Motivation is profoundly important to the human condition yet much of what has been written about it (in popular circles) does not seem to define it well. In fact, in some instances not only is it inaccurate it’s downright negligent. Would you believe that the most popular definitions of motivation are “one-sided” and are blind to a bigger picture? Can you understand why such errors in understanding can be the cause of a lot of people’s dissatisfaction and frustration in their lives?
Popular Definitions of Motivation
Commonly motivation has been defined as:
- “the psychological process that gives behavior purpose and direction” (Kreitner, 1995)
- “a predisposition to behave in a purposive manner to achieve specific, unmet needs” (Buford, Bedeian, & Lindner, 1995)
- “an internal drive to satisfy an unsatisfied need” (Higgins, 1994);
- “the will to achieve” (Bedeian, 1993)
- “the inner force that drives individuals to accomplish personal and organizational goals” (Bedeian, 1993)
Based upon the above definitions as well as all material written to expound on these definitions we would be lead to believe that all motivations stem from the existence of unsatisfied or unmet needs or to simply achieve our goals.
But how would you explain the motivation behind such things as going for a walk in the park, daydreaming or many other so-called trivial activities that we daily engage in? For that matter, how would you describe the motivation behind the statement: “I just need to be me”?
This illustrates the overall difficulty that exists with trying to define what motivation truly is. Part of the reason is that it is not easy to language something that is abstract in nature and therein lies the problem.
The Best Definition of Motivation
The best definition of motivation we have found so far is this:
“Motivation distinguishes the sufficient reason of Becoming, of Knowledge, of Being and of Action.”
– Arthur Schopenhauer (19th Century Philosopher)
In other words, the outward, observable effects “of Becoming”, “of Knowledge”, “of Being” and “of Action” are established by having adequate reasons determined by motivation.
We didn’t say it would be easy, but at least based upon that definition we can now begin to lay a foundation to work from and provide a truly accurate definition of motivation.
The Two Sides of Motivation
First off, not all motivations are created equal. It is their source from where they are generated that dictate their nature.
Your identity, while providing a sense of wholeness and singularity is actually two separate functions of the mind working in concert. One side known as your “Synthetic Mind” is designed to interact with and make sense of the physical world that we perceive through our five senses. While the other, your “Authentic Mind” is designed to engage the abstract world of ideas and meaning.
Together these two domains function synergistically to make up who you really are. They also determine the nature of your motivations.
Typically, motivations that are generated by your “Synthetic Mind” relate to physical events and circumstances (of becoming, of knowledge, of action) for example:
- when you act to protect yourself or a loved one from physical or emotional harm (action)
- when you feel the need to become knowledgeable about something (knowledge)
- when you desire to improve yourself or break a bad habit (becoming).
Motivation generated by your “Authentic Mind” is abstract in nature (of being) and springs forth from a single solitary need: To express your unique identity to the world.
In essence it is declaring: “I exist, I am unique, I matter and make a difference“. In fact, we spend most of our lives expressing various states “of being” all driven and motivated by this Authentic side. (For more detailed information about the Authentic and Synthetic mind see: Birth of the Real You)
Becoming aware and accepting this distinction of our two minds, allows you to shift your attention and focus to the appropriate side in order to initiate and establish real and sustained change in your life.