Aristotle intuited the importance of intrinsic motivation in his understanding of virtue, and philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre relates this to internal mastery of a practice. In The Craftsman, Richard Sennett shows the satisfaction that comes from doing a job well for its own sake. Lynn Stout, in her book Cultivating Conscience, argues that focusing on instrumental values in compensation schemes (i.e., pay based on meeting predetermined performance metrics) undermines the moral basis of intrinsic motivation (and inhibits true excellence): teachers and doctors, for example, should be working to improve people's lives, not just to meet a metric to make more money.
In my forthcoming book The Good Life, I look at the lives and aspirations of German consumers and Guatemalan farmers, and find that in both (radically different) circumstances, dignity and commitment to larger purpose are both fundamental elements of wellbeing. As I argue, understanding the elements of what makes us better off can provide the basis of a positive anthropology as well as practical policy suggestions.