Motivation, Will Power – Is a Spoke Missing?

“The whole motivation for any performer is “Look at me, Ma.”~ Lenny Bruce, Controversial American Comedian and Satirist (1925-1966)

Commitment or how intensely we stick to our goals is a function of motivation. Should we be considering motivation (or will power, commitment, determination) as a new spoke? Is it separate from heart and mind? Or is it a bit of both?

Since elementary school I have developed the habit of using a dictionary to clarify the meaning of words, especially when several words seem to overlap. The dictionary definition for motivation is – “something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act”. The concept of “will power” works better for me since it implies that obstacles are overcome as one perseveres to achieve goals. Once again, I turn to dictionary definitions and find that “will power” is “energetic determination” or “firm or fixed intention to achieve a desired end”.

“Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
~ Mario Andretti, Italian-born American Race Driver

Mihaly Csikszentmihaly in “Finding Flow” connects our intentions, goals and motivation to what he calls “psychic energy”, an important resource that we must learn to focus and  control. The ability to focus our psychic energy is related to interest by a feedback loop of mutual causation and reinforcement.

“If you are interested in something (heart) you will focus on it (will), and

if you focus attention on anything (will) it is likely that you will become interested in it (heart).”

Recognize what interests you especially those activities that you enjoy the most. Become more skilled at controlling your attention and staying focused on your key priorities. Csikszentmihaly emphasizes the significance of control:

“The important thing is to enjoy chosen activities for their own sake, and to know that what matters is not the result, but the control one acquires over one’s attention.”

Once you are skilled at controlling your attention and psychic energy you will find the time to develop your interests and curiosity.

It also helps to have what Csikszentmihaly calls an autotelic personality. The autotelic personality is motivated intrinsically, not extrinsically. People who are too concerned with how well they are doing (extrinsic) will be less successful and feel less competent than those who focus on the task itself (intrinsic). What counts is whether attention is turned away from the task at hand and focused on the self and its future rewards, or whether it is instead trained on the task itself. The latter attitude seems the more fruitful and the healthiest, especially emotionally. If your self-esteem is based on the opinion and approval of others, you are likely on the road to becoming paranoid.

It’s far better:

“to enjoy life for its own sake, not because of others, and with a lesser need to please them or gain their approval.”

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