26 April 2011


World Travel Photos

Most of what you see, read, and hear about "motivation" is pure horseshite. From Tony Robbins to Dan Pink to your motivational consultant, speaker, or psychologist of choice, most of the motivational industry is 99% scam and 1% truism with propagandist overtones.

What is motivation?

Using the online etymological dictionary, let's start with "move:"
late 13c., from Anglo-Fr. movir (O.Fr. moveir), from L. movere "move, set in motion" (pp. motus, frequentative motare), from PIE base *meue- (cf., Skt. kama-muta "moved by love" and probably mivati "pushes, moves;" Lith. mauti "push on;" Gk. ameusasthai "to surpass," amyno "push away"). Meaning "to affect with emotion" is from c.1300; that of "to prompt or impel toward some action" is from late 14c. Sense of "to change one's place of residence" is from 1707. Meaning "to propose (something) in an assembly, etc.," is first attested mid-15c. Related: Moved; moving. The noun in the gaming sense is from 1650s. Phrase on the move "in the process of going from one place to another" is from 1796; get a move on "hurry up" is Amer.Eng. colloquial from 1888.

Now, look at the root "motive:"
mid-14c., "something brought forward," from O.Fr. motif (n.), from motif (fem. motive), adj., "moving," from M.L. motivus "moving, impelling," from L. motus, pp. of movere "to move" (see move). Meaning "that which inwardly moves a person to behave a certain way" is from early 15c.

Now, "motivate:"
1885, "to stimulate toward action," from motive + -ate (2); perhaps modeled on Fr. motiver or Ger. motivieren. Related: Motivated; motivating.

Finally, "motivation:"
1873, from motivate + -tion. Psychological use, "inner or social stimulus for an action," is from 1904.

And ever since the invention of "social science", psychologists, consultants, public speakers, coaches, and other "motivators" have been milking and modifying the connotations and meanings of the word -- for profit, control, and personal power.

Let's take a step backward, and look at the word "motion:"
late 14c., from O.Fr. motion (13c.), from L. motionem (nom. motio) "a moving, an emotion," from motus, pp. of movere "to move" (see move). The verb sense in parliamentary procedure first recorded 1747; with meaning "to guide or direct by a sign, gesture, movement" it is attested from 1787. Related: Motioned; motioning.

Now let's go the extra mile and add an "e" to get "emotion:"
1570s, "a (social) moving, stirring, agitation," from M.Fr. émotion (16c.), from O.Fr. emouvoir "stir up" (12c.), from L. emovere "move out, remove, agitate," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + movere "to move" (see move). Sense of "strong feeling" is first recorded 1650s; extended to any feeling by 1808.
Psychology 101 Motivation

A person's motivations begin with basic needs and drives, which take firmer shape as the brain develops in early childhood. Social motivations come into the picture quite early, as well, with the need to convince others to take care of your young infant self. These motivations and their associated behaviours naturally grow more sophisticated with time and experience. According to Abraham Maslow (see chart above) a person's needs (and motivations) will climb a pyramid of sophistication (and enlightenment?) as he learns to satisfy each successive level of the pyramid.
Throughout our lives, we work toward achieving the top of the pyramid, self actualization, or the realization of all of our potential. As we move up the pyramid, however, things get in the way which slow us down and often knock us backward. Imagine working toward the respect and recognition of your colleagues and suddenly finding yourself out of work and homeless. Suddenly, you are forced backward and can no longer focus your attention on your work due to the need for finding food and shelter for you and your family.

According to Maslow, nobody has ever reached the peak of his pyramid. We all may strive for it and some may even get close, but no one has achieved full self-actualization. Self-actualization means a complete understanding of who you are, a sense of completeness, of being the best person you could possibly be. _Psychology101
Motivation is not a simple phenomenon. It is a fractal combination of the genetic, the social, the phsyiological, the psychological, and the experiential over a person's lifetime. Motivation is mixed up in in everything we do.

Let's pause a moment to take a look at a fascinating study done recently by psychologists at U. Penn. which makes an intriguing connection between IQ scores and the motivation of the IQ test taker.
They looked at 46 previous studies of more than 2,000 children to see if monetary incentives had any bearing on the result.

They found that on average a financial reward improved the score by 10 points but that higher values – above $10 (about £7) – could be rewarded with a 20 point increase. The size of the increase seemed to be proportional to the amount of reward offered.

A second study of 500 boys found that those who showed signs of boredom and lack of motivation – for example yawning or looking around during the test – scored lower test marks. Angela Lee Duckworth, a psychologist who led the study, said: "IQ scores may predict various outcomes in life, but in part for reasons that intelligence tests weren't designed for.

"I hope that social scientists, educators, and policy-makers turn a more critical eye to any kind of measure, intelligence or otherwise as how hard people try could be as important to success in life as intellectual ability itself."

The findings were reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. _Telegraph
It makes sense that someone who is more motivated during the taking of a test, will be more focused, and might perhaps score higher than he would otherwise have done. But it is also true that motivation is at least partially genetically determined -- just like IQ. Motivation is related to executive function (EF) of the frontal lobes of the brain -- which is claimed by researchers to be between 50% and 90%+ heritable. IQ itself is probably between 50% and 80% heritable, in modern affluent societies. So motivation is not separable from the genetics and brain function which underlie both IQ and EF.

But motivation, executive function, and (to a limited extent) IQ can all be improved with timely training. Here is a popular occupational overview of motivation:
1. Consequences – Never use threats. They’ll turn people against you. But making people aware of the negative consequences of not getting results (for everyone involved) can have a big impact. This one is also big for self motivation. If you don’t get your act together, will you ever get what you want?
2. Pleasure – This is the old carrot on a stick technique. Providing pleasurable rewards creates eager and productive people.
3. Performance incentives – Appeal to people’s selfish nature. Give them the opportunity to earn more for themselves by earning more for you.
4. Detailed instructions – If you want a specific result, give specific instructions. People work better when they know exactly what’s expected.

5. Short and long term goals – Use both short and long term goals to guide the action process and create an overall philosophy.
6. Kindness – Get people on your side and they’ll want to help you. Piss them off and they’ll do everything they can to screw you over.
7. Deadlines – Many people are most productive right before a big deadline. They also have a hard time focusing until that deadline is looming overhead. Use this to your advantage by setting up a series of mini-deadlines building up to an end result.

8. Team Spirit – Create an environment of camaraderie. People work more effectively when they feel like part of team — they don’t want to let others down.
10. Recognize achievement – Make a point to recognize achievements one-on-one and also in group settings. People like to see that their work isn’t being ignored.
11. Personal stake – Think about the personal stake of others. What do they need? By understanding this you’ll be able to keep people happy and productive.
12. Concentrate on outcomes – No one likes to work with someone standing over their shoulder. Focus on outcomes — make it clear what you want and cut people loose to get it done on their own.
13. Trust and Respect – Give people the trust and respect they deserve and they’ll respond to requests much more favorably.
14. Create challenges – People are happy when they’re progressing towards a goal. Give them the opportunity to face new and difficult problems and they’ll be more enthusiastic.
15. Let people be creative – Don’t expect everyone to do things your way. Allowing people to be creative creates a more optimistic environment and can lead to awesome new ideas.

16. Constructive criticism – Often people don’t realize what they’re doing wrong. Let them know. Most people want to improve and will make an effort once they know how to do it.
17. Demand improvement – Don’t let people stagnate. Each time someone advances raise the bar a little higher (especially for yourself).
18. Make it fun – Work is most enjoyable when it doesn’t feel like work at all. Let people have fun and the positive environment will lead to better results.
19. Create opportunities – Give people the opportunity to advance. Let them know that hard work will pay off.

20. Communication – Keep the communication channels open. By being aware of potential problems you can fix them before a serious dispute arises.
21. Make it stimulating – Mix it up. Don’t ask people to do the same boring tasks all the time. A stimulating environment creates enthusiasm and the opportunity for “big picture” thinking.
Master these key points and you’ll increase motivation with a bit of hard work. _PicktheBrain
Certainly some good ideas there, and more enlightened than the typical employer (or teacher or parent or government) to be sure.

Psychology Today articles on motivation

Dopamine, Learning, and Motivation (abstract)

Individual differences in extraversion and dopamine genetics predict neural reward responses (abstract)

Motivation is one of the prime pillars of life success. Along with self-discipline, executive function, cognitive strengths, and particular personality traits, motivation can make the difference between poverty and affluence, a full life or an impoverished one. Out of all the pillars of life success, motivation is probably among the most amenable to outside influence and reinforcement.

Motivation can be a strength -- or it can be a weakness if it is directed toward dysfunctional activities. Motivation can also be a "backdoor to the brain" for sophisticated persons who wish to control the individual's actions. Anyone who understands a person's deep motivations, will be able to control him to some extent.

The effect of motivational speakers is too often like the effect of Chinese food -- immediately filling, but all too quickly losing its effect. But when motivational sessions are combined with clever propaganda -- as in "consciousness raising," labour union action, classroom indoctrination, faux environmental brainwashing, strict religious training, or other political and quasi-political activity -- it is often the propaganda message which gets through and "takes," subliminally. Deep motivations penetrate below the level of conscious rationality, into the level of basic and mid-pyramid needs.

It is crucial for parents to give their children the keys to their own motivations as soon as it is practical, so that others will not be able to control them. If the parents are too immature to understand the why and how of doing that, the grandparents or uncles and aunts would be the next line of defense. If no one in the family or close circle of friends has risen high enough on the pyramid to be able to help the child -- if the child is at the mercy of popular culture, government schools, and society at large -- the Idiocracy is likely to have gotten yet another recruit.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Blogger Bruce Hall said...

I think that "motivation" requires awareness of possibilities... awareness that has to be fed with up close and personal experience. It's hard to create awareness of such things as financial and personal success when every personal example is one of failure... failure of parents, failure of schools, failure of government, etc.

Success on television is too often seen as simply "happening." There is no process of happening. There is no awareness of how success happens.

Tuesday, 26 April, 2011  
Blogger al fin said...

Good point, Bruce. Young minds need good examples and role models.

This is why children need to be exposed to the adult world of responsibility and achievement much earlier than is currently allowed by a well-meaning (?) nanny-state.

Locking children up every day with their ignorant peers, and with teachers possessing minimal real-world experience or achievement, for much of their formative years, is not a good plan for motivational mind development.

Particularly when much of the rest of their time is filled with popular entertainments made with nothing more constructive in mind than to capture their attention and their parents' dollars.

A fast, slippery, downhill road to the Idiocracy?

Tuesday, 26 April, 2011  

Post a Comment

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts