Doubt and Motivation

If I offered you $100 or $200 which would you take?

$200 of course.  But studies indicate that some people actually prefer the $100.  A friend of mine does research in behavioral marketing.  One of her recent studies explored the interaction between size of reward and time from reward and how that influenced people’s choices.

Yes, people will take the $200 if it is a simple choice between $200 and $100, but if they are offered a choice between $100 now or $200 at a later date, their decision is influenced by how long they have to wait to receive the $200.  They might go for the $200 if it is next week, but if it is next year they most often opt for the $100 now.

This phenomena also explains why people engage in addictive behaviors and do not eat or exercise in ways that support their long term health.  I’ve discussed this before in an earlier post:  How drug addiction is like heart disease.  We tend to value short term rewards over larger and more valuable long term rewards.  This is seen on all levels of human activity from environmental policy where short term profits are valued over the long term cost of pollution to healthy activities where the comfort of an alternative activity (e.g. watching TV, sleeping in) is valued over the beneficial activity (going for a walk, meditating).

This willingness to sell ourselves short is really due to two things:  1) doubt that the distant reward will manifest as planned and 2) lack of motivation.  These are two of the classic obstacles to spiritual development or adopting and maintaining any healthy behavior.  Doubt is the one to tackle first, since lack of motivation can actually be a manifestation of doubt.

If we doubt that an activity will benefit us, we will naturally have low motivation to engage in that activity.  If part of us knows that the activity is our best choice, but other parts are lagging behind, then our first goal will be to dispel any last vestiges of doubt.  The best way to do so is to thoroughly investigate the activity.  We can do this investigation by using the internet, talking with authorities, or by finding out from others if the activity has benefited them.

If we cannot decide if the new activity will really give us the results we want, sometimes it is helpful to compare and contrast our current activities to the proposed one.  Then the question is which one would benefit us the most.  Once all doubt is gone, motivation may naturally arise.  Certainly this type of investigation activates motivation.

If motivation is still lagging, then the key is to put oneself in a environment where the activity is the norm.  If you want to give up TV and start walking more, then hanging out with TV watchers will naturally demotivate you, while having friends that walk a lot will inspire you.

Reviewing your reasons for undertaking the change is also a good way to stay motivated.  In addition, it is useful to spend time affirming your goals and staying cognizant of what behavior contributes to positive growth and what behavior doesn’t.  The time to do this is well before you start struggling with motivation.  Prevention is the best way to stay motivated.


venus from the seaI have begun work on the Venus picture for my Goddess Wisdom series.  I am contemplating portraying the goddess with her back to the viewer.  With this in mind I needed a model, so I googled “nude woman from behind“.

The results were shocking.

My instant reaction to the page of images was equally interesting.  It was like a wave of energy washed over me.   It was so strong, I wondered if it was all coming from me, or if I had tapped into the collective energy being focused on these images from around the world.  It was intriguing.  I observed myself.  Another example of the subconscious in charge.

Reactions of this sort are commonly called being triggered.  The sight, sound, taste or touch of particular things results in a specific emotional or physical reaction.  We see or smell food and we feel hunger.  We see our favorite vacation place and we feel relaxed or happy.

Most of the time we are nonreactive to the things we encounter in our day.  These encounters are considered neutral.  These encounters include seeing the walls in our house, smelling the normal aroma around us, feeling the ground beneath our feet.  In fact, we are usually not even aware of these happenings.  Neutral stimuli tends to get filtered out or unattended to.

Less frequently we have pleasant or unpleasant encounters.  The smell of our favorite flower makes us smile while the smell of a trash heap makes us frown.  However, there is no person, place or thing that is 100% pleasant or unpleasant to everyone.  This means that our reaction is not dependent on the person, place or thing.  It is dependent on whatever is stuck in our subconscious.

Many of us leverage our reactions to certain things.  For instance, people often listen to music in order to feel uplifted.  Music is a mind altering drug, as is dancing.

I once had custody of a 15 year old for a few months.  While I always got up and “forced” myself to do tai chi.  He would get up and cruise You Tube for martial arts videos.  He would watch them until his motivation rose and then he would practice.  He intuitively knew how to overcome the obstacle of laziness by using something to motivate him.  (Earlier post on obstacles and remedies).

There is a tendency to let ourselves be tossed about by our reactions.  Yet it is possible to remain objective and watch our reactions.  This use of mindfulness creates some distance between our reactions and the subsequent actions we take.   Mindfulness is the beginning of freedom.  With practice we are able to choose our actions.

We can also become proactive.  We can predict our reactions and use readings, contemplation, connections with others to reduce unpleasant reactions and increase our positive motivation.

Once again, consider who is choosing to get out of bed in the morning?  The answer to that question may be trivial, but the bigger question of who is running your life isn’t.