“What motivates you?” I asked. She reacted with a baffled expression which I understood to be her answer. Her answer later was, “hmm I never thought about that?” “I guess when I am confident I am motivated”. “Interesting!” I answered back. Although she didn’t pin point to me exactly what it was that motivated her, she uncovered a correlation between confidence and motivation that had never crossed my mind before. I had always thought of motivation to be either extrinsic for money or status or intrinsic for my self learning and benefit. I thought of those as the driving force behind achievement. After contemplating the idea, I realized the absolute and common truth that lied behind her insight.
We can all relate to that moment in which we feel are on top of the world and we are invincible. Think of a scenario we have all most probably been through. You just gave a presentation you have been terrified about for weeks, and it turned out to be quit a good presentation. You got positive feedback from all the attendees, and you were asked to give it again at another event. Your ego has been fed with compliments and you feel unbeatable, competent to do whatever in the world you want to do and pumped with motivation to achieve whatever your mind sets to do. Take a second and re-live those feelings, and remember the emotions and thoughts that overtook you. That feeling, I must admit, is a pretty incredible feeling that we ought to feel more often. If only it can be experienced constantly throughout our everyday life, then there will be no room for self doubt. Yet to constantly feel this way, will we need the constant recognition, encouragement, and praise from others? If so, then social recognition and encouragement boosts our confidence which increases our motivation which we can predict is correlated to achievement and self fulfillment.
It is unfortunate to see that the higher (or deeper) those go into the adult world of work, the less recognition they receive and the less encouragement they find. Not only does a person receive less recognition, the same person, on top of that is less likely to provide encouragement and recognition to others. What are the reasons behind that? Is it a culture adults have created and carried on to generations? Or are waiting for the recognition of others to reciprocate words of encouragement? Or does the recognition of others, risks the belittlement of yourself? Yet, when you recall the positive feelings you had shared with someone whom you have sincerely recognized for their efforts, kindness, or even good taste, you realize how powerful it is to share this experience. Even those who have achieved so much in their life appreciate being recognized for what they have achieved.
Does this conversely mean we are motivated by other people’s recognition of our work and abilities? Do we work so hard to impress significant others? Is that how we have been learning motivation? If you do well in school, your parents will be happier with you and you will receive more praise. If you do well at work (really well) your boss will recognize you and you might receive a bonus. We are social beings that extract information from our social environment to expand our self confidence and reinforce the positive feelings of achievement to motivate us to continue on doing what we have done well.
The humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow, created a well known theory of human motivation which he termed the hierarchy of needs. People must achieve all the lower hierarchies of needs (physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, esteem need) to reach the final level of self actualization where all psychological needs are met. The fourth level of social needs must be achieved before a person can reach the level of esteem and self confidence. The third level of social needs reflects the need to be loved and accepted through one’s stable relationships. In the fourth level esteem needs must be achieved in which Maslow suggests the need to be recognized and admired as individuals and through that recognition we gain self esteem.
Therefore let us not only stop at spreading love, peace and joy, but let us recognize our peers and our friends, let us use words that hold so much power and create bonds. Remember how you feel when you are being encouraged and recognized for your efforts and don’t deny someone from those feelings. As the powerful words of the Prophet Muhammad, peace upon him, say “Love for your brother what you love for yourself”.
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