It’s the end of January and the resolutions are long gone. Not for lack of motivation, but because of it.
Google “motivation.” What comes up? Lots of hits about leadership, management, team building, best hiring practices, sales training. Everything you need to get other people to do what you want — your team, employees, salesmen, managers, students, children…
And lots more hits on how to get yourself to do what you want, be a success at work and life.
Plus enough posters and sayings and quotes to paper a conference room. The one at the left has name recognition appeal, and shows up a lot. All these will help us, right?
Nope. Not going to work. Instead, it’s going to hurt you in the long run, not to mention sabotaging your success.
Yes, you read that right. You might get short-term results, but the reality is that…
A lot of what passes for motivation is not just self-defeating, it’s harmful to your health.
The reason why is ironically evident in in that famous Zig Ziglar quote.
The Science Of Motivation
We Googled motivation, and now we’re… um, motivated… to dig deeper. We tap Wikipedia first, to get a quick look at the lay of the land. We’re greeted with this:
Motivation is a theoretical construct used to explain behavior. It represents the reasons for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Motivation can also be defined as one’s direction to behavior, or what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior and vice versa. A motive is what prompts the person to act in a certain way, or at least develop an inclination for specific behavior. For example, when someone eats food to satisfy their hunger, or when a student does his/her work in school because he/she wants a good grade. Both show a similar connection between what we do and why we do it. “
Almost lost us at “theoretical construct,” but food and good grades? Now we’re tracking — at least until we get to the laundry list of Incentive Theories: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation, Operant Conditioning, Push and Pull, Self-control, Drives, Incentive Theory, Drive-Reduction Theory, Cognitive Dissonance Theory, Content Theories, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs… Maslow! Finally some familiar ground! We had that in Psych 101!
While we’re greeting Maslow like an old friend, the list goes on, at a low rumble. There’s a lot to Motivation Science, apparently — mostly psychology. How about we try Behavioral Neuroscience instead:
Concepts of motivation are vital to progress in behavioral neuroscience. Motivational concepts help us to understand what limbic brain systems are chiefly evolved to do, i.e., to mediate psychological processes that guide real behavior. This article evaluates some major motivation concepts that have historic importance or have influenced the interpretation of behavioral neuroscience research. These concepts include homeostasis, setpoints and settling points, intervening variables, hydraulic drives, drive reduction, appetitive and consummatory behavior, opponent processes, hedonic reactions, incentive motivation, drive centers, dedicated drive neurons (and drive neuropeptides and receptors), neural hierarchies, and new concepts from affective neuroscience such as allostasis, cognitive incentives, and reward ‘liking’ versus ‘wanting.’
Okay then. We had homeostasis in Biology 101, and everybody knows about “setpoints,” but settling points, intervening variables, hydraulic drives (Huh?! In our brains?!), drive neuropeptides… Maybe not so much.
All this psych and neuroscience feels pretty thick. Let’s try something visual… hey, here’s a PowerPoint! Hmmm, a lot of the same stuff. All good science, no doubt, but what about us real folks?
Can’t We Just Get Positive?
Doesn’t having a positive attitude keep us motivated? Can’t we just do that?
We’ll explore that idea next time.