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What is motivation?

The fullest representations of humanity show people to be curious, vital, and self-motivated. At their best, they are agentic and inspired, striving to learn; extend themselves; master new skills; and apply their talents responsibly. … Yet it is also clear that the human spirit can be diminished or crushed and that individuals sometimes reject growth and responsibility. Regardless of social strata or cultural origin, examples of both children and adults who are apathetic, alienated and irresponsible are abundant. Such non-optimal human functioning can be observed not only in our psychological clinics but also among the millions who, for hours a day, sit passively before their televisions, stare blankly from the back of their classrooms, or wait listlessly for the weekend as they go about their jobs.
Richard M. Ryan and Edward L. Deci, 2000

Motivation is what moves a person to action; to motivate means you provide a motive to do something.  It is useful to think of motivation specifically in terms of the capacity to cope with challenges, setbacks and obstacles. Recently motivation has been seen as a key aspect of emotional intelligence covering the marshalling of feelings of enthusiasm, confidence and persistence.

Motivation can be explained in terms of past experiences, present activities or future goals. There is no consensus about the nature of motivation, or about the best way to analyse it. There is no one convincing theory but there are many models that try to aid our thinking about motivation.


Copyright: Alan McLean, 2006

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