The psychology of motivation II

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In my previous article, The Psychology of Motivation (Part 1)’, I explained that motivation exists when a need is perceived, and when a person is confident that this need can be satisfied, and should be satisfied. That need could be a desire to flee from a dangerous scene, a desire to fight for one’s freedom, or a desire to complete that which one perceives to be inadequate in one’s life. You may want to establish a business out of the need to make more money, or out of the need to satisfy other people’s needs; these are examples of the effects of motivation. For motivation to take effect, three questions must be answered in the affirmative, and these questions are

  • Do you perceive a need?
  • Do you believe that need can be satisfied?
  • Do you believe that need should be satisfied?

If all your answers to these three questions are in the affirmative (i.e. yes), then you have a motivation to act. Let’s take the hunger for food as an example. When you are hungry, you immediately perceive a need. Because you believe you can satisfy that hunger, and because you know you should satisfy it, you find yourself responding to your need, as you make an effort to acquire some food to eat. 

All our actions are products of motivation and reluctance. If we perceive a need, believe the need can be satisfied, and believe that it should be satisfied, we experience motivation. However, if we perceive a need, and believe the need can be satisfied, but shouldn’t be satisfied, we experience reluctance. More so, if we perceive a need, and believe that it cannot be satisfied, despite believing it should be satisfied, we still experience reluctance. Therefore, for motivation to take effect, all three questions must be answered in the affirmative. But for reluctance to take effect, any of the three questions can be answered in the negative. 

In my previous article, I shared a short, but true, story about a boy who, despite been born into a very poor home, grew up to become a rich man through determination and positive self-belief. I also stated that I have decided to share some very useful stories about how motivation, or the lack of it, is responsible for all our behaviors. And I am hoping that with more examples, you are able to get a clear picture of how motivation often affects the way we behave. Therefore, if you have not read ‘the first part of this article, I recommend you do so. 

Kingsley was a skinny and small-looking boy who was often a victim of bullying and taunting by the big and hefty guys at school. He felt very scrawny and weak, couldn’t report the intimidation to his parents and teachers for fear of escalating the physical abuse, and had an overall feeling of being inadequate. This sense of inadequateness had sprung from the fact that he felt too weak and small to stand up to those bullies who constantly made his life a living hell. He immediately perceived a need, felt the need should be satisfied, and was confident it could be satisfied. 

Knowing he was weak and scrawny, he realized that he could become stronger and heftier if he hit the gym for some anaerobic exercises. He constantly felt feeble and breakable and hated that feeling, as it often gave him an emotional sharp pain. He wanted to do away with this perceived inadequateness by all means. He would do a lot of bench presses, push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and so on, in an effort to enhance muscularity and be stronger. He became so obsessed about this that it began to affect his academic performances. He would spend most of his day at the gym, and miss lunch with family and friends. His social life deteriorated, and this became a serious concern for his loved ones. And while he felt bad about his poor academic results, and little time spent with friends and family, he found it difficult to concentrate on his school work and social activities; for he couldn’t help experiencing that unpleasantly sharp emotional pain that constantly reminded him of how scrawny and weak he felt.   

Pietro, his high school friend, had also been as scrawny and weak as Kingsley, and had equally been a victim of bullying. But while Kingsley took to hitting the gym, he decided to do nothing about it. So, why did Kingsley become so obsessed about enhancing muscularity and getting stronger, while his friend Pietro would rather not? I am sure you understand why. 

Both Kingsley and Pietro were not happy about the undesirable experiences they were going through at school; they were constantly being subjected to the unpleasant experience of bullying, and were sure that it would come to an end if only they found a solution to the problem. Both of them believed that something should be done about the problem. And although, there may be numerous ways of solving a problem, Kingsley easily drifted towards the idea of building up and seeming more intimidating, while Pietro might have chosen a different method. 

The actual story was that Pietro did not choose a different method, but instead decided to cope with the bullying for the rest of his life. While Kingsley believed that he had found a solution to the problem, and was sure the solution was possible, Pietro believed that he could do nothing about the problem, and decided to embrace the unpleasant situation. It’s possible that Pietro had tried working out at the gym, but believed he was hopeless at gaining more strength after numerous failures. So, he gave up on the idea, and decided to find other means to cope with the situation of bullying. Kingsley, on the other hand, felt that working out was the perfect solution, to the extent that he never felt big and strong enough, regardless of how hefty he had become; as he could not do away with that sharp pain he experienced each time he felt that he was weak and scrawny. 

To learn more about the psychology of motivation, read my next article, ‘The Psychology of Motivation (Part 3).