Figure Out What's Next

The Jedi is Wrong - May the Force NOT Be with You

career change motivation motivationfinder peter axtell purposeful living self-assessment Mar 08, 2018
Force and Pressure

by Peter Axtell

drawing by Peter Axtell

Force is draining your motivation and you don't even know it.

The seemingly current worldview is that the way to make things happen is by force. Force comes in many forms. Manipulation by social media, psychological force, economic force, physical force, unethical marketing force and so on. I'm suggesting that force is not the way to build a fulfilling life.

Why is this important?

Because force or pressure depletes motivation. If motivation is what causes us to take action, obviously we want to minimize its depletion. The more we know about what motivates us, the more choices we have to act in positive ways.

If you have to force yourself to go to work and at work you are pressured to perform only for the bottom line, you'll never feel fulfilled. It will only be a matter of time before your motivation is depleted and you'll become one on the millions of people who are disengaged at work (and commonly, at home).

I want to be clear that I'm not saying that in some cases force is necessary as is evidenced in many parts of the world. I'm talking about using force and pressure either internally or having a boss that believes pressure is the way to motivate people. Charles Eisenstein, author of The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible, suggests that far greater accomplishments can be attained without this dependency on force. I totally agree with Charles but from a different view.

The Myths about the Effectiveness of Force

Charles makes the point in his book that the widespread current belief is “nothing in the universe ever changes unless a force is exerted upon it.” He makes a number of salient points which I've added to.

  1. The way to make something happen is by the use of force. The belief is that the universe has no intelligence of its own and anything that happens is because someone “caused” it or in other words “used force.” It's like some people think they are Masters of the Universe. If that was true, then those who use massive force would get exact, expected outcomes. Just look around the world to see that's not true.
  2. He who has the most information and knows how to use it is the Master of the Universe. The implication here is that if we have more information than the guy next door, we'll succeed in our goals. It really seems to be that way sometimes. It appears politicians win elections by the manipulation of information through social media, algorithms, computer hacking, and psychological manipulation. I would argue that if this was true then by using these tactics, exact outcomes would happen continuously – but obviously they don't.
  3. Control is paramount. Control is force and pressure. Control eventually fails because pressure and force deplete motivation. How many times has your diet failed? The Berlin Wall eventually came down. When people are controlled against their will, history has proven again and again that they will rebel eventually. How many jobs have you left because you couldn't get yourself to do it anymore? Did you ever wonder: “I liked my job at first and now I have no enthusiasm for it.” I suggest that at some point force and pressure was used to try and motivate you. The same is true for pressure you apply to yourself in the form of willpower.

Can money deplete motivation?

I can hear you saying: “Oh sure, give me the money and I'll prove to you how motivated I can be.” I understand. We have embedded deep in our western culture the belief that money is equivalent to fulfillment. You may be surprised to learn that a lot of research has been done on motivation and the findings are that money alone becomes control and pressure which depletes motivation.

Social Psychologist Dan Ariely, author of Payoff, writes about an experiment done at an Intel semiconductor production facility. Intel was interested in applying social science principles to human motivation. They wanted to measure the effectiveness of cash bonuses on motivation. Dan set up four conditions. One was a cash bonus for performance, one was a family size pizza, the third condition was simply a text message from their boss saying “well done!,” and the control was no text and no bonus. Which one do you think was the most motivating? The tangible bonuses money and pizza or the intangible or receiving nothing? How about the “well done?” Dan asked the managers to predict what was most motivating after the first day of work. They guessed the money would be first followed by the pizza and then the compliment.

Here are the results: The pizza boosted productivity by 6.7 percent, almost identical to the 6.6 percent boost from the verbal reward. The cash bonus performed the worst at 4.9 percent. Dan explains that the verbal reward enhances motivation. Then something interesting happens the day after the cash bonus. The internal message of the employee is “why try? I'm not getting paid any more for it.” The cash bonus performed 13.2 percent worse than the control condition (no verbal reward and no bonus).

This suggests that the money is some form of pressure and force, kind of like a carrot and stick. The only way the motivation continues is if there is a monetary reward paid over and over. This  points to the idea that money alone – absent positive reinforcement – will decrease motivation.

The question is: How do you avoid depleting motivation, make the money you need, and enjoy what you do?

How to Escape the Trap of Force

By becoming aware of this basic truth that force and control depletes motivation, you can begin realize how important it is to try and find work that is fulfilling without money being the first criteria. I'm not saying become a starving artist. Starving is not fun.

Could you consider trying to force and control everything a little less? This is what is meant by the phrase “letting go of the outcome.” Again, I urge you to internalize the truth that force and pressure depletes motivation. That means external and internal force.

The escape involves changing your state of being to someone who doesn't respond to force either internally or externally. With that comes real power, the power to create outcomes you've never dreamed possible with far less stress and anxiety.

Here are some strategies to get started:

  • What is your definition of success?
  • Make a list of people who you think don't use force or don't respond to force. Do you consider these people “successful?”
  • Write down a time when force was used on you and it depleted your motivation. What did eventually happen?
  • Notice all the subtle (and not so subtle) ways that people try and manipulate through social media, advertising, newspapers, magazines, mail and the internet. It's all some form of force. It's incredible how we are all subject to psychological manipulation and influence. The food industry is one of the best examples.

My partial list of people who I don't think respond to force and are successful human beings are: Seth Godin, The Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Byron Katie, Steven Mitchell, Michael A. Singer, Swami Yogananda, The Buddha and Eminem.

Question: What is an experience you've had where force depleted your motivation? 


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