Definition of motivation
Motivation is an internal force that drives towards achieving a goal. This
force is made up of factors capable of provoking, choosing, maintaining and
directing the behavior towards the attainment of a certain objective.
The most intense impulse is the
survival in pure state when one fights for life, followed by the motivations
that derive from the satisfaction of the primary and secondary necessities:
hunger, thirst, shelter, reproduction, security, protection…
Theories on motivation and behavior
In order to explain the relationship motivation-behavior, it is important
to start from some theoretical positions that presuppose the existence of
certain laws or principles based on the accumulation of empirical observations.
Phases of the
If we focus on motivation as a process, we can define several phases:
- Homeostasis. In other words, at a certain point
the human organism remains in a state of equilibrium.
- Stimulus. It is
when a stimulus appears and generates a need.
- Need. This need
(unsatisfied yet) causes a state of tension.
- State of tension. The tension produces an
impulse that gives rise to a behavior or action.
- Behavior. The behavior, when activated, is aimed
at satisfying that need. Reach the
- Satisfaction. If the need is satisfied, the
organism returns to its equilibrium state, until another stimulus is present.
All satisfaction is thus a release of tension that allows the return to the previous
- When a need is not satisfied within a reasonable
time, it can lead to certain reactions.
- Disorganization of behavior (illogical behavior
and no apparent explanation).
(physical, verbal, etc.)
- Emotional reactions (anxiety, affliction,
nervousness and other manifestations such as insomnia, circulatory and digestive
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7 ways to create the
As a parent you have a
decisive role in your child’s motivation. To strive for what you undertake,
both at home and at school and in sports.
that I’m very smart, it’s that I persevere longer.» It is revealing that
one of the greatest geniuses of our time has explained his success in this way. Einstein acknowledged that he owed
his achievements to his incredible perseverance, and not only to his superior
intelligence. Einstein was motivated to succeed. At the end of life everyone is responsible
for their successes and mistakes, but during childhood and adolescence, parents
have in our hands the possibility of creating an environment favorable to effort
- Have proper expectations. Do not think that with
three years you will know the multiplication table.
- Help your child set goals. To say goals: Is that
you have to write them at the beginning of the course, goals that are real,
measurable and specific. Better to say:
«I will try to lend the ball at least twice in the week» that
«I’ll be a good friend.»
- Find different ways to make your child
understand that what he is proposing is for you very important as a parent: in
school, in sports and at home.
- Discover and support the learning style that best fits your child. If you are a hearing student you will learn
better by listening, if you are a visual student reading or watching images on
your computer, if you are an active student you will learn better by
making models, exercising, practicing.
- Speak with a language
that encourages, not praising. Most parents like to praise with expressions
like, «good job!» or «This is great!» But according to experts, encouraging
children has greater effect on motivation than praise. What’s the
difference? Praise rewards the result,
the work; encouragement rewards the effort, the way. The big difference is that
the words of encouragement lead the child to evaluate himself in a positive way. Encouraging a child
makes his motivation increase dramatically
- Accompany your child in learning. Participate.
Let your child see that it’s fun to learn for you too. Visit with your child The Science Museum, or
the library, or the zoo, or a painting museum of Show enthusiasm with all the
beautiful things you see together.
- Encourage your child’s strength. It’s one of the
duties as parents.
Parents should know how to ignite the
spark that drives the child to seek triumphs from within, a desire that cannot
be created with any amount of external rewards, threats or pleas. Motivation is truly the secret to helping
children achieve their full potential and parents should learn to use it.
Give your child a special reward once
in a while, but at other times reward them with a big smile or a hug and a
positive gesture. Or say, «You must feel very proud of yourself. Look at
all you’ve accomplished.»
We are born with a very small
instinctive baggage, with an inherited organic equipment, but, it is the social
culture (validity, moral norms, laws, customs, ideologies and religion) who
shapes our behavior and shapes our needs.
External social influences are combined with the person’s internal
capacities and contribute to generate the personality of the individual, his
needs, his main and changing motivation priority for every moment of his life.
So it happens that what a person
considers as an important reward, another person may consider it useless. For example, a glass of water is more
motivating for a person who has spent many hours walking in a desert, than for
someone who has taken three cold drinks during a football game.
Likewise, having an important reward
in front of several individuals, is not guarantee of the same motivation. The reason is that the reward itself will not
motivate the person unless you feel the deployed effort would lead you to get
That’s why each person differs in the
way they take advantage of their chances to succeed. A task that a person might
consider to give him rewards, may be seen by another as impossible.
The mechanism by which society shapes people to
behave in a certain way can be outlined:
- The stimulus
- The person responds to the stimulus.
- The society, through a member with a higher
hierarchy (father, chief, priest, etc.), tries to teach, judges the behavior
and decides whether it is appropriate or not.
- The reward (incentive or prize) is given if the
behavior is judged positive. If it is deemed inadequate, it provides a penalty
- The reward increases the likelihood that in the
future, before similar stimuli, the prefixed response will be repeated. Each time this happens a reinforcement and therefore increase the
likelihood of the occurrence of the desired behavior. Once this behavior is
established, it is said that there has been learning.
- Punishment is less effective; it decreases the
likelihood that this behavior will recur to similar stimuli.
Learning is about acquiring new types
of current or potential behavior.
Once you have learned something, this
becomes part of our behavioral repertoire.
shows a series of needs that concern all
individuals and are organized in a structural form (like a pyramid), according
to a biological determination caused by the genetic constitution of the
individual. In the lower part of the
structure, the most priority and in the upper part the least priority needs are
According to the hierarchical
structure by Maslow the needs are:
- Physiological needs: These needs are the
first priority of the individual and are related to their survival. Within these we find, among others,
necessities like the homeostasis (effort of the organism to maintain a normal
and constant state of blood irrigation), feeding, quenching thirst, maintenance
of a suitable body temperature, there are also other types of needs such as
sex, maternity or complete activities.
- Security needs: With its satisfaction
we seek the creation and maintenance of a state of order and security. Within these we find the need for stability,
to have order and to have protection, among others. These needs are related to
the fear of individuals to lose control of their lives and are intimately
linked to fear, fear of the unknown, anarchy…
- Social needs: Once the
physiological and safety needs are met, the motivation is given by social
needs. These are related to the need of
the company of the human being, with its affective aspect and its social
participation. Within these needs we
have the communication between people, empathy, affection, living in community,
belonging to a group and feeling accepted…
- Recognition needs: Also known as the needs of ego or self-esteem. This group lies in the need for everyone to feel
appreciated, to have prestige and to stand out within their social group, as
well as self-assessment and respect for themselves.
- Self-improvement needs: Also known as
realizations that become the ideal for each individual. At this level the human being needs to
transcend, make an impression, perform his own work, develop his talent to the
Adler’s theory: Striving for perfectionism
Alfred Adler postulates a single
«drive» or motivational force behind all our behaviors and
experiences. Throughout time, his theory
was transformed into a more mature one, calling this instinct, a desire for
perfectionism. It is that desire to develop to the maximum our potentials in
order to reach more and more our ideal. It is, as you can see, very similar to the most
popular idea of updating the self.
Another word that Adler used to refer to this basic motivation was the
compensation or desire to improve. Since
we all have problems, inferiorities of one form or another, conflicts, etc.; especially
in his early writings, Adler believed that we can achieve our personalities as
long as we can (or cannot) compensate or overcome these problems. This idea remains immutable throughout its
theory, but tends to be rejected as a label, for the simple reason that it
seems that what makes us persons are our problems.
Adler was influenced by the writings
of Jan Smuts, the philosopher and man of state African. He argued that in order to understand people,
we should do it more as unified sets instead of doing it considering them as a
collection of pieces, and we must do it in the context of its environment, both
physical and social. This posture is
called holism and Adler had a lot to do with this.
First, to reflect the idea that we
should see others as a whole instead of in parts, the author decided to
designate this psychological approach as individual psychology. The word «individual» literally means «the
Second, instead of talking about the
personality of a subject in the sense of internal features, structures,
dynamics, conflicts and so forth, he preferred to speak in terms of vital style
Lifestyle means how you live your
life; how you handle your problems and interpersonal relationships. Let’s quote
in his own words how he explained this: «The lifestyle of a tree is the
individuality of a tree expressing itself and shaping itself in an environment. We recognize a style when we see it against a
different background than we expected, so we are aware then that each tree has
a pattern of life and is not just a mere mechanical reaction to the
Adler considers motivation as a
matter of inclination and movement towards the future, rather than being
driven, mechanically, by the past. We are driven toward our goals, our
purposes, our ideals. This is
Another great influence on Adler’s thought was that of the
philosopher Hans Vaihinger, who wrote a book titled The Philosophy of «as
If» (the philosophy of «as is»).
Vaihinger believed that the ultimate truth would always be beyond us,
but that for practical purposes, we needed to create partial truths. His particular interest was science, so he
offers us examples of partial truths through the existence of protons and
electrons, waves of light, gravity as distortion of space and so forth.
The second concept in importance only
for the pursuit of perfection is the idea of social interest or social
sentiment (originally called Gemeinschaftsgefuhl or «community
sentiment»). Maintaining its
holistic idea, it is easy to see that almost no one can achieve the desire of
perfection without considering its social environment. Even those more resolvent people are in fact
in a social context.
Social concern is a matter of being
useful to others.
On the other hand, for Adler the true
definition of mental illness lies in the lack of social care.
All failures (including neurosis,
psychosis, criminality, alcoholism, child problems, suicide, perversions, and
prostitution) are given by a lack of social interest: their goal of success is
directed at personal superiority, and their triumphs have only meaning to
Difference between motivation and satisfaction
You can define motivation as the
impulse and effort to satisfy a desire or goal. Instead, satisfaction is
referred to the taste that is experienced once fulfilled the desire.
We can then say that the motivation
is before the result, since this implies an impulse to achieve it; while
satisfaction is after the result, as it is the result experienced.
How to motivate adolescents
Motivation is the most important
guideline in adolescent education. Take care of the way you talk to your
children: be very positive even when correction is needed. Let’s put some examples: these can be phrases
that parents say and promote the opposite attitude in the children:
- You’re messy
- You’re always
looking forward to annoying
- You must learn from your cousin
- You won’t get anywhere.
- I’m sick of
- I no longer love you
- Learn from your brother
- You’re punished
- If you continue like that I’ll punish you
- You’re always arguing
- Get away from my sight……. I don’t want to
- You don’t know
how to stay still
- You behave worse every day
- You’re a liar
- When are you going to learn?
- You don’t love me
- If you continue like that you won’t have any
- I’ll tell dad when he comes back
to motivate positively
- I’m sure you’re able to do it
- All right, I know you’ll do it.
- I don’t doubt you have good intentions
- John has a high concept of you.
- If you need anything, let me know
- I know you did
it without wanting
- I’m very proud of you
- You know I love you so much
- I know
- I congratulate you on what you’ve done
- What a nice surprise you have given me.
- When you need me, I will help you
- Very good, you’ve done very well.
- I can see you are better every day
- I believe what you tell me, I know you will
- You know I want the best for you
- You deserve
- You can get wherever you want
- I’m sure the next grades will be better.
Note: Use phrases like these often.
In front of other people they increase their effectiveness; but in the presence
of brothers or sisters they can produce jealousy.
- “Besame mucho: como criar a tus
hijos con amor” de Carlos Gonzalez,
edi Temas de Hoy, s.a. Madrid 2007
- “Sobre el carácter nervioso ”
Alfred Adler (1942)
- “Comprender la vida”. Adler, Alfred
& Brett, Colin (Comp.) (2003). Ed Paidós Ibérica.
- “La Psicología Individual de Alfred
Adler”U. Oberst y J.J. Ruiz:. Ed Manuscritos.com, 2007
CO-BO. Caracas 1995
- Manual de la autoestima. Mampa
- Bright Minds, Poor Grades: Understanding and
Motivating Your Underachieving Child por Michael D. Whitley, Ph.D.
- Dreamers, Discoverers and Dynamos : How to Help
the Child Who Is Bright, Bored and Having Problems in School por Lucy Jo
- Helping Students Develop Self-Motivation: A
Sourcebook for Parents and Educators por Donald R. Grossnickl
eNational Association of Secondary School Principals
- Homework Without Tears: A Parent’s Guide for
Motivating Children to do Homework and to Succeed in School. por Lee Canter y
Lee Hausner, Ph.D.
- “Increasing Student Engagement and Motivation:
From Time-on-Task to Homework” por Cori Brewster y Jennifer Fager
Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory