A Little Motivation
/ Author: Jayson Bueckert
/ Categories: Guide magazine /
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A Little Motivation

Listing your motivations can help you understand past behaviours and provide clarity on what goals to set for yourself

By Jay Bueckert, Regional Director, Fort McMurray Member Centre

Ivan, my 15-year-old son, and I were talking about his grades at school. He has very good grades. He hunts for them. His entire motivation at school is to get the best grades he can.

“I don’t care one bit about learning anything,” he says. “I just want to figure out what’s going to be on the test, create a study guide, memorize it, and then ace the test.”

I get it. When you’re 15, it’s hard to see how some of the things you must learn at school have anything to do with your current life, let alone your future. Sometimes, it’s hard as an adult to find the purpose in anything that doesn’t provide immediate gratification or help us from being unemployed.

Then I began to wonder whether it matters what motivates him so long as the result is good grades. Maybe I’m placing a higher value on what motivates him to do well than what the results are. At any rate, it seems to be working for him, and he is outperforming me and my high school self.

It’s helpful to define motivation. It is that thing, whether intrinsic or extrinsic, that causes you to act. An entire area of psychology is dedicated to uncovering the concept, if you’re interested. Here’s a short sample of some things that motivate us:

• Achievement

• Money

• Power

• Passion for a cause

• Recognition

• Meeting basic needs

• Fear

• Fulfillment

• For the fun of it

As I look at this list, I automatically give each one a quality ranking. Achievement is better than power, passion is better than recognition, fulfillment is better than fear, etc.

I think as we get older, we hope that our motivations become more mature. I wish some on this list did not motivate me, but I know they do from time to time.

Take fear. My family has a history of heart disease. My grandfather and two of my uncles died before the age of 52 from heart attacks. I’m 48. I have accepted that fear might be a motivator for me to take care of myself, and that was probably okay for a time.

But now that motivation has matured to something different. I find myself fulfilled in being healthy, in having energy to do fun things, to be able to play with my kids and to not be exhausted at the end of the workday. But I must acknowledge that fear still plays a part.

I recently tried a little exercise to help understand what motivates me. I broke my life up into various categories—work, marriage, parenting, friendships, health, spirituality—and then did an inventory on what motivates me in each of them.

The act of listing my motivations allowed me to understand some of my past behaviours in each area, and it gave me some clarity on what I would like to set as goals for each as well. You might have different categories, or more of them, but you might find it fun to try—if you’re motivated, that is.

To learn more about motivation, go to positivepsychology.com/motivation-theories-psychology.

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