Sunday, March 16, 2008
This week in Psych, we discussed motivation. This is my paper on the topic (rough draft.) Tell me, what motivates you?

Motivation. It propels us through the day. It can help a man with no legs walk, a deaf man compose beautiful music, a 35 year old woman go back to college. It's something that is usually so obvious, but when you ask someone to tell you a definition, they can't. Introduction to Psychology defines motivation as such: "Motivation refers to the various physiological and psychological factors that cause us to act in a specific way at a particular time." What that definition doesn't reflect is how a person's motivation changes throughout their life. We use motivation before we understand the word or its definition. As we grow and mature, our motivation changes. Personally, my motivation has changed too many times to count.

As a child, I was motivated by praise. The praise of my Dad, in particular would make me feel as though I were ten feet tall. My dad isn't very physical with his affection. I always knew he adored me, but he never actually said it. He never yelled, never got too excited, he was just a mild tempered man. When I could manage some sort of outward sign of his approval, it was nothing short of awesome. That need for his approval and affection never really went away, other motivators simply showed up to push and shove their way to the top.

In my early teens, my motivation started to lean toward earning tangible rewards. If I completed chores around the house, I was rewarded with things like teen magazines, music (cassettes!), video games, and clothes. My mother always reminded me that I had to earn these things, they were not simply given to me. Because I was too young to get a job, I worked around the house. Cleaning, doing laundry, mowing the grass, washing the dishes. To this day, washing dishes is my least favorite household chore.

Once I passed my driver’s test, getting my own car became my motivation. I worked at the mall and saved all the money I could. I tried to convince my Dad to sell me his 1972 Chevy Corvette Stingray, but he wouldn’t budge. He sold it simply so that I knew, for sure, I had no shot of ever even driving that car! The lingering motivation of having that car is still with me, especially considering he sold it and bought me a 1977 Chevy Caprice Classic with no muffler. Seriously, I was hoping for a chariot and ended up with a tank.

As an 18 year old college student, sadly, I was not motivated to succeed academically. I was motivated by things like making friends, partying with those friends, and making the most of being “on my own.” I pushed the people away who would remind me that perhaps I was not choosing a successful path. I took academics for granted and assumed I would succeed as I had in High School, attend class and succeed; no extra work required. College was more challenging, but I was not prepared for it and withdrew with such a feeling of failure.

As an adult, I am motivated by several things. They include, of course, the ones you would expect: health, money, and happiness. Thrown in there for me, though, are things like self respect, trustworthiness, excelling as a wife, mother, and friend.

Many people look back on their lives with regret and feelings of “what if.” Fortunately I do not have many regrets in my life. The single one I do have is soon to be remedied. I am back in college and will get my degree. This time will be different, the motivation is there. Finally.

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Blogger Lanie Painie said...

These days, Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs are my biggest motivation.

Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

First, I love the paper. I'd like it to be fuller and more, I don't know, chunky, I guess, but it's a GREAT rough draft. Seriously.

What motivates me? Approval, certainly; I like to know that I'm well thought of. I'm motivated by health and try to make choices that with either increase or maintain it (though, like Lanie, I can be tempted away from the veggie path by chocolate in pretty much any form). I'm motivated by security and a certain amount of predictability; I like to not only BE reliable, but to be able to rely on others, and I like knowing that my environment won't undergo drastic changes without my express permission. Finally (not REALLY, but for the purposes of this comment), I'm motivated by self-improvement. I want to be a better ME all the time, and try to put myself in situations and experiences which will bring that about. I wouldn't be surprised to find myself back in a classroom as a student sometime soon.

This was a fun exercise. We rarely think in terms of our own motivation...

Blogger Kizz said...

As I am (hopefully) a few weeks away from my goal weight I am spending all my time making lists to fill in the end of this sentence, "When I reach the goal I will eat ______ and not feel bad about it." 2 pieces of one meal, ICE CREAM, bacon cheeseburger, mac & cheese etc. It's a long list. I am hungry.

Blogger Wayfarer said...

I really like the experiential theme to your draft! Like Chili, I find papers that have some basis in research to have more teeth. For me as a teacher, it always makes a positive impression when the student takes the time to delve into the concept independently, understand what the research is actually saying and put it into the context of real-life.

I actually spent time researching motivation during my M.Ed. work, and I found the differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to be fascinating. It goes right to the heart of what teachers do in the classroom, so it fit well to the kind of alternative methodology I was playing with at the time.

May I offer some suggestions for possible exploration? In your paper, you talk about how motivation was different at different stages of life; there’s a lot of stuff online that explores this, and I think a professor would love to see how your own experience matches (or doesn’t) the research. Also, the complexities of life as an adult make for an interesting examination of the ways in which both kinds of motivation might work together to make people happy and successful. You already talk about the THINGS that motivate you. You might discuss how seemingly oppositional factors (money vs. motherhood, for example) actually help bring both things about. Use research to back up any claims you make, though. College is all about the research!

I am strongly motivated by challenge, whether it be imposed from others or from my own psyche. I will often choose to do things simply out of a desire to discover whether I can actually succeed at them. I am not driven to be the best at things, particularly in sports, but I very much appreciate the exquisite beauty in manifestations of perfect effort, especially under less-than-ideal conditions: Hitting the perfect pitch, running without effort, Finding just the right move to win a challenging game of chess. To me, the reward of a challenge is not in succeeding at it, but whether it was beautifully done.

I generally resent externally imposed consequences, whether they are positive or negative. I don’t need stickers to tell me I’m doing a good job and I don’t care about money enough that I would sacrifice my principles to get it. I also hate when I have to do things to avoid negative outcomes. I’m certainly not averse to making clear that, if this happens, it would be bad, but threats do nothing for me but breed animosity.

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