Up Close With Dr. E

Our wishes fuel our motivation


Today’s column is about a fundamental force which drives each and every act we do: motivation. What is motivation? Let’s start with the following definition: A force which causes movement. Motivation is like the wind, which is captured by the billowing sails of a ship. When the wind blows, the ship moves forward. When the wind dies down, the ship stops moving.

There are two basic ways to generate motivation: 1. Rewards. You earn a bonus for a job well done. 2. Punishment. Your job hours are cut. Each of these can be delivered internally, or externally. Recent research has shown that internally delivered rewards not only produce the strongest motivation, they also create sustained, or long-term drive. Here are two examples of reward-driven motivation.

Sara, a third grader, receives $5 for each A she earns on her report card. She is motivated by the reward of money. Because her reward comes from outside of her, it is called extrinsic motivation.

Bonita volunteers five hours per week at a center for handicapped children. She reads stories, makes puppets and teaches kids to tie their shoes. What is the force motivating her? She is rewarded by an inner sense of goodness. This is called intrinsic motivation.

Bonita helps children because her actions generate an internally delivered reward. “When I help a child learn how to tie their shoes, my heart jumps with joy.” Bonita has created her very own wind, inside her heart, which can be used to self-motivate. Would you like to learn more about how you can create your own inner drive? To do this, we need to travel back in time to the age of the Vikings.

It is 793 A.D., and you have traveled to the harbor of Stockholm, on the west coast of Sweden. “Welcome, time travelers. I’m Dag Hammer, King of the Vikings. You’ve been brought here to solve a problem. I’m building a fleet of ocean-going vessels, called Long ships, but I do not have enough hands to sail them. You are about to hear speeches from my two captains. Both will try to recruit you. After their speeches, you will vote on which captain is the best to undertake an expedition. You will then join the captain who has the most votes. As a member of his crew, you will set sail on a course heading due west. Your task is to discover the new world, called America.”

1. Captain Gunnar Swenson: Welcome to my family’s ship-building factory. Let your eyes feast on the massive new tree saws whose metal teeth rip raw planks at a speed 10 times that of the old saws. Smell the clean piney perfume of fresh cut spruce.

Now, I ask you, what are you living for? Is it fame, glory or wild adventure? No. Even now, as we talk, the great gears of change are grinding: our birthrate has tripled, our once tiny village is now a city, our wives plead with us to spend more time at home. I know what you are living for. Security. And I can give you that. Here is my offer: Each one of you who vote for me will receive 10 ingots of gold and 10 ingots of silver. In addition, if you die at sea, your entire share will be given to your families. Thank you.

2. Captain Sten Grytt: Welcome. My name is Sten Grytt and, unlike Gunnar, I am neither young nor wealthy. So, I will not offer you riches. Instead, I’m going to remind you of that which you once knew, but have forgotten. I speak of what lies dormant inside your hearts, frozen under a thick crust of ice. My words, like the shimmering blue rays of the midsummer sun, are meant to warm your hearts, thereby releasing them to flow back to the essence of our heritage: The Baltic Sea and its mother who beget her, the vast and unbounded great Western Ocean. And then, you shall remember who you are.

We are not farmers, poets or priests. Nor are we merchants or scholars. We are Viking explorers, who sail in great Long ships, captained by courage. Gunnar asks you, “What are you living for?” I ask you, “what are you willing to die for?” Gunnar promises you security purchased by bricks of metal. I promise this: if you survive the hardships of the long voyage, the person you were, will be transformed into another person, the one your fathers and mothers said you could become!! Thank you.

Conclusion: The first captain, Gunnar, used gold and silver as motivators. This is an example of EM, but EM’s have two pitfalls: goals are set by the King, not the sailors; EM only increases short-term drive. The second captain, Grytt, knew that the expedition required long-term drive, and that each individual sailor needed deeply personal reasons for risking their lives. He used IM’s.

What motivates the human heart is what we wish could happen in our lives. Our wishes guide our dreams, and our dreams yearn to be turned into reality.

The content of this article is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for treatment by a professional. The characters in this story are not real. Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.


Dr. Richard Elghammer contributes his column each week to the Journal Review.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here