Intrinsic Rewards


After spring comes cleaning…

Damn, our windows need to be washed. I’ve been holding off on it until the roadworks are done. No point in clearing off dirt and dust just to get more kicked up. But the sun is shining today through our dirty windows. I’ve come to see that your feelings about summer are my feelings about winter. How long does your summer last? Winter in Edinburgh is 3/4 of the seasons. We’re heading out of cold winter into warmer winter.

Rehearsal last night on the Dixit Dominus made me optimistic for this weekend. After this weekend, I have a busy week of singing Holy Week services at St. Giles; the only week out of the year that we sing services on week nights. The weekend after that is Easter. After that, I am 25, it is April, and my life calms down again. I really can’t wait for that.

I’m trying to reflect and mine as I go. I read a great passage yesterday in my new book: Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal. I intended to send it to you in an email, but if I post it here, others might benefit from it as well.

Writer and self-described happiness explorer Elizabeth Gilbert puts it best: “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort… You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.” We have the biological capability to create our own happiness through hard work. And the harder we work to experience intrinsic rewards, the stronger our internal happiness-making capabilities become.

So which intrinsic rewards, exactly, are most essential to our happiness? There’s no definitive list, but a few key ideas and examples appear over and over again in the scientific literature. My analysis of significant positive-psychology findings from the past decade suggests that intrinsic rewards fall into four major categories.

  • First and foremost, we crave satisfying work, every single day. The exact nature of this “satisfying work” is different from person to person, but for everyone it means being immersed in clearly defined, demanding activities that allow us to see the direct impact of our efforts.
  • Second, we crave the experience, or at least the hope, of being successful. We want to feel powerful in our own lives and show off to others what we’re good at. We want to be optimistic about our own chances for success, to aspire to something, and to feel like we’re getting better over time.
  • Third, we crave social connection. Humans are extremely social creatures, and even the most introverted among us derive a large percentage of our happiness from spending time with the people we care about. We want to share experiences and build bonds, and we most often accomplish that by doing things that matter together.
  • Fourth, and finally, we crave meaning, or the chance to be a part of something larger than ourselves. We want to feel curiosity, awe, and wonder about things that unfold on epic scales. And most importantly, we want to belong to and contribute to something that has lasting significance beyond our own individual lives.   (pp. 49 – 50)

I thought about you immediately because you asked me once why a sense of community was important to me. I think we all need a social context for our lives, whether that be familial, friendship-based, or professional. We make sense of our lives better when some of it is reflected back to us from other people. Relationships exist to show us more about ourselves, as much as they teach us about interacting with others, and how we change or evolve in relation to other people.

Good morning, T.



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