Humanity: Today & Tomorrow|Oct 10, 2012 4:00 AM| by:

Motivation

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Human beings are a complex amalgam of many sub-types. So it is hard to define one or even a few specific characteristics that are universally present. The variations are too wide to be missed. Motivation too is, for the very same reason, a multi-dimensional issue.

The lowest level of motivation is fear. Actually this can hardly be called motivation for its origin is negative. It is a shrinking and falling back on oneself, so as not to lose what one has. Fear degrades the human consciousness and fixes it at the animal level. Its instrument is punishment. Punishment is likely to bring out the worst in man once its suffocating pressure is removed. It ignites a negative reaction sooner or later destroying the object that it fears, be it man or social system. The impulse towards freedom is too great to be held in check for long out of fear alone.

The first positive movement of motivation in humanity is desire. Desire is the impulse to possess. It is the impulse to hoard, grow and accumulate. Its instrument is reward. The reward may be gross like money or more subtle like fame, power and lust. Just as the characteristic reaction to fear is anger, the characteristic one to desire is pleasure. Modern society based on commercialism uses this principle for motivation. The problem with desire is two-fold. First, since each unit tries to satisfy its desire at the expense of others, it is a principle which cannot lead to a collective harmonious life. Second, desire is always accompanied by fear— fear of losing the object of desire. Sooner or later, desire leads to strife with its two attendants, fear and anger. In a commercial society, with desire as motivation, collapse and chaos are bound to ensue. Humanity has, however, evolved a peculiar way of preventing this in-built system-failure through the satisfaction and fulfillment of mutual desire. This, actually only delays the disaster since desire cannot be satisfied.

The fulfillment of mutual desire brings a third way of motivation—cooperation. Co-operation is the impulse to help and satisfy others even though one actually satisfies oneself. In rare individuals, this urge may become so complete that they totally forget their own needs and live for others. A return of love and gratitude may be enough recompense. Or else, even without this return the motivation may continue as personal boundaries are overpassed. The wideness itself helps provide a greater energy and vigour. At its peak, it gives a foretaste of the next higher level of motivation—to work for an ideal.
Self-forgetfulness is the beginning towards a larger movement of self-transcendence. In essence, this self-forgetfulness does not annul the individual but only fulfills him. The individual, no longer identified with desire and fear, acts from identity with an ideal—an ideal of love and heroism, an ideal of knowledge, an ideal of service, an ideal of perfection or world change. The ideal itself is universal and works through the individual as one of its centres. The individual himself, identified with the ideal, becomes vaster. This forms the beginning of a true intrinsic motivation—self-motivation. But even at its best, the individual may find his ideal conflicting with others. For example, love and kindness may conflict with strength and heroism; service may conflict with freedom. Even where conflict is not apparent, a dichotomy may result—limiting motive and impulse to action.

The highest motive and perfect action arises when we have discovered the reconciling truth behind all ideals leading to a motiveless motivation.