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Motivation and Passion Accelerators

Monday,15 November 2021 09:29 AM IST

Anupama Nair


Many a times I had asked this question what is motivation? “Motivation is the process that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors”. In other words, it is what causes you to “act, whether it is getting a glass of water to reduce thirst or reading a book to gain knowledge”. Motivation contains the biological, emotional, social, and cognitive forces that activate behavior. In everyday usage, we can say ‘motivation’ is frequently used to describe why a person does something. It is the driving force behind most human actions.

There are many theories of motivation. The instinct theory, states people are motivated to behave in certain ways because they are evolutionarily programmed to do so. An example of this theory in the animal world is  the ‘seasonal migration of birds’. Birds migrate to certain places at certain times each year, and it is instead an inborn pattern of behaviour. William James identified a list of human instincts that he believed were important to survival, including fear, anger, love, shame, and modesty. 

The arousal theory of motivation suggested that people took certain actions to either decrease or increase levels of arousal. When the arousal levels got too low, a person might watch an exciting movie or go for a jog and when arousal levels got too high, a person would look for ways to relax, such as meditating or reading a book. This theory believed, that we are motivated to maintain an optimal level of arousal, although this level can vary based on the individual or the situation.

Humanistic theories of motivation were based on the knowledge that people also had strong cognitive reasons to perform various actions. This theory was illustrated in Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, that described various levels of needs and motivations. “Maslow's hierarchy suggested that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other, more advanced needs. For example, people were first motivated to fulfill basic biological needs for food and shelter, then to progress through higher needs like safety, love, and esteem. Once these needs had been met, the primary motivator became the need for self-actualization, or the desire to fulfill one's individual potential”. Maslow was interested in learning about what made people happy and the things that they do to achieve that aim, rather than focusing on problematic behaviors.

The incentive theory suggested that people are motivated to do things because of external rewards. For example, you might be motivated to go to work each day for the monetary reward of being paid. Behavioral learning concepts such as association and reinforcement played an important role in this theory of motivation. This theory shared some similarities with the behaviorist concept of operant conditioning. In operant conditioning, behaviors were learned by forming associations with outcomes. Reinforcement strengthened a behavior while punishment weakened it.

The benefits of motivation were visible in how we lived our lives. As we were constantly responding to changes in our environment, we needed motivation to take corrective action in the face of fluctuating circumstances. Motivation is a vital resource that allowed us to adapt, function productively, and maintained wellbeing in the face of a constantly changing stream of opportunities and threats.

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