I have read volumes on the subject of motivation and spent hours thinking about it. The question I ask is how to motivate students, clients and myself. It comes easy when we are doing something we enjoy. That, however, leads to the question of how to make certain tasks enjoyable.
Actually, I was about to write that we don’t need any extra help being motivated to have fun. Then I remembered a job I once had working with teenagers of the streets of Chicago. We planned fun things. They resisted. Once we pushed the issue, they enjoyed themselves.
It was the fear of the unfamiliar that held them back. Sure, swimming and bowling and such are supposed to be fun. If you have never done it, though, it can be scary. Sometimes the fun needs to happen first and then we are motivated to do it again. On the other hand, positive anticipation can play a big role. We may be motivated to do everything required in order to go on that dream vacation. We may look forward to retirement, literally for years, and plan accordingly. The anticipation provides the motivation.
Few things are pure pleasure. I may enjoy an activity that requires too much preparation or costs too much. Thus my motivation is reduced. I may be motivated to prepare an Italian meal one day and be not at all interested another. I may love skiing but hate the cold. Once I am into an activity I am often motivated to continue with it, maybe even for hours. It is the actual getting up and going to do it that doesn’t always happen.
Even the best of jobs has downsides. I love my work except for the part where I have to fill out forms. Parents are highly motivated to do all sorts of things they don’t enjoy because their children are important. Remember those dirty diapers? There is satisfaction in making a sacrifice for the benefit of anyone we love. We do what we need to in order to get to the good part. It may be the pride of accomplishment, our sense of responsibility, praise, or the avoidance of discomfort or pain. In the end, we are all unique and both the degree to which we are motivated and the focus will vary.
Finally, there is a sentence I remember from graduate school that has stuck with me. It has to do with why people make big changes in their lives, those involving such things as joining AA or getting out of a bad relationship. They are said to be motivated by the push of discomfort and the pull of hope.
Seems like a line worth thinking about from time to time.