Monday, June 09, 2008

Motivation as an instance of 'Emotions, feelings and desires'

Emotions, feelings and desires include happiness, sadness, anxiety, distress, feeling tired, arousal, being in pain. Another, perhaps less obvious one, is motiviation. You could clean your room, and part of you wants to, but you just don’t feel motiviated. You could look up how to turn off an annoying feature in your word processing software, but you just couldn’t be bothered.

That’s not to say that we don’t make ‘rational calculations’ in deciding to do things, but I doubt there’s ever a situation that doesn’t involve the emotional pull of motivation in one direction or the other.

What acts on your motivation to do things? There’s always costs and benefits associated with doing anything. There’s always multiple things you could be doing. If you do this thing, you’ll miss other things. It always takes some physical/mental energy to do things. You’ve got limited time. You’ve usually got a number of things you need to keep track of at any time (even if you don’t need to put much conscious effort into them). And even a simple task can distract you from that.

Something less obvious is that the ‘benefit’ of doing tasks is often very small. Probably the majority of things we do are like this. And that means that the ‘cost’ of doing it has to be tiny, if we’re to feel motivated to actually do it.

When you take into into account all of these things that effect motivation, which can work against what you really to do, it helps to see why, in practice, doing something is not a simple matter of “wanting to do it”.

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