Motivation, the push and pull of life
In modern psychological terminology, as well as in common parlance, the word motivation is used interchangeably to define different constructs and concepts. It may be used in reference to Freudian impulses (Freud, 1950), Skinnerian conditioned responses (Skinner, 1938), Maslowian need fulfillment efforts (Maslow, 1987) and other heterogeneous processes and behaviors. Motivation is also sometimes described as push and sometimes as a pull, depending on whether its behavioral (motivation as need fulfillment) or psychodynamic (motivation as the pull of primordial forces) characteristics are emphasized (Lazarus, 1993). The problem with these definitions is that they may oversimplify motivation, emphasizing its showier manifestations and neglecting other important aspects, such as its circular relationship to happiness and well-being. Motivation has been defined as essential to adaptive functioning and quality of life (Marin & Chakravorty, 2005), and as the content of the positive thinking one wishes to maintain towards the attainment of an objective (Schweingruber, 2006). In studying the impact of motivation on human behavior, a group of researchers has looked at the contributions of social cognitive theory and studied the ways in which individuals represent objectives and behaviors (Conroy, Kaye, & Coatsworth, 2006), perceive and evaluate their own ability to learn (Harris, Mowen, & Brown, 2005), and construct their expectation of future results (Sinkavich, 1994). This cognitive approach has placed the accent on motivation as representation. Another group of studies focused on the energetic aspects of motivation, and specifically on the factors that activate behavior towards objectives or activities that are perceived as attractive and to which the individual may attribute value. Theories of intrinsic motivation and research on self-interest are part of this line of inquiry, and they include studies by Harter (1996) and Silon (1985) on competence, on self-determination by Ryan and colleagues (2006), and work on cognitive processes and emotion (Hidi & Baird, 1986, 1988). A third aspect of motivation analyzed by researchers in recent years is the self-regulation of learning. It looks at the ways or strategies with which the individual monitors, motivates and modifies behaviors in order to reach learning objectives (Boekaerts & Minnaert, 2006; Paris & Winograd, 1990; Rozendaal, Minnaert, & Boekaerts, 2001; Zimmerman & Campillo, 2003).
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