Soft Skills

The Tortoise and the Hare  -  Morphoses’ edition

Morphoses - The Tortoise and the Hare  -  Morphoses' edition

…explaining why one of Aesop’s best-known fables is also a great soft skill lesson.

One day a hare was boasting about how fast they could run. The hare was laughing at the turtle for being so slow. Much to the hare’s surprise, the tortoise challenged them to a race. Being overconfident about their abilities, halfway through the run, the hare took a nap. All this time, the tortoise kept walking step by step by step. They never quit, no matter how hot or tired the tortoise got. They just kept going. However, the hare overslept and when they woke up, they could not see the tortoise anywhere! The hare went at full speed to the finish line but found the tortoise there, waiting for them.

What life lesson do we learn from Aesop’s fable, besides never giving up? Success requires effort. And effort requires… motivation!

In five words, motivation is what causes us to act. It describes our whys and it is the force that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviours. From a psychological point of view, motivation involves biological, emotional, social and cognitive forces.

Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

Just a tiny bit of… nerdy staff.

Self-Determination Theory suggests that we can observe and specify multiple types of motivation. People are able to become self-determined when their needs for competence, connection and autonomy are fulfilled.

One hare. One tortoise. Two types of motivation. Let’s find out who had which.

Intrinsic motivation is defined as “the psychological desire to enact behaviors for the pleasure, satisfaction, or excitement associated with enacting the behavior itself”. When we pursue an activity for the pure enjoyment of it, we are doing so because we are deeply motivated. Our whys for engaging in the behavior arise entirely from within rather than out of a desire to gain some type of external reward.

In contrast to intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation describes “the psychological state evident when individuals are driven to achieve outcomes separable from the satisfaction inherent in the behavior itself.” Examples of extrinsic motivation can be rewards such as trophies, money, social recognition or praise.

So… yes, you are right. The hare was externally motivated, since their sole purpose was to win the race, while the tortoise never gave up and slowly achieved their goal, without being influenced by others.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

So… there we go. What could potentially harm our motivation?

Quick fixes. It is not about how fast we can go, it is about being persistent and focusing on the goal, like the turtle did.

All-or-nothing thinking. It’s easy to feel unmotivated if we can’t fix something immediately or if we can’t have it all at once. If we could reach our goals overnight, everyone would be living their best life. It takes time. And effort. And more time. And more effort.

One-size-fits-all thinking. Just because an approach or method worked for someone else, it does not mean that it will work for us too! Just because the hare is a sprinter, it definitely does not mean that sprints are for everyone! We might be… marathon runners!

So what is the biggest lesson in the end? Perseverance will always yield results. And perseverance can stay alive if we are deeply motivated.

Photo by Peter Schulz on Unsplash


It is hard to defeat someone who refuses to give up.


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