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Andy Cheshire

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Andy Cheshire, PhD, (Educators’ 18) is the inaugural post-doc fellow in medical education at Duke University School of Medicine, working on projects to support integration between the biomedical and clinical sciences. Andy holds bachelor’s degrees in Health & Exercise Science and Psychology, a master’s of science in Sport Psychology & Performance, and a PhD in Kinesiology with an emphasis on human performance. Andy’s work in motivation stems from his six years as a Texas high school football coach.

The Thermodynamics of Motivation: Moving beyond Drive Theory

Let’s start with a mental exercise. Rank your motivation for the following activities:

(A) Brushing your teeth

(B) Filing your taxes (knowing you’re not getting that refund)

(C) Eating your favorite candy

Got your ranking? Hold on to it, and we’ll revisit that in a moment.

Most of us are familiar with Newton’s first law of thermodynamics: an object in motion will stay in motion, and an object at rest will stay at rest until acted upon by an outside force. What if we thought about motivation in the same way rather than our more common framework of having or not having motivation? If we thought of motivation as an object experiencing accelerating and decelerating forces, would we change the way we think about our actions or inactions? In what ways would we think about our students’ motivations? Our colleagues? Would it give us a more effective framework to identify and impact those positive and negative forces?

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