Friday, September 25, 2009
Is it worth the effort Part 2
A joke that we've seen many times in film and TV, is a situation in which a overly serious actor says to the director "What's my motivation?" The situation generally involves no motivation or obvious motivation such as slipping on a banana peel or falling out of an airplane.
Motivation can come from within or without and is therefore one of the great practical philosophical questions. It is the practical embodiment of "What is the meaning of life?" In solving my own problem of lack of motivation, I'm wondering whether it's possible to use ideas from those who motivate others to motivate one's self. For example, there are those who sell their motivational ability to corporations to motivate the sales staff. There are also books like "Who moved my cheese?" There are religious leaders who motivate people to act more morally. These miss my target in that they are centered on gain in some form or another (reward, reputation, competition or heaven). An example of transferring these notions to the self might be when I promise myself a piece of pie after I complete a chore. The trouble with this is that I'll weigh 300 pounds and become a diabetic, if I use this motivational technique too much. (I know that Ira's bicycling group ends their ride with a stop at Panera's for coffee, danish and conversation. Is this what gets them on their bikes from a cozy bed on a chilly morning?)
Community organizing is another well documented form of motivation. I went to a summary of Saul Alinsky's theories about motivating the masses. It's fascinating reading.
"But it is not enough for the organizer to be in solidarity with the people. He must also, said Alinsky, cultivate unity against a clearly identifiable enemy; he must specifically name this foe, and “singl[e] out” precisely who is to blame for the “particular evil” that is the source of the people’s angst. In other words, there must be a face associated with the people’s discontent. That face, Alinsky taught, “must be a personification, not something general and abstract like a corporation or City Hall.” Rather, it should be an individual such as a CEO, a mayor, or a president."
Can I motivate myself to get out my oil paints and finish the painting that's been sitting half finished for a year, using Alinsky's methods? Can I fool myself into believing that the ghost of Picasso is preventing me from succeeding? Should I hang his picture on the wall of the garage with a knife in his heart? Maybe. Maybe I can get back to my ukulele by targeting the great Ota-san as my enemy. In some psychological sense he is. In Hawaii, I was shopping for an ukulele when Ota-san walked into the shop and started strumming. His masterful playing of this humble instrument was daunting. It was obvious that no matter how much I might practice, I would never reach his level. Alinsky has a lesson concerning that situation. You must motivate the group toward projects in which the probability of success is nearly certain in order to build confidence. (Using Ira again, he is virtually certain of finishing his morning ride and there is no competition involved.)
I'd appreciate any ideas you may have concerning how to move from theory (or daydreaming) to action. Here in my trailer out in the woods of Michigan I have my paints, my violin, my ukulele, my Spanish lessons, my Italian lessons and my book about Einstein. However, all I managed to accomplish yesterday was lay some traps for the trespassing mouse who's stealing my food. Perhaps I was able to do that, because I could visualize him as my enemy! -Joel