What really motivates you?

 “Of course motivation is not permanent. But then, neither is bathing; but it is something you should do on a regular basis.”                                                              

                                                             ― Zig Ziglar


For many students, including me, in pursuit of higher education decisions must be made that will alter the course of our lives, one such question for me was whether or not I should go the thesis or project route. A vast majority of you, my classmates, may have already made a decision, or are still have time to make that decision, but I’m just at that point where I must choose.

Many would understand the dilemma I’m in and would understand that the quote by Ziglar above is just not a quote, it’s a reality. The type of motivation I will be describing is not the ones I had while doing my undergraduate or the ones that drives someone to succeed at their job, (take a look at the following YouTube video that provides a brief synopsis about a study on what motivates motivation individuals) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc, the motivation I’ll be talking about was brought to my attention in our last class.

We were asked “What makes you angry?” Our answers were not for a class discussion, and for us to decide whether this thing that angers us is enough to cause us to want to make a change. I can say, and thanks to Scott, that this was probably the first time I’ve looked at motivation from this angle.

Royale Scuderi described six types of motivation in her article that are all so common to us, especially motivation for achievement and Murphy and Alexander notes that the area with the greatest proliferation of categories and subcategories is research on goals and goal orientations. Dan Ariely (TED) made reference to this form of motivation as well and the misconception of people being motivated by financial gains only.

food-drink-business-offices-boss-workers-employees-mbcn384lCoincidentally, I was asked a similar question by Darlene Laurence a few weeks ago, “are students motivated by anything else that to get their degree?” Darleen argued that she believes not all students were motivated by grades and the degree, at that time I disagreed with her based on the numerous personal experiences I had with potential students, my view was that there are probably no student at MSVU taking a degree just for the sake of taking a degree, but have come to realize there are many other factors that could motivate someone for being in school besides “the degree”.

Freud is associated with the idea that human beings have many unconscious motivations that cause them to make important decisions because of these unconscious forces. This unconscious motivation was aroused and as such, motivated me to take action. I believe the motivation was unconscious because I’m now able to reflect on the effects of these unconscious thoughts.

Comparing others position

I realize that it is very difficult to defined unconscious motivation; it is also equally difficult to describe something that you’re unaware of. It is the unconscious desires, instincts, and needs of humans. Some researchers believe that our unconscious motivates only get acted on when we are stressed and anxious (Archard, 1984; Freud, 1961/2004; Reason, 2000). While other researchers believe we have total control over them (Weston, 1999).

According to, Archard & Freud a large amount of human behaviour is stimulated by unconscious motives (e.g. Freud believed that the majority of all human behaviour is a result of their desires, impulses, and memories that had been repressed into an unconscious state). According to Maslow, the average person is more often unconscious than conscious. He believed unconscious motives take central roles in determining the way in which people behave (Archard, 1984).

The idea that human beings are rational and human behaviour is guided by reason is an old one. However, recent research has significantly undermined the idea of homo economicus or of perfect rationality in favour of a more bounded rationality. The field of behavioural economics is particularly concerned with the limits of rationality in economic agents.

What angers me?

Freud believed that different styles of thinking were associated with different levels of consciousness; Freud’s theory was support by research done by Henk, Ruud, & Hans and others.

As I alluded to earlier, and in reference to Royale Scuderi’s six types of motivations for achievement, one would believe that all motivation is triggered by a reward, Freud idea of consciousness presents the idea of intentionality.

I work in an organization that, I believe, unconsciously discriminates against segments of its clientele in many ways, but believes it is providing the best service that caters to the needs of all. Just using one example, I’ve attended numerous workshops on “Diversity Issues” that was sponsored by the university, only to find its being facilitated by someone from the dominant group who really just touch on the surface of the issues that affects minorities.

The idea of what angers me then ask the question “so what are you going to do about it?” for almost a year I’ve been unconsciously doing something about this situation. Some of my ideas have become conscious ones that have yielded great rewards, while others still lingers somewhere in my unconscious mind.

Scott asked us to think of that one thing that makes us angry and fix it, let that issue be a thesis topic; finding out what really makes you angry might have you explore your unconscious mind but in the end it will be worthwhile.

In conclusion, I would like to point your attention to Paulo Freire’s work. Freier stated that poverty and hunger severely affected his ability to learn. This influenced his decision to dedicate his life to improving the lives of the poor: “I didn’t understand anything because of my hunger. I wasn’t dumb. It wasn’t lack of interest. My social condition didn’t allow me to have an education. Experience showed me once again the relationship between social class and knowledge” (Freire as quoted in Stevens, 2002).


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3 Responses to What really motivates you?

  1. msvublog says:

    Hi Randy,

    Great post!

    I agree with you that there are often numerous motivations at work, both unconscious and conscious, when people are faced with making important choices. I liked your reference to Freire and the circumstances that led him to make the choices he did in regards to his choice of profession.

    I also enjoyed the discussion in our class with PhD student Scott MacPhail where he suggested that we choose a thesis/project topic based on what makes us angry. I find myself in the same position as yourself where I must soon make a decision on whether to complete a thesis or project and what the topic will be. Unfortunately I find myself no closer to a decision in this regard and am grateful that I still have time to narrow down the possible topics. Perhaps my unconscious has not yet revealed the right topic to my conscious self.

    Bill H.

  2. zbysiuk says:

    I am probably the odd man in this discussion. I entered the program knowing I wanted to complete a thesis. Not for financial gain or any change in my professional circumstances but because I like research. I enjoy the process that allowed me to complete the honours psychology degree. I progressed through a series of research projects until I reached the stage of doing my own study for my thesis. Perhaps the feeling of success I experienced as an undergraduate serves as my motivation. Perhaps the fact that I entered this program very well prepared to formulate and question and answer it through a scientific process supports my optimism. Scott asked what makes you angry; I will pose a different question: what about the thesis process makes you fearful? If it is the research process that causes you fear, perhaps actively pursuing that area of new knowledge and skill will help reduce your fear and prepare you to pursue a challenge.
    Good luck, Zbigniew

  3. amalalsulami says:

    I like your post.
    I completely agreed with you. In fact, there are a lot of circumstances that people faced, which lead them to make important choices in regards to their choice of profession. For example, I choose to get a degree of lifelong learning because I am angry of the idea that if you have finished your formal education, you do not need to acquire new knowledge. I am angry about the process of traditional teaching, which focuses on getting the knowledge one-directionally, from the teacher only. I would help people to be lifelong learners. I am very optimistic to achieve that when I go back to my country. All these reasons motivated me to choose these program to support me to achieve the change and improve the teaching style. So, the optimism is the best way to support yourself and achieve what you want.

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