The psychology of motivation I

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Motivation is anything that stimulates you into action toward achieving a desired goal. It is that which gives direction to your behavior. We are motivated to behave in some ways by different drives. For example, you are motivated to rest by stress, and motivated to run for safety by fear. Therefore, motivation exists when there is a need to act. 

So, how does this explain why people behave the way they do? 

You are probably wondering why some people are bullies, some people are anorexic, while others are greedy, envious, or stubborn. There is no action without a cause, in the same way there is no flame without fire. Every rational and irrational behavior is as a result of an underlying cause. The way to understand human behaviors is to make an effort to ascertain the root-cause of their behaviors, and then gather more information about several other factors, which may have contributed to the rigidity of such behaviors. 

I will discuss a few cases of motivation and their resultant behaviors, all of which I believe you will find rather interesting. Firstly, I will clarify the reason some people are overly desirous of great wealth. I will go on to discuss why some people tend to be compulsive weight lifters. Then afterwards, I will elaborate on why some people are completely obsessed with their physical appearances. Lastly, I will discuss how passion for an activity can be created. 

Joseph was born into a very poor family. His parents could hardly provide three square meals a day; and in the best days, he would be provided with very little food each meal. He was fortunate to have had his formal education sponsored by a kind man in his neighborhood. He grew up experiencing oppression from the rich and comfortable, and was made to think that it is shameful to be poor. Realizing that he had a shot at becoming a very wealthy person, he decided, with great determination and resolve, to capitalize on that opportunity. He was going to do his best to ensure that he succeeded in changing the unfortunate situation of his life. With resolve, he would move mountains to achieve his dream. 

And of course, his dream started materializing. Joseph soon began to earn top grades at school, as he had been made to understand that he would get a fine job if he produced stellar academic results. As a result of his ambition, he worked night and day to get excellent grades. This proved productive, as indicated by his wonderful achievements. He was not only the best student in his class, but also the best graduating student in his set. After graduating from the university, he continued his formal education and earned an excellent master’s degree. 

Joseph eventually became rich, and was positively proud of himself. He could now afford to eat eight meals a day and travel to beautiful places. But he did not stop striving to acquire greater fortune and success. He believed he could be wealthier and wealthier, and kept on searching for effective, albeit ethical, ways of making more money. When Terrence, his friend, noticed his level of determination, he admired his energy and resoluteness. And so, he wondered why his friend, Joseph, had been far more determined to be successful than he’s ever known of his numerous friends. 

Joseph’s story is similar to the story of most ‘once-poor-and-now extremely-rich-entrepreneurs’. When you perceive an inadequateness in your life, which you strongly believe is important for you to remedy, you will do virtually whatever it takes to do away with that feeling of inadequateness. The same way a woman suffering from cancer will expend much time and resources on finding the cure for the disease, a man having a difficult time in his life, and ‘confident’ that his problem can be solved, will do everything in his power to solve that problem. 

Joseph was not the only poor lad in his neighborhood. Adamson was another poor lad having similar poverty experiences as Joseph. But while Joseph was academically diligent, Adamson was academically indolent. What exactly was the difference? Joseph saw a glimmer of hope when the rich man from his neighborhood took him in and decided to sponsor his formal education. He immediately realized that he could after all, solve his annoying problem. The moment he realized his problem could be solved, he wasn’t ready to miss the opportunity to do so. Adamson, on the other hand, did not believe his problem could be solved. He went to a public school, but didn’t think he could ever be successful. He therefore performed woefully. 

What does this say about how we are motivated? Believing that you have a problem, makes you feel that you are inadequate or deficient. Thinking that you cannot solve the problem makes you feel unfortunate and worthless. But realizing that you can solve the problem gives you hope and allows you to do something about that problem. The poor folks in your neighborhood who are not doing anything about their problems are responding to their lack of self-confidence. They do not believe they have the ability to control the unfortunate circumstances surrounding their lives. To learn more about the psychology of motivation, read the second article, ‘The Psychology of Motivation (Part 2)’.