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Motivation – Illuminating Conflicts

Those are useful questions Larry. All four of the aspects of motivation we have discussed to this point operate together, as you have indicated, and yes, the motivation to sustain what we already have can be a hidden factor. In my personal experience and in my coaching work what becomes apparent is not that “there something we love about our misery, our confusion, [and] our pain;” rather, there is sometimes a hidden aspect to motivation that involves preserving what we already have.

If a person is motivated to extinguishing the discomfort of being obese, and motivated to obtain a new body and life, and motivated to avoid the certainty of weight related illnesses and associated miseries, yet there is an unconscious or conscious motive to sustain some hidden gain, such as safety, it will be hard for them to move forward.  (We do not know if this was a factor in Karen’s case, and you are correct in pointing that out.)

Why don’t we look at another example. Suppose a person is uncomfortable driving their current car, and they are thinking about making a purchase of an expensive new car or truck. They may feel drawn to possess the new “toy.” They may want to “obtain” status, good feelings, and the experience of driving an exciting vehicle. They may believe that obtaining the new vehicle will lead to accomplishing additional valued outcomes such as attracting a mate or improving business.

On the extinguish side of the equation, they want to be rid of the uncomfortable feeling they experience driving their old car. On the avoid side of the equation, they may want to keep their total and monthly payments low.

They may also have additional values that they are motivated to sustain. Perhaps the old car posses certain features they would not like to lose, XM radio, a sunroof, whatever the case may be. Possibly, the older vehicle may fulfill other more abstract values, such as the freedom they feel when they stay completely out of debt. Or perhaps, they may lose access to valued recreational activities if they take on an additional payment.

Whether we wish to motivate ourselves to act or motivate others to act, it is helpful to look at all four domains: motivation to obtain, sustain, avoid, and extinguish. Using this approach, a car sales person might ask their customer, “What does your old car give you or make possible that you would like keep even after making your purchase?” Are their certain features? Is there anything related to your lifestyle that we must preserve?

We will want to explore the relationship between these four domains of motivations further, because there is much more we can offer our readers, but in our next post, I would like to introduce the fifth aspect: the motivation to express.

In the four aspects we have discussed to this point, both the direction of motivation and the source of energy moving us forward are outside of us – not so with the motivation to express.