Motivation is Everything

The key to understanding what makes a person ‘tick’—yourself, or another—is motivation.

Motivation refers to why you do what you do—on the most fundamental and emotional of levels.

Motivation is a fact of one’s psychological make-up. It’s not unchangeable. Motivation is based ultimately on thoughts, ideas, assumptions or premises. These things are changeable.

People can be motivated by any number of factors, and motivation can vary from one situation to another. However, most people are motivated primarily by one or several factors, not thousands.

For example, one person might be motivated primarily by fear. Fear can be rational or irrational. Fear of going bankrupt is a rational thing. Fear of dying or getting an illness are rational things.

If one is motivated only by fear, one will experience a diminished capacity to enjoy life. Motivation exclusively by fear leads one to constantly be on the lookout for problems, even when there are none; or to look at potential or actual problems as bigger than they even are.

Others are motivated by concern for others. Empathy in one’s personal, or even business, relationships can be a powerful and even self-interested thing. It’s much easier to win over people and engage with them the way that you’d like if you better understand people. Writers, artists and musicians who understand their audience will more likely succeed. Entrepreneurs who best understand the marketplace are most likely to make money.

However, if concern for others becomes one’s only motive—divorced from any sense of self-preservation or self-fulfillment whatsoever—then you end up being what self-help books call a ‘codependent’ or lacking in self-esteem, or self-respect. You risk becoming a do-gooder busybody who aims to help others even if they don’t want or need the help. You end up accomplishing nothing for anybody, or even harming others, despite your motivation to ‘do good.’

Others are concerned with what they call self-interest, but they have no empathy or concern for anyone else. In the extreme case, such a person is a criminal or a sociopath. Such a person does whatever he or she feels like, regardless of the impact on others. Self-interest gets the blame for such behavior, but living life on the run, or as a criminal, is really not in the criminal’s self-interest and not the way most of us would choose to live.

Less extreme examples are more common. People end up being poor spouses, parents, employers, employees, or just about anything else when they are motivated only by their own whims and urges without respect for anyone or anything else. They tend to experience failure and dissatisfaction across the board in their lives. They’re told by disappointed people that they’re ‘selfish,’ but that’s not really the issue. The real issue is that they don’t think, i.e. they don’t appraise the perspectives of others and they fail to take into account their own rational—long-range as well as momentary—interests. The failure to think logically and rationally makes them their own worst enemies, as well as the enemy of many others.

Still others are motivated by the willingness to think—but that’s all they do, is think. They might have great ideas, but they never experience the highs of achievement. They also miss out on the lows of disappointment, failure or rejection. People who are strongly motivated by avoidance of pain or rejection falsely assume they’re accomplishing something by avoiding disappointment or rejection. In reality, life becomes one long experience of pain or rejection because they never even get out the front door through taking rational risks. Read or watch the biography of any accomplished person, and you’ll find loads of failures mixed in with the one or two great successes. No risk, no gain.

Whenever you say or feel, ‘I’m not motivated,’ it’s important to explore this more. When you say you’re not motivated, what you’re really saying is, ‘I don’t judge the time or effort I believe required to do this activity to be worthwhile, or even possible.’

Some people talk about their lack of motivation as an excuse. ‘I’m not motivated, therefore I can’t do it.’ That’s not necessarily true. If something is, in fact, not possible—well OK then. But the mere fact that you feel no motivation to do it does not mean it’s impossible. It all depends on the facts and objective circumstances of the situation. All this requires some thought and analysis before you conclude, ‘I’m not motivated. End of story.’

Motivation is based on appraisals and beliefs, even core values. Lack of motivation is likewise based on appraisals, value judgments and beliefs. We all have a responsibility—first and foremost to ourselves—to rationally analyze the facts and logic upon which these beliefs and value judgments are made. They might be valid, or they might not be.

To be fully in control of your destiny, self-awareness is necessary.


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