On Motivation

There are 2 kinds of motivation, intrinsic and extrinsic. There are also 2 perspectives–self motivation, and motivation of others. I went to an interesting workshop at work this week, on how extrinsic motivation doesn’t really work in the long run, and on how to motivate others through positive reinforcement of the desired behaviours. Our pre-reading was this TED talk by Dan Pink.

At work, we want people to finish their tasks, but also to think of ways to improve the process; to follow procedures, but still come up with innovative solutions rather than throwing up their hands and saying, been there, done that, it won’t work.

And in quilting, I want to finish my projects, but I also want the 50–or 100–“likes” on my instagram photos, like the crazy popularity of my perfect points here.
Just look at that absolutely perfect intersection.  #thegreatpillowfightswap

Why do I keep starting new projects? Why do I sign up for swaps when I have my own commitments–some to family and friends in real life (IRL)–that I want to finish?

Let me know if you’ve figured that out, because I haven’t.

I really appreciate the Finish-a-long and A Lovely Year of Finishes link parties, which provide both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation for finishing projects. Intrinsic, the satisfaction of making a goal and achieving it, of having that beautiful new quilt/knitted sweater/tote to keep or gift, and extrinsic, the possibility of winning fabulous prizes and the admiration of all our on-line friends for our accomplishments.

Back at the beginning of March, I bravely targeted completion of my paparazzi camera bag for ALYOF. At this point, I have installed the snaps and completed fusing most of the interfacing. I had to print out the pattern so I could keep track of which piece is which and which pieces I had fused. So did I have insufficient motivation? (or just insufficient time 🙂 ).

instruction shot march

Way, way back, at the beginning of January, I made three Finish-A-Long goals, of which the paparazzi bag was one. And neither of the other two projects have progressed as far as the paparazzi bag.

I’ll leave you with one more photo of the pillow cover I am making for the Great Pillow Fight Swap on flickr. I’m sorry it’s a little out-of-focus; I am framing the hexagon (half of it shown here) in the green, then I’m going to make a low volume strings background to make the cover square.  This is the Lotus pattern using the Hex’n’more ruler.  Linking up with Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts for Let’s Bee Social and WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced.

Great Pillow Fight in progress



  1. It is interesting how a bit of external motivation can be helpful in achieving goals. This is my first time participating in the finish along, and it does seem to help keep me (a little bit) more on track.

    1. I purposefully chose projects which needed a little extra motivation to get done. Too bad it didn’t work.

  2. Nothing motivates me like a deadline. Pretty external. Otherwise, as I am finding out with current quilting, it is easy to say “tomorrow will do” or “that’s enough for today.”

    1. A deadline can be imposed internally or externally, but if you are aware of some extra benefit to completion, and not just completion but high quality or exceptional beauty, such as the first prize at a show, that can be extrinsic motivation. But at what point does it become stressful to reach for an uncertain reward and then the quilting is no longer fun? The pleasure from the actual creative making process is intrinsic and immediate, which is positive reinforcement and the preferred form of motivation.

      Thanks for joining the discussion! On 2015-04-01 3:19 AM, “Lisa in Port Hope” wrote:


  3. Really… You got me thinking. I don’t have a problem keeping motivated with quilting. And I never gave it much thought before. I do, however, have trouble getting myself motivated to do housework. Probably because housework provides no lasting results. Everything quickly gets messy again. On that note… I gotta get back to the sewing room now!

  4. interesting. I find that i often get distracted by starting to many new crafts and don’t follow them as much as i do with my dressmaking

  5. first off – let me say that if I was on instagram your perfect points definitely would have gotten a click from me ! Secondly, thanks for posting this motivation discussion. I too am finding it very interesting. I will have to listen to that link you posted. I have a post up on my blog about something that I was first motivated by wanting to help someone and then further down the road being able to benefit by in that she would allow me to use her machine if I would help her get started. So, I have certainly gotten my immediate reward – I was/am very happy to help my friend and I have to agree that the extrinsic motivation doesn’t really work in the long run because I doubt I will ever use her machine for my own quilts !

  6. I find that I create so much more when I have a challenge and a deadline. If only I had those for all of my projects.

  7. Your cover is looking good already!

  8. I am obsessed with quilting – no deadlines needed. My practical side keeps me working on one or two projects at a time to finish – just who I am. My mother would start a new project every week with no internal need to finish. But I’m different that way. Now I just need to gather motivation to clean house and do something besides quilting – that’s my challenge!

  9. Lisa,

    I love your post topic. And taking it a little off topic, when we realize how little extrinsic motivation does for us, we see what a poor match it can be for motivating our kids. I digress. Sorry.

    Rather than need something to motivate me to finish projects, I use the projects to be my reward for getting the mundane things done. Dishes, laundry, the boring things. I hold myself accountable most of the time, and it makes my sewing time sweeter.

    I love your Lotus pattern. Show us again when it’s getting further along.


  10. This is a very interesting post to me both because I am a team leader at work and because of the quilting experience. It’s so easy to get caught up in new workshops, quilt alongs, projects. I find the finish alongs great for helping me to focus. I’m not a super focussed person. So by picking a few projects I spend a little more time on them and even if it takes me several quarters to finish them…I do move closer to the goal.

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