“Every action needs to be prompted by a motive.”- Leonardo da Vinci
I often joke and say that, as a non-verbal therapist I talk a lot. I also like writing. So when Samuel Adesanya MBA encouraged me to write on Open to Help I jumped at the chance. I learned that Open to Help is a “stop for everyday help and inspiration”, where individuals share their “knowledge, experience and help…solve problem such as mental illness, family issues, career problem, military personnel sufferer.” I saw this as a challenge; how do I contribute to such an ambitious endeavor? As an integrator, I often look for the common denominator. Question; what do all these elements have in common? Answer; the common denominator is motivation.
I have to admit that it didn’t take me long to come up with that. What did take an unusually long time for me was being able to actually write this blog. I never imagined that the topic would be as difficult as it has been to put into words. I started writing it so many times in so many ways, yet they were all very unsatisfactory for me. None communicated, except in a very academic and literal way, what motivation is all about. As a Creative Arts Psychotherapist I know that sometimes things are just beyond words.
So what was I stuck on? I answer this question in the following two parts:
Part One: The Academic Side
What makes us unique amongst other species is our self-reflective nature. We try to figure ourselves out. In this way I call myself a process oriented person.
In the field of developmental psychology many theories of human development abound. Maslow proposed a theory found in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. His hierarchy of needs remains a very popular framework in sociology research, management training and psychology instruction. Although Maslow himself never used the pyramid, his hierarchy is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization at the top.
- Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep.
- Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
- Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships.
- Esteem needs – achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others.
- Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
We come into this world dependent on others. As such, a paradox takes shape:
In order for an infant to develop a sense of self as independent from others, it is dependent on the other to provide the environment in which to develop this sense.
The environment in which we do this can be found in the theoretical concept that Winnicott, a pediatrician and psychoanalyst, developed. He developed the theoretical concept of a “holding” environment: an environment that allows you to safely feel taken care of, protected, understood, accepted unconditionally, and held in such a way that your consciousness which, at the beginning of human development is unformed, fluid, and changeable, can grow spontaneously and naturally on its own. (Excerpt from The Holding Environment)
So it looks like who (if any) we depend on, to whom we bond and attach, the quality of that dependent relationship and the amount of time we are in such a relationship (not enough time or too long each have their impact on our development) will influence our sense of self and others, how we relate and how we form relationships.
We carry over that first experience into all other relationships and groups in which we find ourselves living or working within throughout our lives.
Being aware of what our needs are fall into two categories; conscious and unconscious. We come into this world with an innate mechanism that dictates to us what our primary needs are and how to get them. Then as we grow and develop, we become more conscious of what needs are important to us and strive to have those needs met.
Part Two: The Personal Side
“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” ― Thomas Jefferson
I have to admit that my motives are directly related to my needs; how and if they were met. That means I need to bring to consciousness my unconscious experiences. Hard work; what can motivate me to do that?
For me, the key motivator is control; I need to understand what is in my control and know what to do or how to cope with what is not in my control.
This led to my getting stuck on writing this blog on motivation as the common denominator of all aspects of our lives. I had to come to terms with the fact that I can no longer neatly package motivation to fit each area of our lives; business, health, relationships, but that control was a factor in each motivator that I could identify; success, happiness, intimacy.
In order for me to become successful in business, lead a healthy life, be happy with my life and share my life with others, I have to admit that these things are not in my control; I cannot have these things because I want or need them, I am dependent on others and my environment and circumstances in my process for getting these needs met. How I making meaning of this process will determine the outcome.
Where does control lie? Control lies in our ability to choose.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor E. Frankl
My drive to be in control, to choose how I respond to what is happening in my life, internally or externally, is my force of motivation.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.
I am interested to hear from you; what is your force of motivation?