Payoff, The Hidden Logic that Shapes our Motivations – Dan Ariely

We started a book club at the office this year and this was our first book! Payoff investigates the nature of motivation, our partial blindness to the way it works, and how we can bridge this gap. Ariely dives into the root of motivation, looking at how it works and how we can use this knowledge to approach important choices in our own lives.

Although I feel like this book was incomplete, missing additional research, and in-depth analysis into what truly motivates people, it was a short and interesting read. If you’re looking to learn about motivation and why people are much more motivated to work efficiently if they have a sense of purpose, that is, if their efforts have meaning and the end-products are visible then this is a good book for you.


  1. Given that motivation is so central to our lives, what do we really know about it?
  2. The assumption about motivation is that it is driven by a positive, external reward. Do this, get that. But what if the story of motivation is in fact much more intricate, complex, and fascinating than we’ve assumed?
  3. Motivation, as defined: “the act or process of giving someone a reason for doing something” or “the condition of being eager to work or act.”
  4. We are driven to tap into a sense of meaning, even when doing so is challenging and painful.
  5. Research that examines the difference between meaning and happiness finds that the things that give us a sense of meaning don’t necessarily make us happy. Moreover, people who report having meaningful lives are often more interested in doing things for others – being involved in something bigger than the self.
  6. We’re motivated by meaning and connection because their effects extend beyond ourselves, beyond our social circle, and maybe even beyond our existence.
  7. Knowing what drives us and others is an essential step toward enhancing the inherent joy – and minimizing the confusion – in our lives.
  8. Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.
  9. So you have to rely on your intuition, which may or may not correspond with reality. In fact, we have to use our intuition every time we don’t have sufficient data, which is much of the time.
  10. But the truth is that we never really grow up. A creative space, coupled with a kind word, genuine appreciation, the feeling of progress and achievement – the forces that motivate us are the same throughout our lives.
  11. We are strongly motivated by identity, the need for recognition, a sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of creation.
  12. We are all toddlers at heart, driven by play and a dash of individuality.
  13. We become more invested as we pour effort into different activities, and with it experience greater love for what we have created – our creations become part of ourselves and our identities.
  14. We just don’t seem to recognize that the love for the outcome of our own efforts is limited to us alone.
  15. A little sweat equity pays us back in meaning.
  16. The inability to intuit what will make us happy at work is sad.
  17. Are you overestimating the extrinsic motivators and underestimating the intrinsic joy of work?
  18. In fact, if we invest little love in a relationship, the bond will be fragile and we won’t derive very much from it. But if we invest fully, we experience a stronger relationship.
  19. When partners are in a successful relationship, each strengthens the other, and everyone in their circle benefits.
  20. As people feel connected, challenged, and engaged; as they feel more trusted and autonomous; and as they get more recognition for their efforts, the total amount of motivation, joy and output for everyone grows much larger.
  21. The point is that good relationships aren’t transactional; our need for connectedness anchors them on a longer time scale.
  22. The exchange of trust and goodwill is an important and inherent part of human motivation. If you try to reflect on the role of trust in your life, it should become apparent how many of our everyday interactions involve trust.
  23. A society without trust isn’t a society; it’s a collection of people who are continuously afraid of each other.
  24. The basic lesson is that when we are committed and think long-term, we largely put aside our own agenda for the good of the family, and when we do so, wonderful things can occur.
  25. To motivate ourselves and others successfully, we need to provide a sense of connection and meaning – remembering that meaning is not always synonymous with personal happiness.
  26. After all, if a kind word can do wonders to impel people to do better, what other hidden treasures of energy, dedication, and commitment might we find if we only looked for them?
But the truth is that we never really grow up. A creative space, coupled with a kind word, genuine appreciation, the feeling of progress and achievement - the forces that motivate us are the same throughout our lives.
*I take no credit for any of these points.

Recommend me a book

No horror books, please!!