What motivates you? Do you make a stand for your causes because it is the right thing to do? Or is it because it makes you feel good about yourself?
Unlike animal instincts, human motivation is orchestrated by an intricate set of emotions intertwined with self-perceptions. While there are numerous theories on motivation, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs remains the gold standard because it encapsulates our intrinsic and extrinsic needs — fulfilling desires and averting fears.
Desire is a powerful motivating force because it speaks of our intrinsic need for identity. Ancient conquerors from Genghis Khan to Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great each carried a different vision for their empires, yet they were all motivated by something very personal. Whether it was Khan’s vengeance, Caesar’s patriotism, or Alexander’s personal ambition, their perceived rights to rule are fully embodied in their identities that drove them to power.
Soldiers ‘fight’ for their country to serve the greater good. CEOs ‘fight’ for their existence in the boardroom. Politicians ‘fight’ for their constituents because it would otherwise be political suicides. In the public domain, we grumble on social media or partake in civil discourse (a.k.a. protest) to ‘take’ a stance; there is no desire to really ‘fight’ until things get personal. This is where fear comes in.
Fear, unlike desire, is both a motivating and paralyzing force. Fear brings out our extrinsic need for personal safety — it jumpstarts our defense mechanism. One could argue it is not fear but desire to choose what is safe for ourselves. Think of it this way. Fear is just the other side of the same coin.
Fear is most potent when it is imminent. Our fight-flight response is a limiting biological function, and too much of it blurs our perception of reality. An extreme form of reality distortion is when our psychological response to traumatic events leads to “alterations in physiological arousal and reactivity” (a.k.a. PTSD).
That’s why it is easy to let emotions overrun us when we feel threatened, regardless the threat is perceived or real, physical or psychological.
It is a misconception that brave soldiers carry a mind of steel. The truth is, their fears are as real as ours, only that they learn to shift their fears into objectives. But the biggest mental roadblock we can create for ourselves is the fear of failure — we can’t win if we feel doomed from the start.
People from war-torn countries lose their will to fight because they have mentally succumbed to defeat.
How to carry on a ‘fighting spirit’ brings Willpower into the picture. The ability to act upon desires demands more than operational skills. Willpower enables us to resist temptations and overcome hurdles. The belief that self-control alone can drive action is a fallacy; grit is what it takes to sustain willpower.
Ever tried to lose weight or change bad habits but failed miserably? You are not alone.
In her book “Grit — the Power of Passion and Perseverance,” Professor Angela Duckworth posits that grit comprises passion and perseverance. Apply Maslow’s theory to the equation, and we can see how grit is unleashed when passion blossoms because it satisfies our intrinsic need for self-fulfillment. Passion takes commitment to another level, yielding the ultimate experience in perseverance — the power of embodiment.
Ancient philosopher Confucius once said: “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” No mountain is bigger than a passionate heart.
Previously Published on medium
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