by Ron Kurtus (16 August 2003)
Motivation is the driving force causing a person or animal to try to get what he or she wants. It is the inner urge or incentive to move to action. The more valuable or important the reward is, the greater the motivation.
But whether or not the action is taken depends on weighing the desire for the reward or the fear of punishment versus the work or action required.
Questions you may have include:
- What type of desires do people have?
- What is the action or work required?
- What determines your motivation to try?
This lesson will answer those questions.
You may have a desire for something that seems like a reward. You want it because it will bring enjoyment, pleasure or some other sort of satisfaction. Examples of things a person may desire are food, money, some fancy gadget, a loving relationship, or some special service.
There are also situations where you may be threatened with some sort of punishment that would cause pain or the loss of something of value or importance to you. For example, a worker may have his job threatened, or a person may be threatened with some sort of violence. The desire here is to protect or maintain what you already have, so you won't lose it.
There is a difference between simple desire and the motivation to take action to get what you want. There usually is some work or exchange of goods required to gain the reward or avoid the punishment.
Examples of requirement for getting rewards include:
- You must work 40 hours for your paycheck
- You must pay dearly for the new car you want
- You must go to the store to get the food you want
Examples of requirements to avoid punishment include:
- You must work overtime or lose your job
- You must give the robber your money or lose your life
- You must take out the garbage or suffer a smelly house
Million dollar prize
Suppose there was a contest with a million dollar prize. You would really like to get that prize. But your motivation would depend on what you would have to do to try for that money. Simply buying a lottery ticket would be worth a try, even though the chances of success are low. But suppose you had to enter in a humiliating contest. You might think twice or forget about it. Your motivation to act is not as high.
Decision and motivation
By weighing the value or importance of what you want versus the negative value of what is necessary, you determine your motivation and make a decision whether or not to try to get what you want.
Buy new car
You really want that new car, but the cost is higher than you can afford. It might result in going deeply in debt. But on the other hand, everyone would be envious of you to have such a car. Seeing yourself driving that car is more valuable to you than the excessive cost. You are thus motivated enough to make the purchase.
Give up your money
The robber points a gun at you and demands your money. You need the money to pay the rent. But your life is obviously more valuable than what you can do with the money. The motivation is high enough to give your money to the robber.
In an old-time radio show that was broadcast before television came into being, comedian Jack Benny was confronted by a robber who said to him, "Your money or your life."
Benny was known to the audience as a notorious skinflint and penny-pincher. After a long silence, the robber said, "Well, I'm waiting."
To this Benny responded, "I'm thinking about it! I'm thinking about it!." This drew one of the longest laughs by an audience in the history of radio.
The boss says you must work overtime this weekend. You had planned on going fishing and don't really want to work the long hours. If you refuse to work, you may be punished by losing your job. On the other hand, if you do work, you will get time-and-a-half in pay. The threatened punishment and the promised extra pay, outweigh your desire to relax and provide sufficient motivation to go to work on Saturday.
Get a better job
The promise of a better job can often motivate a person. This is especially true if the ffort required is not that difficult.
An example can be seen from baseball great Henry (Hank) Aaron.
Aaron grew up in the deep south of the United States, and his father had given him advice never to move more than you have to. Thus, Aaron wasn't known as a hard worker, when he was playing minor league baseball. But one day, he heard that a major league scout was visiting the team to select some players to advance to the big league.
Hank really wanted to play in the major leagues, and this was his big opportunity. He disregarded his father's poor advice and played that day like a man possessed, moving quickly and trying to make sensational plays.
His motivation resulted in getting selected to play for the then Boston Braves, and he later became and all-time great ball player.
Weighing the value or and your desire for a reward and/or fear of punishment against the work required, determines your motivation to do the task.
Know why you are motivated
Resources and references
Motivation 123 - Site specializing in motivation
Motivation Tool Chest - Site specializing in motivation
Questions and comments
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