Mastering Motivation

IMAGE Want to get in shape, find a new job, or start work on that best-selling novel? If your answer is "Yes, but I am having such a hard time getting motivated," then you need to read on. This article on motivation is due in 22 hours, but I am struggling, mostly because I would rather be: 1) lying on a chaise lounge in the garden watching butterflies, 2) sipping a glass of frosty lemonade, and 3) munching chocolate chip cookies in an air-conditioned movie theater. Even as my mind wanders, my eyes focus on the inspirational quote taped to the top of my computer reminding me that "There are only two sure cures for writers' block: Hunger and Fear." Because my mortgage is due and the cupboards are bare, I am suddenly motivated to start writing, and miraculously, the words begin to flow.So what differentiates a highly motivated person from those of us who need to push, prod, and force ourselves to accomplish what needs to be done? Here is what a few prominent minds in psychology and psychiatry think.

In or Out?

A report by the National Institute of Mental Health suggests that there are two kinds of achievement motivation:
  • Intrinsic motivation—the desire to do something simply because you want to
  • Extrinsic motivation—working on a task to obtain rewards or avoid punishment from sources outside yourself
Studies show that high intrinsic motivation is linked to higher school achievement and psychological adjustment in children, adolescents, and college students. In adults, intrinsic motivation contributes to active, productive engagement in work, play, and creative pursuits.On a deeper level, human beings are also propelled to action by a variety of powerful physiological, social, and psychological needs.

Motivation Based on Needs

When examining the forces that drive and organize behavior, including motivation, social scientists often look to psychologist Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which include:
  • Physiologic needs
  • Safety needs
  • Social needs (belonging, companionship)
  • Esteem needs (a sense of purpose, recognition from others, self-identity)
  • Self-actualization
According to Maslow, deprivation motivation arises from pain and discomfort when one is deprived of the basic elements, water, food, air, that are crucial for survival. Growth motivation, which does not repair deficits but expands horizons, becomes a significant motivator only when the lower-level needs are met. Translation? You tend to worry less about your overbearing boss or putting on a few extra pounds when you are in the midst of an asthma attack and struggling to breathe.

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