Tuesday, 21 October 2008

What motivates you?

Some people are motivated by financial gain; they chose their uni course based on the question “will this get me a good job when I am done?” and race through their classes with the end goal fixed ever in their thoughts. These people tend to be successful in their chosen fields, if “success” is measured in their local currency. But are they happy?

Other people are goal-oriented in all aspects of their lives, and financial considerations are only a component. One of my sisters is a good example of this sort. When she was young she struggled, as many do, to lose weight, or to keep it off once she lost it. Then she started running. These days she runs the occasional marathon. For her the goal of the upcoming marathon is what drives her daily fitness routine. She understands just what she needs to do each day to prepare her body for the upcoming event, and she does it. However, after one marathon is over, and before she schedules the next, she finds that it is easy to cut back on her fitness regime because there is not a goal towards which she is striving. Needless to say, for her, another race of some sort, even if not a full marathon, gets added to her calendar fairly often, so that she has the impetus to keep pushing herself.

I, on the other hand, am a process oriented person. To me the most important thing in life is the enjoyment of life. Rather than focusing upon end goals, I focus upon enjoying what I am doing at the moment, and choose to do things which I will enjoy. This was a large factor in my extended time as an undergraduate student. Because I wasn’t focused upon a long-term goal such as “what sort of job will this get me”, or “will this lead to fame” I focused upon “what will I enjoy learning this semester?” As a result, I didn’t complain about my homework the way some of my classmates did. They were focused on the end goal, and saw the work as an obstacle to be overcome on their race to the finish line. I saw each assignment as a tool for learning, now, and enjoyed the process of the assignment. This doesn’t mean that I always did all of my assignments. Well do I remember the semester I took calculus, physics, and structural geology in the same semester! Calculus had assignments which needed to be turned in daily, structure had assignments which needed to be turned in twice a week, and physics had “suggested homework” which would be “counted” only if our grade from the exams was “borderline”, in which case the homework could push it up if done well, or pull it down if done poorly or not at all. There being only so many hours in a day, and life holding more of interest to a student than course work, the physics homework didn’t often get done as I focused upon getting everything turned in for the other two. As I result I only managed to pull a “C+” for the physics class. However, I have often thought that it might be nice to go back and take the class again when I didn’t have so many other demands upon my time, because, actually, the story problems are kind of fun.

1 comment:

Silver Fox said...

This is an interesting subject, and worth pondering. I've never been highly financially motivated as far as choosing majors or degrees, have for a long time just "wanted to do geology." As I've gotten farther on in my career (life, age), I think I've become more concerned about that than in the past, but try not to let it affect too many of my decisions. Also, I seem to be less goal-oriented than I used to be - or my goal has changed to something rather larger, like keeping my (very) small family together and happy. Things like that don't always break down into smaller goals very well. I'm not sure about the process-orientation, how that fits with me, but I can be motivated by things that add convenience to my life, things and ways of doing things that make it easier for me to have time for the things I enjoy doing the most. Maybe that's similar. Good things to think about...