It's Not How Smart You Are, It's How Motivated You Are

Last Updated Apr 29, 2011 6:45 AM EDT

So, there's good news for the common person: It's not about your innate intelligence, it's about how motivated you are. Or, more likely a combination of the two.

We've known for years that people with high IQs do better in school (duh) and work, but it turns out that what an IQ test is measuring may not just be intelligence, but how motivated you are.

Angela Lee Duckworth, from the University of Pennsylvania, has found that intelligence may just be overshadowed by motivation in IQ testing and general success in life.

She looked at films of 12 year old boys taking IQ tests. While the test results were able to predict success (or not so successful behavior, like prison) 12 years later, the tests were given one-on-one, orally and videotaped.
Duckworth recruited three independent researchers to review the footage for signs of low motivation, such as refusing to take part, or wanting the session to end. The team found that boys with lower IQ scores were also less motivated when they took the test, and their degree of motivation also predicted the course of their lives. Accounting for motivation weakened the link between IQ and life-success, especially for employment and criminal convictions.
So, what does this mean for you and your career? You may not be able to change your genetic intelligence level, but you sure as heck can change your motivation.

My BNET Colleagues have some great suggestions for increasing your motivation, and therefore your chances at success.

Jeff Haden writes:
Don't let today be a day you will look back and regret. Whatever you've been planning, whatever you've imagined, whatever you've dreamed of -- get started on it today. If you want to start a business, take the first step. If you want to change careers, take the first step. If you want to expand or enter a new market or offer new products or services, take the first step. Get started. Do something. Do anything.
This BNET Video, with Rob McKelvey, explains how to maintain motivation.

And Steve Tobak tells managers what employees need to be motivated.
  • their work is appreciated, recognized, and challenging;
  • they're compensated appropriately;
  • their management is competent, hard working, and doesn't have its hand in the cookie jar, more or less.
Whether you are an individual contributor that wants to push yourself forward, or a manager who wants success for herself and her team, you're not stuck based on what nature gave you. Increase your motivation and increase your chances at success.

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Photo by Foto43, Flickr cc 2.0
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    Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate Human Resources. She's hired, fired, and analyzed the numbers for several major companies. She founded the Carnival of HR, a bi-weekly gathering of HR blogs, and her writings have been used in HR certification and management training courses across the country.

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