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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Motivated to write thoughts on motivations

I am political by nature, but I normally attempt to refrain from politics in my blogs.  To me, when you are trying to reach out and share what you think are helpful 'self-help', 'introspections', 'observations', etc., the worse thing you can do is antagonize those who might be in your audience. In that vein, I've noticed a number of years ago that people will double down on views that are at best dubious if they perceive you are attacking them personally vs. sharing a different perspective.

I mention all this because I think this blog & the follow-up one because it includes the idea of political correctness.  This blog post will be the first of two, the second one will be about biases called: Biased about biases.

All that aside, I have pondered motivations.  What motivates us to do or not things and/or exhibit certain behaviors?  From my perspective, it usually falls in one of these categories (which I don't think are necessarily completely separate from each other).
  • Fear
  • Face
  • Faith
  • Full of self
  • Feeling good about self


FEAR as a motivator, is pretty obvious.  When your back is up against the wall & when you are afraid of the consequences of your actions or inactions, it can be a powerful motivation.  Some examples.
  • Studying for a test because you are afraid of failing it.
  • Avoiding someone who threatens you or who is threatening to you.  That is fear of getting bullied.

FACE can be a powerful motivator, especially within certain communities.  Sometimes people bravely say things like I don't care what others think, but their actions put lie to the words.  Anyway, trying to 'keep face' is actually based on a specific type of fear.  That is the fear of ridicule, humiliation or being shunned.  Some example:
  • A family to trying to hide a 'family issue', like a spouse's drinking.
  • Parent(s) threatening to cut off their children if they get involved with someone whom they don't approve of.  Especially, if it causes 'shame' in the parent(s) circle or community.

FAITH to me is doing the right thing, even when it is not the easiest or popular choice to make.  It can be tied to a certain 'religion' it is an acquired sense that a certain set of choices are the right thing to do.  In a sense it is adherence to doing the 'right' or 'honorable' thing to do AKA the golden rule.  Some examples:
  • Helping a person stranded on the side of the road change a tire or helping a stranger jump their car even when we are tired and want to be somewhere else.
  • Standing up for an unpopular kid at school.

FULL OF SELF to me means you're motivation is to do what you want because you think you deserve it or are owed it.  Essentially it is a narcissist's motivation.  I don't believe that trying to save face is narcissistic, but I believe that it can be a characteristic of someone who is one.  Some examples:
  • Being demanding due to your status because you believe you are entitled to it.  We've all heard of stories of famous athletes, actors, singers, politicians, authors, etc. treating people around them poorly because they believe that due to their importance, they shouldn't have to be bothered in any way and should be catered to.
  • Shutting others down and showing an unwillingness to entertain another point of view because your so smart or so important that the point of view of others doesn't inherently matter.

FEELING GOOD ABOUT SELF as a motivation can have overlap with faith.  If you are acting on your faith, you will likely feel good about yourself.  That being said, I am talking about political correctness (left or right) and the desire to present or see yourself as a 'good person' because you are thoughtful enough.  As a disclaimer, I think just because something is deemed 'politically correct' doesn't mean that it is wrong.  I just may mean the motivation for it might be off.  Some examples:
  • Pushing what can sell to yourself  is 'thoughtful' agenda to prove you are a thoughtful person.  
    • The agenda itself might be appropriate, but the desire to prove yourself as being the more thoughtful person could be too self-centered.   
    • It could be on the left trying to show how 'tolerant' you are (as compared to others).
    • It could be on the right trying to show how 'patriotic' you are (as compared to others).
  • Pushing extreme tolerance or extreme righteousness to overcompensate for your failings/feelings when the best thing to do would just be to work on yourself or come to terms.
    • This could look like pushing tolerance to the extreme to overcome your discomfort with yourself.  In other words, if I push to make everything acceptable, then I can 'normalize' to myself what I'm uncomfortable about.
    • This could look like pushing extreme religious piety to compensate for your hidden failings.



There are a number of black and whites in life, but there are also many shades of grey with regard to motivation.  To wit: one's motivation(s) may be off, but their actions (or inactions) might be appropriate.  In politics, that can lead to what we call strange bedfellows or people who arrive at the same point coming from a different motivation.  Similarly, people often have mixed motivations that is to say, they may have a more altruist motive for an action, but they also may have a selfish motivation for the same action.  For example, setting up a play date for your kid with a neighborhood kid.  On the one hand, you are giving him or her a great opportunity to socialize.  On the other hand, it can free you up to catch up on your sleep or run an errand just for yourself.

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I guess my takeaway from this whole post would be:
  • For people to make sure their motivations are healthy.
  • For people to be honest--especially to themselves--about their motivations.  
  • For people to accept that selfish motivations can be okay from time to time, especially if it doesn't infringe on others and/or if there is a non-selfish motivation tied to their actions as well.
  • For people to not let their hangups guide their motivations, especially if their motivations impose their one-sided view on others.
  • For people to understand that it's okay to have mixed motivations such as trying to help others while feeling good about yourself in the process.