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Reflections on Why People Do What They Do

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Are we acting in our own self-interest? Are we doing things for others? Self-improving minds perpetually search for answers to the questions of why we do, what we do, as well as who we do it for. The greater understanding we have for the ‘Why’ and the ‘What’, the more likely we are to find peace and balance in our lives. Every day, we meet so many people and we don’t really know what inspires them or drives their passion. I am on a mission to find out about their passion and what drives the people I interact with on a daily basis. Somehow I find it easier to ask those questions when I meet a stranger or a new friend. Physiologists defines Motivation as the drive to improve oneself or to achieve a higher level of benchmark. Motivation is what drives people to improve themselves. Motivation has always been a part of the human behavior. It has been used since the very beginning of human society as a means to develop themselves. There are a number of ways in which people or employees can be motivated. However, it was not until the mid 18th century that any sort of theory on motivation was developed. In fact the very first recorded history of development of motivational theories was by Fredrick Winslow Taylor (1856-1917), who came up with Taylor’s motivation theory (1989). But in order to be motivated to fulfill one of your goals you need to know your basic needs like maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a theory in psychology that was first presented by Abraham Maslow in a paper entitled ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ in 1943. The theory includes five hierarchy levels of needs and is usually displayed as a pyramid. An individual’s needs are prioritized by the position in the hierarchy, whereby certain needs cannot be achieved until the needs in the lower level of the hierarchy are fulfilled. The five levels (from bottom to top) are physiological needs, safety needs, social needs, self-esteem needs, and self-actualization. The physiological needs that one has are elements such as food, shelter, clothing, and other most basic necessities. The safety needs include protection from physical and emotional harm, and the elimination of conflict. The self-esteem needs include elements like job status, respect, promotion, and recognition. The self-actualization level is when you have reached the top and have full understanding of yourself but this is not a permanent state is only for a moment this is called peak experience. Peak experiences are those moments when you suddenly feel that everything is beautiful, that there’s a tremendous oneness to being, or that love suffuses the world.

Maslow’s Hierarchy is directly related to learning through motivation. In order for us students to succeed in the classroom, they must be motivated to learn. When all levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are met, students are at their full potential for learning. For example, I would not be able to enter a classroom with an empty stomach and the fear of dying from starvation and successfully learn. Each student has needs that must be met in order to maximize learning. The higher up in the hierarchy a student is, the more levels that are met, the better the motivation and therefore the more learning that the student will experience.

There are two main types of motivation, namely, intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within the individual. When you are intrinsically motivated, you do something for the personal gratification. An example of intrinsic motivation is completing a puzzle because you find it challenging. The first theory of motivation is the Instinct Theory, which says that we are motivated to complete goals through our instincts. An instinct is a fixed, inborn pattern of behavior that acts as a drive. Therefore, instinct theory postulates that behaviors occur so that we can get the basic things we need to survive. An example of an instinctual drive is fear, which allows people to avoid dangerous situations and thus, live. However, extrinsic motivation can have problems. In education, extrinsic rewards reduce intrinsic motivation of children to learn, and hinder self-determination and independent thinking. Fortunately there are teaching styles that encourage intrinsic motivation. For tokenized ecosystems, we must be similarly careful. Extrinsic motivation works for some goals like ‘maximize security’ or ‘maximize sharing of data’. But it can be dangerous in some places. Let’s say you’re building a decentralized reputation system. Directly tokenizing reputation would incentivize people to game their reputation for money, leading to all sorts of poor behavior and not have an achievement.

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Achievement can be defined as a thing done successfully, typically by effort, courage, or skill. However, achievement is different from success. It refers to ‘getting what you want’. Achievement requires the ability to set goals and objectives, to make plans of action, and then to implement those plans. Achievement requires that you overcome obstacles and difficulties in reaching goals that you have set for yourself. So like our many successful leaders and mentors we have to know that both success and achievement are the starting point of attaining great accomplishment in every part of our life. The key to this success or achievement is to set goals programmed around these values. Once you program your target or desire in the subconscious. Your superconscious mind stimulates the power to drive and steer you to the attainment of your goals. It certainly helps to define these goals and attach action steps and strategies to match them.

According to the achievement approach to motivation, the need for achievement drives accomplishment and performance and thereby motivates our behavior. People may be motivated by different goals related to achievement, and each of these goals affect one’s motivation and behavior differently. Achievement and motivation are two strictly related concepts. People need to feel motivated in order to act, and motivation is boosted by achievements. The self-confidence that arises from the achievement of a goal. For example catching a Pikachu motivates people to play more and more…and Pokemon Go players are indeed very motivated, to the point of catching Pokemon while their wife is giving birth! The achievement experience is the fundamental mechanism of the entire Pokemon Go game. And it’s such an easy goal to achieve, that you can’t stop yourself. The ease with which the reward comes every time your phone buzzes, alerting you that a Pokemon is nearby, is very basic psychological conditioning of gratification.

Gratification comes in two forms which are instant gratification and delayed gratification. For example when shopping there is instant gratification and delayed gratification. Instant gratification means seeing something that you want and buying it there and then to take home with you. Delayed gratification means seeing something that you want but not buying it right away and instead of saving up for it, or going away to think about it and return another time to purchase it. Whichever option you choose, this gratification can make us feel happy and satisfied. A drive is that part of an actualized need referring to the purely physiological urge in relation to the physiological gratification received. It is inherent in the person and is that which is felt irrespective of external stimulation. Need is therefore the broader concept, not only involving the drive, but also the constitutional and hereditary nature of the individual (for example, some have constitutionally stronger sex drives than others), our past history of gratification, and the overall present satisfactions of the need).

Personally, I don’t consider the act of rewarding oneself once a goal is accomplished as a motivational technique for students per se. However, the positive effect that a gratification can have on your motivation to study is stupendous. Hence I have no other choice other than including the fantastic aspect of gratification into this essay. If you feel the urge to become motivated to study, set yourself a goal. The motivational power of having a goal and determine an appropriate reward once the objective is accomplished. It’s really that simple, but so effective. By rewarding yourself, whenever a goal is achieved, your brain elicits positive emotions, leading to the realization that an effort results in a positive reward. Furthermore, you will consciously or subconsciously recognize that a high effort will result in an even more positive gratification. Also, your willingness to make a sacrifice in order to accomplish the objective. In my case, my goal is to graduate high school and go to college and my reward will be the fruits of my studying.

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Reflections on Why People Do What They Do. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from
“Reflections on Why People Do What They Do.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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Reflections on Why People Do What They Do [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2022 Dec 1]. Available from:
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