The little word ‘Why?’ is a very powerful one when it comes to establishing true motivation. The process of locking on to a specific objective or an objective to fulfil a need is primarily a subconscious one, involving sometimes convoluted paths of reasoning that take us far away from our true needs. In Janov’s terms, we respond to wants rather than needs. Here is an example:
Jim had a job that required him to work a long day and spend many hours on the road. Although he received a reasonable salary at the end of the month, it wasn’t enough to meet the needs of a wife and teenage family. He was competent at what he did, and was satisfied with the level of status within his company and among his peers. He believed he was happy in his job, in spite of the extraordinary long hours and high levels of stress.
In spite of a happy family life, he experienced a sense of discomfort, which he ascribed to his immediate financial difficulties, and each week he religiously bought a ticket for the lottery and fantasised about what he would do should he win ‘the big one’. He dreamed of being able to support his family in the way he would like, and of giving up his job and opening a deep-sea scuba diving business in a seaside resort town. Week after week he bought a ticket and dreamed his dream.
One day a friend asked for help setting up a small business. He was glad to help, and spent the few spare hours he had planning and strategising with his friend. The business began to prosper, and the friend offered him a partnership. The business was still young, and joining his friend would necessitate a drop in income, and he was aware that there were no guarantees of ultimate success in a competitive market. After very careful consideration, he decided to join his friend.
That week when he bought his usual lottery ticket, Jim made a startling discovery. He became aware that he would not choose to change anything in his life if he won. The money he would get from a lottery win would be welcome, but it was no longer important – it was no longer a ‘way out’ for him.
Clearly Jim’s ‘need’ to win the lottery was not based on his need for financial security. He spent many uncomfortable years believing that he needed money to change his sense of discomfort, so he worked harder and longer, and dreamed and schemed to find a way to increase his income. He was fortunate that his solution presented itself at his door, or he may have continued, like most of us, for the rest of his life looking for the miracle of chance that would be his salvation.
The Why Game
Consider any one of the things you want in your life. The need for more money is universal enough to use as an example. Let’s consider Jim’s desire to win the lottery. Assume you want to win the lottery and ask yourself:
‘Why do I want to win the lottery?’
The answer may be ‘Because I want to pay off all my debts.’
Ask again ‘Why do I want to pay off my debts?’
Perhaps it’s ‘Because I feel uncomfortable owing money.’
‘Why do I feel uncomfortable owing money?’
‘Because then people think I’m unsuccessful / can’t manage my affairs / am unable to earn enough …etc.’
By following this line of questioning a completely different picture may emerge, and it may be possible to modify the behaviour you undertake to fulfil your needs. It is important to be honest with yourself. It is of course always possible to block yourself, or to reach a point where the only possible answer is ‘because I want it!’ Check whether this is because you have reached a real NEED or because you are feeling uncomfortable. If you can be open-minded and accepting of what you come up with, you may discover some interesting things about what motivates you.
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