Monday, January 10, 2011

Motivation and Action

Probably the most undervalued and unconsidered part of social interaction on a micro and macro scale is motivation (both negative and positive). There are those who do not take into to consideration at all in situations: “this person just should or shouldn’t do X action”. From a purely emotional standpoint this may make sense; however, this way of thinking is entirely useless when trying to change a person or persons behavior. There are those who do realize the value of motivation, but they make a critical fallacy in assuming that what motivates them to do or not do an action “Y factor motivates me to X action therefore it should motivate everyone to X action”.
Try to think of motivation the way energy and mass interact in our universe. According to Newton: “an object at rest will stay at rest and an object in motion will stay in motion unless being acted upon by an outside force.” Logically, it is safe to assume that a person or group of persons will stay the same unless being motivated to change. This is not to argue that all motivating factors are equal but are in fact relative to individuals according to their environmental conditions and cognitive thinking system. For an example of the former: I wish to motivate males to use condoms while engaging in sexual intercourse. In order to motivate them I may inform them that condoms prevent procreation. This attempt at motivation would not be successful for males who are in capable of procreation or desire procreation as an outcome of sexual intercourse. In order to motivate the men not deterred by my first factor I must devise a factor that takes into account each individuals environmental conditions. We may think it is universally true that people with do anything to avoid pain and death but experience will show us that this is not always true.
We must also think of motivation on as a quantities measure. We may find that a factor is successful at motivating a person or persons, yet yields insufficient or no change in action. If I paid you 50 dollars a day to be my chauffeur you may consider it but end up turning me down, but what if I offered you 500 dollars an hour. A parent may conclude that putting a child in a time out chair for 5 minutes does not motivate their children to behave, but they discover that it become very effective when used at least 1 hour. The quantity of motivation can sometimes be enormous to the point in which it exceeds the abilities of any one individual. It may be possible to attain assistance from others who may be motivated (or already are motivated) to help u motivate that individual.

Let’s put this in concrete terms. You want to motivate your mother in-law to stop nagging you. We first acknowledge that the behavior is a one way verbal interaction. We must carefully observe the current motivating factors that stimulate said mother in-law to nag you. Does she call you up or arrive unprovoked to nag you? Does she nag after you say something in particular? Let’s assume that after some investigation we determine that said mother in-law
gets motivated by the love of her daughter to nag you as a direct reaction to your wife/husband conversing with her: specifically complaints about you. We can approach the solution to this problem in a number of ways. If you make an emotional plea for sympathy to your mother in-law this may evoke feelings of guilt in her motivating her away from the action of nagging. However, she is likely to feel more motivated by complaints from your wife/husband than by your attempts at motivation. Your motivation is +50 but she is negatively motivated -75 so you are still 25 points in the hole. Instead we will attempt to attack this motivation at its source while providing a new motivation not to engage in the act of nagging. If we cannot motivate the mother directly we can use your spouse to do so. We explain to your spouse how hurt you are by this nagging and how it damages your marriage. We may then convince your spouse a) to not complain to your mother in-law about you or b) he/she can continue to complain but only if your spouse agrees to motivate your mother not to nag you. Assuming that we come to solution B your mother in-law will then be now motivated to not nag you by the same sources that motivated her to nag you in the first place.

As an exercise I want you to think of someone or some group of people that you’d like to change their behavior. Ask yourself what can I do to motivate that person or group? What assumptions am I making about my source(s) of motivation? What motivates this person toward the action that I don’t like and how can I overcome that motivation?

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