Defining Modern Motivation: Not Enough To Be But To Become?

Let’s talk about motivation and think critically, not just positive. Your Social Media feed is full of “power of attraction” and “thoughts manifesting” pep-videos and statements from 21st-century gurus. But how do we know which information to trust? It is very tempting to take all of the positive balms for ears for granted but what is pseudoscience and what arguments are ‘safe’ to apply? In this article, we will talk about “the industry of happiness” behind the YouTube curtains and go back to Ancient Times to define motivation.

Where are our lost hopes going?

The 21st century offers the entire world of possibilities in one click. No matter what our needs are, the table is set with opportunities. I just need to put a finger on the “black mirror” to make a decision, and the magic will happen instantly.

Frankly speaking, we can all agree that there are so many benefits that technology offers to us today. The major one is saving our precious time.

But is the main purpose really to make our lives easier? Or to cause addiction to these services and treat them like an extended part of their lives without which is impossible to human existence continuing?


Manufacturing happiness

The term “the industry of happiness” addresses the most dangerous side of the recent advance in technology. William Davis described this term in his book of the same name.

Davis points out that an important problem in the modern world is the imposed utilitarian belief.

It dates to the 19th century and defines happiness as a concept that has deviated from being a deeply personal, inherently individual experience to an objective, quantifiable phenomenon.

It can lead us to thinking that our happiness can be measured and bought like a product on the world market.

One of the reasons why the exploitation of our lost hopes is now possible is the increasing dispersion of the eclectic, widespread “new age” movement.

Whenever you see key words or phrases such as “the power of attraction”, “thoughts manifesting”, “motivated every day”, “becoming your best version”, or “reaching the vortex”, you should be aware that somebody is playing games with your deeply intimate feelings.

These theories are questionable. They are not based on scientific grounds and analysis but on an epistemological, subjective attitude that can be misused easily.

Low-budget solutions are constantly available online, offering innumerable channels, books, courses, famous TV shows and motivational videos. All of them are racing to answer the question – “How to become happy?”.

However, under the pressure of social-economic circumstances, “the industry of happiness” exploits human hopes by offering simplified homemade theories.

They move people away from reality and locking them into a defined zone of their own responsibility and guiltiness. All our lost hopes are moving down a long road to being transformed through motivation and easy satisfaction. But the final effect is often a punch in the face.

It is not enough “to be but to become”

One of the most common ways to get motivated is by watching motivational videos from gurus of the 21st century on the YouTube platform.

There are several reasons why people are absorbed by this content so much every day. The target group is very broad, the content is free, people don’t need to put any effort into watching it.

There is the illusion of work is increasing proportionally, and a simplified formula of success is there so everybody can use it.

In the last analysis, the public is getting some hope while the quantity of dopamine in the brain is rising and demanding, “I want some more, sir”.

The play button soon turns, and the shows move on into soft procrastination. Instead of working, people are watching while delaying action. The main message of the motivational videos is that happiness is inside of us, and we are the first and only cause of its incarnation.

Let’s stop now for a second in an order to try to discover together what is hiding behind the term motivation.


Motivation = movere = to move

Modern science describes motivation as humans’ inner desire to accomplish actions that are important for us. Above all, actions that allow us to satisfy unmet needs.

As Psychology Today states, motivation is literally the desire to do things. Those facts are clear to everyone even without any elaboration.

Therefore, if we go back deep into history, we will see that motivation is an ancient term derived from the Latin word movere which means “to move”.

I decided to approach this analysis by thinking, as the ancient Greek philosophers did 26 centuries ago about the nature of human beings.

I have discovered that the earliest understanding of motivation recognized a combination of internal and external processes.

They aroused an inner enthusiasm and strengthened the will to aim at achieving fully the individual potential which is bestowed upon any given person at birth.

From this ancient perspective, it is possible to conclude that the modern concept of motivation is relatively weak. It relies on a one-sided perspective where the only factor underlying our acts arises from human nature without taking numerous external factors into account.


From possibility to reality

Aristotle defined motivation as a connection between potentiality and actuality. Every single thing in the world had the potential to become, but without realization until the potentiality became transformed to actuality.

From possibility to reality was, ultimately, the crux of the matter. This is the main principle of causality. Motivation is the driving force whose source lies in the causes of our action, the ultimate goal of which is satisfying consequences.

Thus every action must be due to one or another of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or appetite.

Aristotle knew that the truth about individual human beings’ actions is everything that is inside of them and out of them.

Awareness of the specific environment VS Motivation

American psychologist Abraham Maslow claimed that the development of any given personality should be observed in awareness of the specific environment.

This very environment prescribes restrictions and conditions on complete self-affirmation, with the addition of the genetic and biological structure of the person. It is not enough to be, but to become the embodiment of the natural potential under the pertinent social-historical circumstances.

In contrast, there is a totally different perspective that the new age is giving to us. It positions that everything is simple because the individual is the only one who is responsible for his or her life.

It can be summed up in one sentence: any given life is about the individual’s decisions and the consequences of those decisions.

Can you resist the implied pressure while reading the preceding sentences? An illustration of those lines would be a finger pointing at us all the time.


The only motivation is to work with dedication and passion

It is not hard to see the consequences of modern motivational philosophy. Nowadays, people are under pressure to be the most successful, the happiest, and the best version of themselves.

But the problem is, as we might see it, that human nature cannot be programmed by simple admonitions.

Statements which are more like encouragement than the more important things they pretend to be. Black Mirror describes these admonitions realistically by asking one of the most important questions – When did we change our humanity for technology?

The most beautiful answers to the challenge of really being inspired and not procrastinating is in the well know world literature.

I suggest considering, among many others, a philosopher who was famous as an anthropological pessimist, Arthur Schopenhauer.

Arthur Schopenhauer believed firmly that the individual could achieve aesthetic joy only by focusing his life so intensely that he would forget about his existence at any given moment.

That means that if the individual is concentrating on working on something that he or she really likes and finds meaningful, the pain of life will go away. All those questions that multiply during phases of procrastination will disappear. Consequently, the individual will achieve happiness and joy in living.

It seems that there is no better way than to be active every day, no matter how you feel.

This is an approach that eliminates procrastination, excuses, and fake motivation. The best time is to start is now. Don’t forget that if you don’t achieve the best results, you should turn around and see the circumstances under which you are living.

The only motivation is to work, with dedication and passion. Everything else is part of the industry of happiness.

Photos: Shutterstock

Read more about positive thinking.

Positive Thinking and the Brain

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