If you mow the lawn, I’ll give you twenty bucks. How about for five dollars, or even two bucks—would you do it? Would you mow the neighbor’s lawn for free out of the goodness of your heart, or only if Mom told you to do it? Okay, now think about this: if you memorize a list of fifteen countries, you’re guaranteed to get 100% on your next history quiz. Will you memorize that list? If you finish your homework by 8 p.m., you can watch TV . . . but it can only be the news. Do you care enough to complete your studies by then? If you pass driver’s education, you can get a learner’s permit to drive. Will you show up for class? If you arrive to class on time, you don’t get marked tardy. Are you on time, even after lunch is over? If you eat broccoli, even though you hate the taste, you’ll get lots of nutrients in your body. Do you eat that vegetable? If you drink milk, your bones will be stronger. Do you drink milk or instead have a soda pop? If you buy rollerblades, you won’t have money to buy your sister a birthday gift. Do you make the purchase for yourself or save your pennies for her?
Why do you do the things you do?
- Write responses to assess your motivations in different situations.
What motivates you? You are faced with situations every day where you have to make choices, and there is a deep reason that compels you to do so. Some choices are just matter-of-fact, such as showing up to school. It’s the law. Being motivated to go to school could simply come from the desire to not have a visit from the truancy officer, or it could be that your family really values learning. But other choices—like what you wear or how you talk—have motivating influences. Do you want to talk cool or be popular, so you use slang? Do you do a good job on your English essay because you want a good grade, or do you simply love to write and you enjoy putting effort into your hobby? There are so many motivating forces: acceptance, respect, and competency (being able to do a good job), to name a few. Some people are motivated by having power, influence, or control.
Your task is to take some time to reflect on the questions presented below and write responses to each question. Place all of your responses in one paper, and you can number the questions on your paper along the way. By the time you finish writing your responses, you should have a better idea of what motivates you to do and act certain ways. This knowledge is useful if you decide you ever want to change your reason for doing something or the attitude behind it.
- What activities do you do a lot because you enjoy them? What makes the activities enjoyable, and do you get anything out of the experience?
- What activities do you do a lot that you don’t enjoy? (These might be chores or responsibilities you can’t get out of.) Why do you still do them? How do you motivate yourself to get through it?
- Why do some hobbies appeal to you but others don’t?
- Which school subjects do you find fascinating to learn about and which ones bore you? Are there any subjects that make you feel some anxiety to learn about or electives you try to get out of taking? What is it about these subjects that motivate you to do well or avoid them?
- What kind of grades do you get in your classes? Do you put in the maximum or minimum effort? Why do you do it that way? Are there expectations you perceive and what are they?
- How do you reward yourself for doing something hard?
- What inspires you to do a good job?
- How do you like people to reward you?