interestingly, Nick also notes that “[family] motivates me stronger than anything else now but over the years I can also pinpoint achievements that drove me on at those times as well.” This indicates that maybe when younger we are driven by different things, but as we mature gently, our pride focusses more on family and others. Again, the age dimension may be significant, something that i haven’t previously thought about.

But what about the remaining twenty percent, the people who scored ‘other‘. ‘Not compromising‘, ‘retaining balance‘ and ‘love‘ were the key themes. As @BennyNova contributed through Twitter, “I’m proud of the ways i react to what life throws at me… balanced, intentional and truthful reactions…fully embracing the truth in all your situations goes a long way.” These responses felt internal, kind of a pride in our independence, our ability to know ourselves, reflective.

This was by no means a particularly well designed or comprehensive study, rather a chance to explore within my immediate community, but it still bought forth some surprising results and ones that i think we can use to help shape thinking and action. Understanding that so many people derive pride from the achievements of others, understanding that so much of what motivates us and engages us is tied up with relationships and the wellbeing of other. And if we’re looking for results to steer our actions, we could do worse than listen to @BennyNova again, when he implores us to ‘just be loving‘.

Note: the original research for this article was carried out across a population of around seven hundred and fifty people in three main social networks, where i posted the original questions: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Response rate was four percent, with supplementary comments and feedback coming through email and direct contact.

If you’d like to take part in future research, you can join us in the Learning Forum here:

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
This entry was posted in Age, Assessment, Engagement, Learning, Love, Motivation, Pride and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What are you proud of? Understanding how pride and motivation relate to learning and achievement.

  1. Pingback: The sense of community and the social: using virtual spaces for learning. | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  2. Pingback: Taking Pride | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

  3. Pingback: Reflections on CIPD 2015 HR Conference | Julian Stodd's Learning Blog

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