Motivation begins with an affinity for something. It’s like finding a new love. The most important thing at the beginning is for an individual to feel an emotional connection to something. Albert Einstein’s fascination with physics began when he was just five and ill in bed. His father brought him a present: a small magnetic compass. For hours, Einstein lay in bed, entranced by the needle that infallibly pointed north. When he was close to seventy, Einstein said, “This experience made a deep and lasting impression on me. Something deeply hidden had to be behind things.”

Psychologist Howard Gardner believes such childhood moments are key to understanding creative lives. “Without that initial love and emotional connection, the chances of doing good creative work later on are minimal,” Gardner says. “But the initial intoxication is not enough in itself. It moves you to learn more about the thing that first interests you and to discover its complexities, difficulties, strengths, and obscurities.”

From that initial love comes persistence and powerful motivation. People who are passionate and motivated about what they do don’t give up easily. When frustration comes, they persist. When people resist their innovation, they keep going. As Thomas Edison said, “Sticking to it is genius!”

Age Does Not Matter

Pablo Picasso once said, “Age only matters when one is aging. Now that I have arrived at a great age, I might as well be twenty.” The motivating spirit may actually gain strength and vigor with age.

Bill Fitzpatrick rediscovered his creativity late in life, proving that our innate talents are always there. In his retirement years, he took up painting, a passion from his youth. Now in his eighties, Fitzpatrick has won many awards for his watercolors. “I know too many people who just sit around waiting for the undertaker,” Fitzpatrick says. “I think people who are going to retire should get involved in something that takes their time, effort, and thought. I’m eighty, but I don’t think I’m eighty; I feel like a stiff, hurting fifty. It’s important to live like that; otherwise, you’re vegetating.”

Bill Fitzpatrick watercolor
Bill Fitzpatrick watercolor

As a child, Bill Fitzpatrick dreamed of becoming an artist. However, like many during the Depression, he took the best job he could find and worked for thirty-one years as a driver for Nabisco. Despite his long hours, he always found moments to paint. He chose watercolors because they were easy to pick up and put down. When he retired, he became more serious about his art and started entering shows.

“People say, ‘If only I had the talent to draw.’ They’ve got it,” Fitzpatrick says. “Once you’ve got the urge and you start, it’s all mechanical after that. The only thing that isn’t mechanical is the creativity you use to solve your problems.” Creativity is essential in life; it allows you to try different approaches and naturally leads to mistakes. But if you have the courage to stick with it despite your mistakes, you’ll find the answers. “I keep going, and I don’t have time to think about my troubles. I’m having a ball. Once you’ve lost that, you might as well pack it in. The main thing is, just don’t grow up!”

Keep your existing connections with friends strong and try to make new ones daily. Our genes are wired for deep, rewarding relationships with supportive friends, family, and life partners. We are most motivated when our relationships are fulfilling, deep, and rewarding. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. The less we connect with others, the unhappier and more pessimistic we become. For a more fulfilling and motivating life, connect with people who share your interests, hobbies, and motivations.

Here are some tips for reviving a motivating life involving others: Shop at places where people know you, ask about you, pay attention to your needs, and make time to chat. Avoid shopping online whenever possible. Walk in parks or other natural areas, drive on scenic roads, and ignore concrete highways. Involve plants, live human voices rather than computerized ones, neighbors, and travel agents instead of websites. Involve animals in your life rather than plastics, computer monitors, and keyboards. This lifestyle is more likely to increase human connections and fulfill relationships. At the same time, don’t forget your autonomy. Build boundaries, not barriers. Maintain control over your decisions and do not let others make decisions for you.

Making New Relationships and Keeping Autonomy

How do we find a new potential friend or mate? Meeting new people can be scary. Fear of rejection or ending up in another disappointing or hurtful relationship holds us back. Psychologists believe we are sometimes programmed not to see potential connections, calling this “McDonald’s Law of selective blindness.” If you were an alien traveling on an American highway, you would probably not notice the golden arches along the route; they’d just be part of the passing blur. But if you had an encounter with a Big Mac and either loved or hated it, the next time you saw the golden arches, you would notice them.

We suggest finding groups and associations of people who share your deep motivations and interests. This is the only time we recommend using the web for a search. Once you think you have found the right person, the most important thing is to send all the right signals that foster mutual understanding, empower trust and support, and most importantly, ensure an inspiring and motivating time together.

Your true value-based self-esteem comes from harmonious interactions with people you trust, from their actions, and particularly from their praise. You need to feel that they value you and appreciate being with you. This comes from being with people who are prepared to meet your needs.

Social Connections and Happiness

According to Professor Grinde, research on happiness often focuses on finding factors in society and in individual personalities that correlate with happiness. Myers and Diener (1996) suggest four aspects of personality that consistently correlate with happiness. Grinde says:

“For one, extroverts are happier, presumably due to the strong correlation between happiness and the quality of bonds with friends and family, where the marriage bond appears particularly important (Veenhoven, 2001). An alternative way of depicting the importance of affiliations is to look at measures such as ‘social participation’ and ‘social support’. Humans have evolved a rare combination of pair-bonding and highly social behavior, and the biological ‘glue’ that sticks both couples and society together is based on emotions. It should therefore not be surprising that when the social aspects of life do not function satisfactorily, there will be an emotional burden and a concomitant reduction in happiness.”


The fourth correlate reported by Myers and Diener (1996) is the sense of ‘personal control of life,’ closely related to the importance of ‘freedom’ for happiness (Veenhoven, 1996). People tend to be happier in societies that treasure individual freedom compared to more collectivist or confining regimes (Veenhoven, 1999). The possibility of taking charge of one’s life seems important, and societies that demand strict rules of conduct limit personal freedom and reduce the feeling of control. In the tribal communities of our Stone Age ancestors, social ties and participation were stronger, but they were adapted to our innate gregariousness and thus not felt to be confining.

With the advance of large-scale societies, there came a need to install social obligations between people who did not have personal ties. The typical solution was to use some form of authority to enforce principles of behavior. While being considerate to those you are emotionally attached to is natural and rewarding and does not require coercion, the enforcement of rules limits personal freedom and reduces the feeling of control. A relevant question is whether it is possible to induce the right types of emotional bonds between individuals who do not grow up in a close-knit tribe. It may be possible for a society to have citizens retain a feeling of personal control while behaving in a manner conducive to society’s best interests, thus relying less on authority.

The concept of flow—the optimal experience—as described by Csikszentmihalyi (1991) relates to the notions of rewards and a positive default mood. To obtain the experience of ‘flow,’ a person should engage in tasks that are meaningful and absorb them completely. In the evolutionary perspective, this seems related to the statement that behavior and mental activity in tune with inherent tendencies will be supported by the brain and are thus expected to be pleasant. Moreover, keeping the mind engaged in this way may help the individual avoid discord.

Continue Third Chapter Section 4