Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Is Motivation? Who Cares?

I have been thinking a lot about the meaning of motivation.  What prompts individuals to act, to be successful, to just get out of bed in the morning? Abraham Maslow provided one way to look at motivation in his article "A Theory of Motivation" in Psychological Review in 1943 and further explained it in his book TOWARD A PSYCHOLOGY OF BEING. Maslow described a pyramid of needs beginning with the life essentials like food, water, and air and continued to safety needs, social needs, esteem needs and finally abstract ideas like truth, justice, wisdom, and meaning at the top.  (See the link at the bottom for a picture.)
I am particularily concerned with things I am personally motivated by and the things that seem to motivate my grandchildren, or maybe I should say fail to motivate them.  It is obvious that not everyone is motiavated by the same goals.  Perhaps my mother's influence prompts some of my achievement oriented behavior.  She wanted me to do my best, look the cleanest, smile the brightest, and stand the straightest.
When I was in college, I took some psychological tests that gave me insight into what I find motivating.  I thought I would like to work with people.  I find them interesting, but the tests said I liked data more than people.  That's true.  I like to write at the computer a lot.  I do enjoy people, talking to them, working with them, but I am not a good person to put in charge.  I don't give good orders.   I can plan how it should be done, but choosing people to do it and prompting them to take action falls to others.
My motivations measured by the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule were somewhat surprising.  I scored at the 99th percentile on achievement.  This is also why I have difficulty with my children and  grandchildren who don't value achievement.  My value system is so heavily weighted toward achievement that I want them to achieve too.  I guess that's putting my expectations on other people, and it's not fair. 
Maslow even agreed with my new understanding.  Not everyone is motivated by the same thing no matter how sparkling and shiny it looks.  The Mavericks won the trophy, but some people don't even know who they are.
I am old now, and I should be willing to allow others to flop or fail as they see fit, but I see people, my descendents included, who have potential and intelligence but aren't making the most of it.  What will motivate them?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Read the Bible--Who? Me?

English: Personal bible study Português: Estud...
Image via Wikipedia

The Bible is not what might be called a "fun book" to read. It is often difficult to understand. It deals with challenging and, sometimes, depressing subjects like sin and doom. On the other hand, it also details a life of joy and ultimate peace in the presence of God.
If you just read the negative parts, you find all the things you shouldn't be doing and the consequences are disastrous. You can also read the joyous proclamations of victory and convince yourself that everything is O.K.
The Bible is like other things you may have experienced in life. There is more to be known than you can get in a one-time exposure. There are negative and positive aspects to pursue. The one-verse application is inadequate. If you really want to understand it, you need to make sure you are reading it with some insight into it's depths. 
I would venture to guess that you would not understand the finer aspects of a manuel on shoeing a horse if you began in the middle with one sentence. The same goes for building a skyscraper. You need to know how to interpret the book. Get some help. Read with someone who has some experience in it. Of course, if you have some experience, try to start at a place where you know what is going on. Learn a little about the history of the people you are reading about. What were their customs? What was the time frame?
There is more to this than you might have thought on first glance, but you not need be fearful or avoid the whole thing. Take it slow and get another opinion.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Adulthood Is Hard

Elliot Jaques came up with the term "midlife crisis" in the 1950s I think. The developmental theorists I have studied called it the most productive period of adult life, but it is also the most challenging. Statistically, the evidence shows that not a lot of people have the dramatic overturn of their lives that "midlife crisis" denotes.
According to Erik Erikson, Daniel Levinson, Lawrence Kohlberg, and James Fowler, the period from about 35 or 40 to 60 or 65 marks the time when people see some evidence of their success. Their children are growing up, moving out, and becoming independent. Their job or profession has proved their skill. Their marriage and home are solid and a source of security.
By this time they may have met and resolved some challenges. Many people find a second marriage by this time, perhaps resolving to do it better this time around. Some people have made changes in careers by the age of 40 and hope to have time to experience success in the new field. A change in location may offer a new start with a shift new set of friends and new opportunities.
Even for people who don't have these dramatic changes, some new appreciation of the place they find themselves at this time produces a sense of security and promise. They may shift their focus or establish a new personal goal. This stage in Erikson's theory is called Generativity vs. Stagnation. People often want to share what they have learned. They may seek to mentor yourger members of their profession or their sport.  According to Erikson, failure in this stage brings stagnation.  I like to teach people to make bread or build kites or write poetry. The most difficult thing is to find someone willing to learn the skills they want to teach.
James Fowler estimates that many people never achieve the stage he calls Conjunctive Faith. For those who do, the work is demanding. They have learned that some dreams are impossible. Maybe in the effort to teach someone else, they can extend their reach to achieve goals they did not master personally. There is a certain satisfaction in coming to terms with the hopes they never achieved. We might call it the paradox of sacrifice. Giving up the ideas and claiming the reality brings closure or at least resolution.
I think all the stages are places we revisit after we have "gone through them." We can revise our thoughts and attitudes and clean up our act. We still have places where we need to grow up.