Let me discuss with you what makes a human tick. What are the motivations that drives a human being and its life experience? In this post I will talk about motivational drives and how they interact within a human being. Furthermore, I will discuss on what this means for the self-image or concept of self and how you can use this knowledge to advance yourself in today’s world.
In an earlier post I raised the question “What defines a person’s being?”. With ‘being’ I mean the ‘is-ness’, or the experience of its life. In that post the answer from the world of spirituality was involved. This time I will discuss my own (current) view on it. In another post the more grounded theories from the field of personality psychology will be discussed.
All of what comes next is from my experience and perspective. Which is based on reading lots of books and observing and interacting with the world around me.
The definition of a person’s being basically consists of its thoughts and emotions. The actions are a physical manifestation of that. Whatever action occurs, is the result of decision-making processes in the brain, both rational and irrational.
Since I don’t think thoughts and emotions come from nothing, I believe they are driven by certain motivational drives, which can be categorized under several kinds. I know this list is certainly not complete, but bare with me.
- Biological drives (e.g. hunger, energy preservation, sex)
- Social drives (e.g. social status, group behavior, peer-pressure)
- Self-actualizing drives (e.g. seeking ‘enlightenment’, personal values, goals)
All of them are pulling or pushing you in a certain direction. Think of your old Physics class and try to remember the Newtonian concepts on how an object gets into motion. There are several forces at play and the net worth of it will determine how strongly it will move, the vector direction will determine in what direction it moves. Replace the object with yourself and the forces with the motivational drives.
Conflict between drives
Only focussing on self-actualizing drives, e.g. looking to achieve your goals, and not paying attention to all the other drives is like crossing an intersection of 20 roads while blindfolded. You are gonna get hit and crushed. Do an inventory of all the drives and minimize the negative ones (that are counterproductive to what you want to achieve) while maximizing the positive ones (productive to what you want to achieve).
There is a limit, however, to what you can minimize and maximize. Sacrifices are necessary. How much social discomfort are you willing to go through (rejection, accusations, gossip, etc.)? What amount of biological discomfort are you willing to endure (hunger, physical pain, cognitive dissonance, etc.)? Are your goals worth much to you? What is it that you truly value?
I believe that what you truly value shines through your behavior, it can be seen by your actions in the real world.
I also believe that you are not completely at the mercy of these drives and that you are able to strategize your way towards what you want. Then again, is what you want not also a motivational drive? Isn’t the voice of “the angel on your shoulder” just a verbalization of the self-actualizing drive? Aren’t all the voices in your head just a verbalization of all the drives going on in you? Take for example: “I’m too hungry”, “I hope she will notice me”, “I want to be able to share my gift to the world”, which are verbalizations of respectively biological, social and self-actualizing drives.
Neural Pathways and the Concept of Self
At the same time, all the decisions that you make also form your identity or concept of self. Think about it, anything that you know and are capable of is based on what you thought and how you acted in the past. If we look at the brain we can see neural pathways that have been formed because of all your decisions. A neural pathway is a connection between brain cells (neurons) that makes communication between these cells possible, so that a certain action can happen. The more often this action is repeated, the deeper this pathway is engraved and the stronger the connection becomes. That is also why with anything new you are very bad at it, because the neural connection is still very weak. Your brain is still finding out which connections to make and busy strengthening these.
I believe that your whole concept of self is basically the summation of all these neural pathways. There is no you and no I, only a spaghetti of neurons and dendrites (fancy term for the pathways). You and I are a concept and nothing else. That is also why it’s so hard to break old habits and why people tend to hold onto their sense of identity. It is literally all they know.
How to advance yourself by knowing this
If I didn’t make you have an identity crisis by now, good. Because this also allows you to not take yourself so fucking seriously and go have a fucking go with your life. This means that all the motivational drives that make you not do the thing you want to do (the counterproductive ones), gain far less importance and can finally be looked at from a more rational perspective. In the end, people don’t care a lot about you, because they are too busy with their own bullshit (like you). As you put so much importance on social drives that have a negative effect on what you want to achieve, e.g. “what will they think of me”, you never done the thing you actually wanted to do. Now that you can look at it from a rational perspective (I live in a big ass city, nobody knows me anyway), you are in a better position to advance your goals.
Cut the Bullshit and Make Decisions
When you are dabbling around in your life it means you have not made strong decisions yet about what motivations you allow and which ones you don’t. Take the time to realize you’re not important enough to be a victim of the world and make real decisions on what it is you stand and will strive for.
Do this by making an inventory of all your motivational drives, all of them (even the shit ones). Then decide what it is you will allow and what not. By not allowing certain drives I don’t mean to resist them, because you are still thinking about them, only in a negative way (don’t think of pink elephants). Just let them pass and don’t give them special attention in the moment. Put special attention instead to the ones you do allow.