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 some kind of 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 the way 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 Gardner believes such childhood moments are one key to understanding creative lives. “Without that initial love and emotional connection, I think that the chances of doing good creative work later on are minimal,” Gardner says. “But the initial intoxication is not enough in itself. It essentially moves you to take steps to learn more about the thing that first interests you and to discover its complexities, difficulties, strengths, and obscurities.”
From that initial love of doing something comes persistence and powerful motivation. People who care passionately and are motivated about what they are doing don’t give up easily. When frustration comes, they persist. When people are resistant to their innovation, they keep going anyway. 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, far from declining with age, may actually gain strength and vigor.
Bill Fitzpatrick rediscovered his creativity late in life. He is proof that what we are born with is always there. Bill, in his retirement years, took up painting, something he had loved as a young man. 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,” says Fitzpatrick. “I think people who are going to retire should get involved in something that’s going to take their time, their effort, and their thought. “I’m eighty, but I don’t think I’m eighty; I’m sort of a stiff, hurtin’ fifty. I think it’s important to live like that; otherwise, you’re vegetating.”
As a child, Fitzpatrick thought he would become an artist. But then the Depression came. Like so many others, he took the best job he could find. And so, for thirty-one years, he worked for Nabisco as a driver. But through it all, he would work away at his painting, finding spare moments in the long working hours. That was why he began painting watercolors: they were easy to pick up and put down. When he retired, he became more serious and started entering shows.
“People say, ‘If only I had the talent to draw.’ They’ve got it, I tell them. Because 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 think out your problems.” Creativity is very important in one’s life; it gives you diversity. Being creative allows you to try different ways of doing things. And being creative, you naturally make lots of mistakes. But if you have the courage to stick with it despite your mistakes, you’ll get the answer. “I keep going, and I don’t have time to think about my troubles. I’m having a ball. Once you’ve lost that, I think you may as well pack it in. The main thing is, just don’t grow up!”
Keep your existing connections with friends stronger and try to make new ones daily.
Our genes are wired for a deep and rewarding relationship 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 cooperate and connect with our own kind, the unhappier and more pessimistic we become. For a deeper, more fulfilling, and motivating life, you must connect with people who share your interests, hobbies, and motivations.
Here are some tips on how to revive a motivating life involving others. Shop at places where people know you, ask you how you are, pay attention to your special needs, and make the time to chat with you. Stop shopping in front of computers. If you can, walk in parks or other natural areas, drive on scenic roads, and just ignore concrete highways. Involve plants, live human beings voices rather than computerized voices, neighbors, travel agents, and not a web site, and involve animals in your life rather than plastics, computer monitors, and keyboards. This way of life is more likely to increase your human connections and fulfill your relationships. At the same time don’t forget your own autonomy. Build boundaries, not barriers. By keeping your autonomy, we mean that you keep control over the decisions you make and do not let others make those decisions for you.
Making New Relationships and keeping autonomy
How do we find a new potential friend or mate? Going out to meet new people can be scary. Fear of rejection or winding up in another disappointing or hurtful relationship keeps us all back. Psychologists believe we are just sometimes programmed not to see them. They call 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 say you had an encounter with a Big Mac and either loved it 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. Remember, once you think you might have found the right person, the most important thing is to send all the right signals that foster mutual understanding, empower both trust and support, and most importantly, assure an inspiring and motivating time when 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. It comes from being with people who are prepared to meet your needs.
According to Professor Grinde, much of the research on happiness has been in the direction of finding factors in society and in the personalities of individuals that correlate with the score on happiness assessment scales. In a recent review, Myers and Diener (1996) suggest four aspects of personality that correlate rather consistently with happiness. Grinde says:
“For one, extroverts are happier, a finding that is presumably related to the strong correlates between happiness and the quality of bonds with friends and family, where the marriage bond appears to be 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 the couples and the tribe (or society) together is based on emotions. It should therefore not be surprising to find that when the social aspects of life do not function satisfactorily, there will be an emotional burden and a concomitant reduction of happiness. As to two of the other personality correlates of Myers and Diener (1996), liking oneself and optimism, it is tempting to suggest that these traits may to some extent be a question of whether the individual has been able to retain, or find, the default state of positive mood.”
The fourth correlate reported by Myer and Diener (1996) is the sense of ‘personal control of life’, a factor that is presumably closely related to the importance for happiness of freedom’ (Veenhoven, 1996). It is interesting to note that people tend to be happier in societies that treasure the freedom of the individual, compared to more collectivist or confining regimes (Veenhoven, 1999). The possibility of taking charge of one’s life seems important, and societies that demand narrow rules of conduct obviously leave less room for personal independence. In the tribal communities of our Stone Age ancestors, the social ties and the concomitant social participation and feelings of responsibility were probably stronger, but they were adapted to our measure of innate gregariousness and thus not felt to be confining or oppressive.
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. The point is that while being considerate to those you are emotionally attached to is natural and rewarding and does not require coercion, the enforcement of rules of conduct does limit personal freedom and thus reduce 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 the setting of a close-knit tribe. Theoretically, it may be possible for a society to have the citizens retain a feeling of personal control and at the same time behave in a manner conducive to the best interests of the society; the question is whether the innate gregarious emotions can be exploited to divert people towards behavior, that is, for the good of the community, and thus allow societies to rely less on authority.
The concept of flow—the optimal experience—as described by Csikszentmihalyi (1991) is presumably related to the notions of rewards and a positive default mood. To obtain the experience of ‘flow, a person should engage himself, to the extent that he may be totally absorbed, in tasks that appear meaningful. In the evolutionary perspective, this seems to be related to the previously made statement that behavior and mental activity that are 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 also help the individual avoid discord.” (Grinde, December 2001, Happiness IN THE Perspective OF Evolutionary Psychology)