Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Misnomer of Inspiration

In a recent blog I spoke of peoples' draw to Obama being in large part due to his ability to inspire the people around him. I heard multiple times towards the end of the campaign that some were voting for Obama because he inspired them and they expected him to inspire others to be better people. I labeled this to be a misnomer for several reasons. Personally, the only thing Obama has inspired me to do is move to Ireland where they have cool accents, leprechauns, and lower taxes. But I digress.

Anybody who has taken a cursory course in Psychology has heard the terms extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. Summed up, extrinsic motivation is being motivated by outside sources such as rewards or to avoid pain while intrinsic motivation is an internal process when you do something because you enjoy it or because you believe it is the right thing to do.
My contention with Obama's inspiration of motivation actually has little to do with him and has more to do with the mindset of the American people. Don't get me wrong. Obama was very wise to tap into the idea of acting as an external motivator but I think he should just as readily tap into people's evaluations of self-worth that help or hinder intrinsic growth.

The reason why Barak never inspired me is because I am very intrinsically motivated. Don't get me wrong, I love a pat on the back and to be recognized for the things I do. The difference is , I would do them even if there was not any external payoff. Now, I know a few of my psychological buddies might now be taking issue with the separation I have just made. It is an implication that those inspired by Obama were lacking in intrinsic motivation and would fail to move forward without the dangling carrot stick. Ehhh somewhat my point but not all of it. You see, intrinsic motivation has been tied to the concept of self-worth. Those with higher levels of self-worth tend to be more intrinsically motivated.

So how does one increase self-worth when their world is figuratively in the crapper? How does one move from needing someone to inspire and push them, to becoming self-motivated to institute change in their own life?

First, take a realistic determination of your value. This is best done with the help of close friends, co-workers and a counselor/therapist. Most people requiring external motivation rate their worth far lower than what it actually is and do not realize how many people actually view them.
Second: once you realize that, even if it is one person or minuscule, someone loves and depends on you, you can begin to understand your value and importance. Knowing that you are worthy in ANY capacity is foundational. Because if you find yourself worthy in one role you can expand that to others. If you have a child that sees you as a provider and nurturer, you can take that ability to less fortunate children who do not currently experience the same love and devotion. If you find you are good at building or creating things, you can expand that to help an organization like Habitat for Humanity.
Third, begin to find joy and appreciation in those areas where you are instrumental or matter.
By now I may actually have you secretly inspiring others. But, at the same time as you are increasing your self-worth you are also inspiring yourself to try new things as well as expanding your abilities in areas what you are already familiar with. The next step to take is to use that same new realization of intrinsic motivation and try utilizing it in less familiar areas. Now that you find people enjoy your ability to cook and you have started cooking for the homeless, try taking that same energy for serving and apply it to learning a new skill to better your life so you can then better others. For example learning the task of financial planning so you can create a successful budget for yourself and then teach that skill to the homeless you cook for.

You see, the misnomer of inspiration is that it must come from outside of ourselves. Each of us has the somewhere within us the inherent ability to inspire ourselves for change. The thing often missing is the understanding that we are worthy enough to create that very change.

[refrences: A Conservative's Support of President Obama; Change "You" Can Believe In]

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