Motivation is a psychological feature that arouses an organism to act towards a desired goal and elicits, controls, and sustains certain goal-directed behaviors. It can be considered a driving force; a psychological one that compels or reinforces an action toward a desired goal. As an example, hunger is a motivation that elicits a desire to eat. Motivation is the purpose or psychological cause of an action. (taken from Wikipedia.org)
A conversation with a friend this week led to the following thought: many people are willing to do things for others only if it will benefit them in some way. I like to think of this as the “What’s In It For Me?” syndrome: the idea that I will only do something if I, myself, will benefit in some way from doing it. The syndrome places a heavy reliance on self-advancement and self-achievement as its sole focus of motivation.
There are two types of motivation: intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation refers to motivation that is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself, and exists within the individual rather than relying on external pressures or a desire for reward (Wikipedia.org). On the other hand, extrinsic motivation refers to the performance of an activity in order to attain an outcome, whether or not that activity is also intrinsically motivated. Extrinsic motivation comes from outside of the individual (Wikipedia.org). We are all motivated in some way – whether it is intrinsically, extrinsically, or a combination of the two.
(image courtesy of Google images)
Christmas is often called the Season of Giving. It is a time where we ‘give’ to others in order to show our love and appreciation for them. When we focus on doing things for others, especially at this time of year, with the motive of giving to get in return or to receive acknowledgment or a reward for our generosity, this is extrinsic motivation. When we give to others, whether it be a gift, our time, or to do something nice for them, without the desire to receive anything in return, this is intrinsic motivation: the joy of giving without expecting to receive.
The true meaning of the season of Christmas, that being the birth of Jesus, God’s gift to the world, is often lost in the hustle and bustle and general busyness of the month. Many people struggle to find contentment and happiness amidst the materialism that Christmas has taken on. Intrinsically, when we are motivated to do things for others without expecting anything in return, we are truly giving of ourselves, whether it be our time, our talents, or gifts that we have purchased or made. Extrinsically, if we expect others to give to us equaling or matching what we have given or done for them, we are not embracing the true meaning of giving to others.
This can be an especially difficult time of year for some of us. Many people struggle to find the Merry in Christmas. Perhaps they have lost or are separated from loved ones or are struggling with financial burdens or job difficulties. For some, this time of year can be dark and dim, not a season full of peace and joy, let alone giving. There are ways which we can find some Christmas joy ourselves or work to help others to find a bit of light at Christmas. These things don’t have to be material and they don’t have to cost a lot of money either). Here are some ideas: attend a church service (Christmas Eve Candlelight Services are beautiful), sing favourite Christmas hymns or songs, watch a favourite Christmas program or movie (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street), do some baking and share it, plan a sledding party with hot chocolate or warm beverages, read a special Christmas story or book (some special ones to me are The Birth of Jesus, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, and Mortimer’s Christmas Manger), or take a walk in a winter wonderland. All of these things can help to bring a bit of Christmas happiness and peace.
Taking the focus off of “What’s in it for me?” and placing it onto, “How can I help someone else?” is a goal which I hope we can all strive for this Christmastime. Let’s try to understand that, for some, Christmas is not yet a season full of peace and happiness. But… we can help. We can place a focus on giving to others for the joy of giving (intrinsic motivation), not receiving (extrinsic motivation), and bring some light to the darkness. Let’s say that this is my Christmas wish this year.
(Special thanks to my FG for the chat and blog topic idea — I told you I would give you credit! 😉 )