Words of Wisdom for
Leadership, Learning, and Life in
Exactly 99 Words
99's On the Go

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99-Word Stories by ,
Creative Learning Director of
The Flirefly Group.
© 2011 Brian Remer
Updated Dec. 2011

Read my new book
Say It Quick!

99's on the 9th

Ideas based on 99-Word Stories that
come to you on the 9th of every month.

December 2011

The Best Holiday
'Twas, the day after Christmas. A vacation for me but not, unfortunately, for the rest of my family so I'm left to my own devices. What to do? Let's see, there's that picture that needs to be hung but I'll have to paint over the black marks left by the photo of Aunt Mable.

Wow, there are black marks in every room. Two hours later I'm still spot painting the house. Stranger still, I'm enjoying it. What's going on?

Oh, yes, painting was my choice. When we follow our own decisions, we are motivated and satisfied.


You can derive multiple interpretations related to the theme of this 99-Word story by using some of the following questions for your own reflection or to spark a discussion within your team or organization.


One Interpretation
There are many ways to understand this story as the discussion questions suggest. If you or your group, choose you might like to compare or contrast your interpretation with an outside viewpoint, such as this analysis.

In his book, Why We Do What We Do (Penguin Books, 1995), Edward Deci makes a distinction between extrinsic motivation (external rewards and punishments) and intrinsic motivation (internal goals and aspirations) to explain our behavior. He points out that, despite the popularity and prevalence of rewards and punishments, their effects tend to be short term. The fear induced by punishment creates psychological and emotional problems and rewards continually need to be inflated to stay effective. On the other hand, intrinsic motivators have their source within each individual. They stem from a person's interests, passion, and a desire to make a contribution or fulfill a sense of purpose. Tap into intrinsic motivators and you can increase commitment to the task.

Deci identifies three basic intrinsic motivators: Autonomy (opportunity for choice or making decisions), Belonging (connection to people or an important cause), and Competence (drawing upon one's talents and abilities). Any time one or more of these elements are present, we tend to be more committed to the job. Would someone really spend a day off doing a spontaneous home maintenance chore? If it was that person's decision (autonomy), if they saw a connection to the common good (belonging), if they derived satisfaction from their efforts (competence), then yes!

Often, with the demands of time, necessity, or the boss, it doesn't feel like we have a choice. Certain jobs just have to get done. But even in these instances we can find opportunities for choice. Look at your To Do list. Everything there has to get done but can you choose the order in which you do them? Exercise your autonomy! Got a stressful meeting with your team? Be autonomous and schedule it for a time you can feel more relaxed. And what about all those small, time consuming tasks that are still important? Perhaps you and a colleague can be "mutually autonomous" and decide which of you can best accomplish each of them.

When someone else tells us what to do, even simple tasks can feel like work. But when we exercise our autonomy, every day can feel like a holiday.


Did you use this 99-Word Story and the discussion questions or interpretation in your work or personal life? If so, about your experience! If you would like help using 99-Word Stories in your organization, please me.

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