April 18, 2012

Why Take the Hard Route?

By Andrew at 12:18 PM

Motivation.  The quality that is said to differentiate between the “successful” and the complacent.  But is it really that simple?  Is motivation simply a character trait that some have but others do not?  Rather than being a simple dichotomy, perhaps there is more to purpose and incentive than merely wanting something for oneself.

To accomplish a task or reach a goal, we all need some sort of reason to convince ourselves that our endeavors are worthwhile.  Such “incentives” could generally take one of two forms: self-produced incentives, or externally-produced incentives.  Internal incentives are often the more difficult to come up with, although they do tend to be stronger in the long run.  Internal incentives would be considered self-motivation.  By contrast, external incentives originate in the people that surround us.  Motivation from others can be induced through a person’s position, a person’s relationship, or even through a sense of competition.  The beauty of external motivation is that along with the motivator there is usually a mechanism for follow-up and sometimes even performing the task alongside us, producing a mutual motivation through teamwork.  Of course, external motivation for the wrong reasons can easliy become “peer pressure,” but that is an entirely separate issue to tackle some other time.

How are you motivated?  To me, it seems that I am motivated by a variety of sources, and it is difficult for me to pinpoint what my actual motivation is.  It is true that I am often self-motivated, such as in writing this blog on a weekly basis, but it is not as easy as it sounds.  I find myself not looking forward to the thought of writing this blog each week, since I always seem to come up with “better” things I could be doing at the time.  But when I remember the various interests that I have and I realize that I enjoy sharing my thoughts with others, especially if they are able to take something away from my incessant ramblings.  So from what initially began as a self-motivated project has progressed into a sense of obligation, in some respects.  Yet it ends up coming full-circle when I realize that I write because I care, and that makes me excited about writing again!

Since most motivation has a base in multiple sources, it oftentimes cannot be broken down into merely internal and external components.  There is almost always at least a little motivation from within, but even the most trivial motivation can latch onto other external sources of motivation such as social or economic benefit and grow from there.  I know that I like to take the easy way when given a choice, yet I can also be pushed to pursue the “difficult path” by a conjunction of external and internal motivational factors.  I can only push myself so far before I give out, therefore I realize that I also need external motivators to help me out further.

Again I ask, what motivates you?  Is it those around you?  Your boss?  Your spouse?  Your family?  A lifelong goal?  Regardless of what you think your main motivation may be, take a look at the other motivating factors in your life.  How can these “secondary” motivators help you push forward when your primary goals seem out of reach?

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