A talk about motivation

Listen to the talk about motivation to practise and improve your listening skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then listen to the audio and do the exercises.


So, we think we know how to motivate people, right? Offer them a reward. Do this and you'll get this. Do this faster, earn more money. Do this better than everyone else, here's a promotion. We offer incentives when we want people to do things. We do it at work, at school, even at home with our kids. Tidy your room and you can watch TV.

But when social psychologists test whether incentives work, they get surprising results. Sam Glucksberg, from Princeton University, America, set people a problem to solve and told them he was going to time them to see how long they took. Then he put them in two groups. He offered one group a reward for finishing fast. Five dollars for anyone finishing in the top 25 per cent and 20 dollars for the person who finished the fastest of all. To the other group he offered no incentive, but he told them he was going to use their times to calculate an average time.

The first group, the ones with the reward, solved the problem faster, you'd think, right? Well, no, they actually took three and a half minutes longer than the group who just thought they were being timed. Incentive didn't work. In fact, it made them slower. This experiment has been repeated, with the same results, many times. But in business we still offer bonuses, promotions and rewards to staff.

That's fine if we want them to do something simple, like chop wood. We'll pay you more if you chop the wood faster. An incentive works then. But if we want someone to do something complex, something creative, something where they have to think, rewards don't work. They might even have the opposite result, and make people perform worse. Another study, by Dan Ariely, showed that the bigger the reward, the worse the subjects performed on a complex task. The reward made them focus so hard on the result that they couldn't think creatively any more.

And this all matters because more and more simple jobs will become automated. We'll be left with creative, problem-solving jobs that computers will never do. And we need to find a way to motivate people to do those jobs when we've proved the traditional incentives don't work.

So what does work? Giving your workers freedom; freedom to work on the things they want to work on, freedom to choose when, where and how they work. Want to work from home three days a week, get up late and work into the night instead? Fine. Just do the job well. And evidence shows people who choose the way they work get results. Companies that give employees time during the week to work on things that interest them and are not part of their regular job achieve amazing things. Some of the big tech companies are good examples of this, with ping-pong tables and areas to relax in …

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Worksheet81.46 Ko

Language level

B2 English level (upper intermediate)

Soumis par JooryHamed le ven 02/09/2022 - 17:53


I have a question regarding Task1 the last question "People always work better when they start the day later and work into the night". Why is it False?
This is what was in the audio "Want to work from home three days a week, get up late and work into the night instead? Fine. Just do the job well. And evidence shows people who choose the way they work get results. "
I think it wasn't mentioned when people work into the night achieve better. so the answer is "NG" which different than "False"

Hi JooryHamed,

The speaker's point is that people who have the freedom to make choices about their work get good results. The existence of a choice implies that different choices exist (e.g. starting your work day earlier or later) and different choices suit different people. It implies that some people work better when they do not start the day later, which contradicts the question. Therefore, it cannot be true that people always work better when they start the day later - if they did, the idea of having freedom to make choices would be irrelevant (from the point of view of productivity, at least).

I can see why you might answer "not given" if this were an IELTS exam (for example), but there is no "not given" option in this exercise. Since the statement cannot be true, false is the best answer here.

I hope that helps to understand it.


The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par RICYGOBY le mar 09/08/2022 - 10:48


Kids as the same as aldults, need to be respected of their passion, interests, strength. Making properly incentives, they will get great results.

Usually, I get my incentives whenever someone close complements me, like my mother. She gives me the proper push and motivation to do any job, be it difficult or easy :) thank you mama

Soumis par Sihem2022 le ven 05/08/2022 - 23:41


when i was an employee in a company honestly nothing motivated me, it was a boring stressing and tiring job so i quited it
in the future i hope i will work for a company who allowed naps, getting some rest is very important to be performant after lunch.

Soumis par Antoine.p le mer 03/08/2022 - 11:15


I started my career as a web developer. Then I was a graphic designer and as they are called today, UI/UX Designer. Today, I'm a developer again. Each time, I was motivated by teamwork, learning new things and the opportunity to be creative.

Soumis par Ehsan le mar 26/07/2022 - 05:41


I used to select some motivates such as paly a online game after finishing a task like studying a part of a book. but now I think I don't need a outer incentives because I have a strong inner one.

Soumis par Jazmin11 le lun 18/07/2022 - 20:08


I´ve been working for big companies, when I was there I would have like to know if the projects ans tasks I was doing were good enough,or if I needed to improve my work, but I hardly ever got a feedback, it was stressful, because sometimes I thought I could have done something better, or just to know the impact or the results of that project.
I think that would motivate employees to know that what they do is working and that what you do is important for the growth of the company.

Soumis par teacheralice le jeu 30/06/2022 - 12:58


I used this lesson in a class with a student and here is what he said:
"I believe the challanges are the most important thing to motivate me in my job".

Soumis par teacheralice le lun 27/06/2022 - 23:56


I used this lesson in a class with a student and here is what she said:
"To me the motivation in the job is when I have freedom to create. I believe that a person needs to feel confident to share their ideas without being afraid of judgment".

Soumis par 6000209511 le lun 27/06/2022 - 11:03


sometimes when i do not have motivation i just start with it and after that i get motivation but when im tired i never have motvation! thank you for your .

Soumis par Jeedapa le mer 22/06/2022 - 14:36


I feel motivated when I have to do something new or work on something
that I'm interested in. It challenges my life. I will try to do my best to complete all of my goals.

Soumis par Minhhanhtran le jeu 05/05/2022 - 03:37


I have a lot of motivations to learn English. I am teaching english for the children, I will make some trip abroad, ... So I try to do my best to learn english to achive the higher level.

Soumis par sempresere le mar 05/04/2022 - 10:19


I am really motivated when I do something that I am interested on, when I work on my passions and interests.
I really love when I can choose what to do and how to do it. Another thing that motivates me is the newness, when I have to do or to learn something new that I am interested on. I noticed that my motivation decreases when I force myself to do something that I don't really want to do. Moreover, my motivation decreases when I don't have time for any other passion. When my work or my study takes all my time I feel really sad and meaningless because I like to invest my time in many passions, not only in one thing.

Soumis par jmajo le jeu 31/03/2022 - 16:16


Well, although I do some simple tasks at my job and I get some reward to do make them I prefer the kind of tasks that challenge my knowledge and make me research and find or develop a solution not so easy to achieve because it's an incentive itself the act of need to do something that I never did before. So despite it's important to get money in return to make something I prefer not to do simple tasks that could be done by a machine or be automated.
Related to my studies I prefer to study things that solve problems for the real life that would help people to make their life more simple and easy, so they would be able to focus their energy in solve more complex problems.

Thanks for the lesson.
Great site!

Soumis par ninaals le lun 21/02/2022 - 15:45


As a student I personally get motivated to learn english only,because I know it will be useful , however, when it comes to school it's the complete opposite. Since public schools in my country are not known for having a good level, when I enter the classroom my partners don't pay attention to the teacher, they start throwing things around and can become very noisy.
Not only that,but since teachers demand higher salaries they can be on strike for several days. Nevertheless, I started self-studying things, at least in my home I can concentrate beeter than in my classroom where no one is even a tiny bit interested in learning.

Soumis par misty le lun 10/01/2022 - 01:10


I have felt up and down in every obstacles that I encounter. However, my family motivates me to move on and gives me strength to persevere in life. As the saying goes, "try and try until you succeed."

Soumis par vuhoap le jeu 06/01/2022 - 14:06


In my job, I am motivated by recognition. I try to work well and seriously every day. I get difficult tasks to challenge myself and try to finish in time. I want to prove that I am going to do well at what I am doing.

Soumis par ceehinh le mar 14/12/2021 - 11:33


I'm currently a junior student at a university. actually, I think the most important thing in my study motivation is that I want to enrich my knowledge, widen my horizons, become more well-rounded. to be more precise, only when I attain it I can see myself finding out a good job with a high salary to make and earn for my life.

Soumis par danielbacelar le lun 25/10/2021 - 21:51


In my work, I am motivated by challenge and autonomy to perform my job.

Soumis par 46adrian46 le mer 20/10/2021 - 11:33


In my case my main motivation is the challenges, for example develop a new brand or enter in company that is trying to open new markets in others countries.

Soumis par RuthYong le jeu 14/10/2021 - 04:56


I'd like to share what keeps me motivated is my determination to study and work. Currently, I am studying and working at the same time. I really need a lot of positive energy.On another note to British Council team, the PDF files are not designed for the visually impaired users who use screen reader program. It is difficult for the program to read the table with so many columns and rows. Please look into this matter. Overall, the lessons are great.

Hello RuthYong,

Thanks for your comment. I'm very sorry that you find the PDFs difficult to use with screen readers. We took screen readers into account when we created the PDFs, but if you find them difficult to use we clearly need to do better.

Thanks very much for letting us know!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Suraj paliwal le lun 11/10/2021 - 14:55


In my studies, what makes me motivate is always learning. I learn new language. I'm here because I can talk easily with English speaking people.

Soumis par Stela Stoycheva le mer 25/08/2021 - 11:14

In that job which I do it really I don`t fell motivate, even I fell sad... Maybe just the money which I took it. I hope soon I can be the person from before and I can change that situation :)

Soumis par Abrarhussain le lun 23/08/2021 - 00:16

I was motivated to study further English knowledge in order to improve and boost my overall knowledge and communication.

Soumis par GiulianaAndy le dim 18/07/2021 - 05:38

My parents motivate me in my studies. I mean they are always trying to tell me new advices and stuff like that and also my motivation for studying is triggered by the fact that one day I'll be able to travel around the world because of my career

Soumis par In le dim 16/05/2021 - 10:39

I motivate myself when I remember de purpose of why I do what I do.

Soumis par Antoni Luna le lun 26/04/2021 - 20:29

Well, I work as a content creator so when I get a great idea, It motivates me to create this story.

Soumis par Suraj paliwal le mer 21/04/2021 - 05:48

I'm try to be always motivate. In everybody's life someone exist who motivate you always. My parent is always motivate me to do great things in life. I'm happy that my parents supporting me. They give me freedom to do anything which you like. And do different things.

Soumis par German le mer 21/04/2021 - 03:35

I motivate me in my job when I have a challenge about a topic and I motivate me in my studies when I have to research about a topic that interest me.

Soumis par cittàutopica le lun 01/03/2021 - 18:51

In my studies that which motivates me was the assessment of my teachers and the awareness of growing my knowledge, whereas, in my jobs, I was really pleased when I managed a project very well.

Soumis par little_oat le lun 15/02/2021 - 12:59

Both of my parents are teachers and I'm study to become one too. One thing that I've noticed is how limitated the job is, you have to follow a program that is very conservative and desmotivated specially for the kids, we need more freedom in trying new ways of learning and teaching, many people have amazing ways to teach that are effective and creative but most of the times the headmaster doesn't support it.
I totally agree with you that new methods of teaching and learning that allows for freedom of teaching techniques need to be employed by school managers rather than the old ways. Most school managers seems to be autocratic and conservative. Teacher's effectiveness and efficiency would be increased if they have the freedom to adopt whatever style or method they feel comfortable with to achieve the best results. Though they need to be checked too.

Soumis par mohamad90 le ven 12/02/2021 - 10:15

I totally agree with this theory. I experienced that freedom in working is the best way for efficiency and effectiveness. But many managers still don't encourage staff with this new ideas. They work with old management theories. It proves that learning new management theories is necessary, specially for complex works.
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Soumis par El Cuy Mágico le ven 29/01/2021 - 21:22

So cool to read the comments !! I totally agree. I don't like a strict schedule either, I really like to enjoy my job. I prefer to work at my pace as I feel more comfortable and things are done better. I guess my really motivation is the love for what I am studding as I like the culture of my country and I would love to help in its conservation and promotion. Of course there are days I don't feel motived though, then I must resort to my discipline more than my motivation.

Soumis par Layria le dim 10/01/2021 - 20:02

A thing that really motivates me is the passion of studying something I really love learning such art an culture. I agree with SAAD that knowledge is power because the more you know the more creative you will become. You can find a source of inspiration by reading, or listening... to get your goals or to excel in something you really want to. In my current job I find really motivating have a flexible schedule and not seeing my boss everytime like in the same office : ).

Soumis par Diogo1606 le mer 06/01/2021 - 02:56

What motivate me in my studies is to know that if I keep working hard now, I'll be able to be where I want to be in the future, and even the things aren't easy now, in 10 years from now on, I'll look back and thank me for the hard work.

Soumis par Saad786 le sam 02/01/2021 - 10:12

I am motivated during the studies when my teacher or parents point out my mistake. When I am encouraged by my parents, I become more ambitious to achieve the goal. My goal is to learn more and more through out my life because KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.

Soumis par M19 le mer 30/12/2020 - 19:49

Personally, I have observed experiences where salary increments and promotions contributed to the resignation of employees; they aren't necessarily motivators. More money is offered for getting the job done! The fact that task achievement but social life counts, most employers often take for granted small but precious valuable things like love, friendship, gratitude and respect. In the office these things seem less important and oftentimes use of obscene language becomes a habit. Acquiring respect doesn't come easily and falling a victim of verbal abuse is usually the end result. The assumption that materialistic incentives are effective motivators is totally wrong. Earning respect feels to be more of a valuable incentives for me than anything else. It's the thing that keeps me on my job.

Soumis par mrhgo le dim 13/12/2020 - 18:05

Hey everyone! I think that motivation is something created inside you which exists at different times. I mean, you can't be constantly motivated. I notice that there are not actually different kind of motivation, maybe there are factors that inspired you to feel more motivated, as the salary or nice people to work with.
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Soumis par DJ Singh le jeu 26/11/2020 - 09:48

I used to be a visual effect Artist. one particular shot has so much to do in it because of that some time It could even take months to complete the 2second shot. But I needed to motivate myself by self-talking like maybe you are not able to see the end result now but wait for the movie to release and watch your work in cinema. That feeling was always made motivated me to do what I was doing. But unfortunately not anymore I have quit my job now to move ahead in life.

Soumis par Asni le mar 24/11/2020 - 23:22

I have never been interested or motivated by rewards or any kind of material incentives. Instead, I feel delighted when people give recognition for my work, admire and respect what I perform. Also, I strongly dislike rigid and strict rules, I feel more creative and with great positive energy when I'm given some freedom and flexibility.
Recognition and admiration are also its kinds of reward Asni. You're getting something out of what you're putting your energy in. I agree it's difficult to work in such conditions like strictness, people feel less creative in these kinds of circumstances.

Soumis par carlos 2947 le lun 26/10/2020 - 18:09

Hello everyone, after listening to the audio and meditating on the concepts and studies that are exposed in them, I would like to make you participate in two ideas: In my personal experience at work, the spirit of improvement has motivated me more than the economic incentive. On a professional level, I have been responsible for technical teams where the economic incentive was the idea of some but not all, individual economic needs always have the last word. I have observed that when the group of workers forms a team with a clear and fixed idea, the proposed objectives are achieved, either to earn more money or to improve processes
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Soumis par danisep le sam 24/10/2020 - 15:37

At this moment in my life, money is very important to me so I would be a lot motivated if my boss put some economic incentives for achievement in my job, but I'm really motivated for independence knowing that I can support myself, take my own decisions. buy my own stuff and save money to reach what I want, without taking a fee from my parents and let them spend their money only on them.

Soumis par Echo1 le sam 24/10/2020 - 08:54

I do not actually know how to answer this question because I am quite struggling on how to keep motivated in my current job. At first, I really enjoyed being a teacher. Seeing my students go out of the room with newly acquired knowledge on my subject really feels satisfying. But that is not my problem. It is actually the work environment and the toxic people around me in that workplace. This caused me to think about quitting and getting a new job or enrolling to grad school. However, I cannot quit as of the moment and get a new job because this pandemic makes it hard to find one. So I just keep on thinking that I am doing this for the kids and for my country. Sometimes, the money also keep me motivated because I get paid relatively higher than other public school teachers.

Soumis par Radias le jeu 22/10/2020 - 12:39

Being surrounded by positive and warm people is the most significant matter that motivated me not to mentioned how much the salary is

Soumis par Ugulhan le jeu 22/10/2020 - 07:30

That is a good question, even being here for learning a language we will expect a good comment or feedback of tutor, it could be an appealing evaluation of tutor for students. I think that an incentive can give everyone a lot of motivation to do something. Even If I hear a good word, such as you are doing well this, and I'd inspire by this word.