Thursday, August 31, 2006

The folly of motivation

I had been harping about this ever since I remember, but a recent column (unable to find an online version to it) by Dr. Debashish Chatterjee in the Ascent supplement of the ToI made me jump around shrieking "Yes". The column hardly scratched the surface of the matter, but it was sufficient to get my morning steeped in tarantism.

Motivation and billion dollar industry that thrives on the whole exercise of motivating is what I call parasitical. Current motivation therapy (which a friend and mentor of mine calls group-therapy) is the must subtle form of the strongest bromide. Let's look at what motivation-therapy entails (in its stupidest form). The primary assumptions are:

1. You don't know yourself enough.
2. I know a lot more about you.
3. You are no different from the other person across the table.

The most stupid thing that motivation gurus can assume is that, everyone is motivated by the same thing. The chicken-soup gang goes one step further and points out the really crass and deprived lot and makes you feel better with whatever silly things you might be doing. See? You aren't blind, so feel happy? Heard about the guy who was deaf? You are much better off. I hate it enough to want to puke when I hear the man in suit on stage go: "Don't listen to your negative side. I know you can do it. You know you can do it. Just go ahead and do it." Yuck!

Motivation is a means for creating psychological dependencies on people (gurus) or mantras (statements, quotes, what you have) and hoping to cover the void and not fill it. What one is never told is that the void in a person cannot be filled from without. It simply cannot be filled by anyone but the self, because the void belongs to the self. Its as much as I cannot make you love that woman next door. I can tell you a lot of good things about her and point out to you that she is great and sexy and all that. But if you fall in love with her because of what I said about her, then you are the right person for all these motivational gurus.

Greatness is not great. Truth is the only thing that exists way before we were born and long after we are gone. In dialogue (internal or external) one can create a void which Truth can fill. In that filling, arises a clarity that is personal and hence unique. When clarity has rid the mind and the self of all that is not true, on such a broad canvas the strokes of effortless realisation are painted with least conflict. Action driven by such clarity and truth automatically brings you to the pinnacle of what you are and not what you think is fashionable to be or what someone else thought so for you.

Has anyone bothered to notice certain things about "great" people and motivational gurus? Great people (philosophers, industrialists, sportsmen, scientists, et al) followed their own calling and didn't keep running back to gurus or read tomes of self-help books. Motivational gurus have hardly ever achieved the "greatness" of the "great" people. Why? If they can motivate you to chase your dream and become famous or rich, why haven't they done it? I agree that not all motivational gurus do the "rich and famous" trick, but nearly everyone does.

Has any motivational guru ever realised that you cannot motivate a group of 100 attendees with the same talk? You have to sit down and discuss with each and every individual and understand where s/he comes from and what throbs in them. Motivational gurus would make sense only when they help the native realise what is the truth about him and set him free from fear and other destructive elements of the human psyche. They don't have the time and patience for this, and of course, this won't pay much.

Beware of motivational gurus who deal in cliches and label things good or bad without the wisdom to explore alongwith the individual into the depths of what makes things good or bad (and if he is good, he wouldn't have labeled anything good or bad!! :-).

You cannot be motivated by someone else. You can be drugged into a high and get yourself to achieve something, but that is exactly what steroids do to athletes. Of course, he out-sprinted everyone. Of course, he came first. Can you deny that? But was it his true self that won? Does it matter to have the true self winning and not the projected self? What matters? Realise that and you will realise that no one can motivate you. Discern between motivation and realisation.

12 comments:

  1. Hmmm.Sorry - I dont agree with anything that you have said here. Since I have realised the Truth of all being One, I dont differentiate between motivation where I am the fuel and the fire or motivation where I am the fuel and the tinder spark is from another individual. Truth works in ways that cannot be cloistered in an agressive lesson on individuality such as you have given. We are not islands and every single interaction with the outside motivates us to realize too. If a guru is in synchrony with me, and moves with me, leading me to places that I have no idea of, but am capable of reaching, and one realisation leads to another, the realisation being mine and the shove coming from him, I dont think that I should belittle it and write it off. Using this logic that you have propounded in this post, any relationship, any depth of emotion that makes life without the other death, a parasitical one.

    You should live in an island . Otherwise, motivation from others keeps happening,inspiration and dependence are inevitable. That is the way of life itself - symbiosis. I have, therefore, I give; you need, therefore you take. Give and take is not parasitical. It is the texture of all life.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think you make a fair point for, in your own words - motivational therapy "in its stupidest form". I don't think that's the most common type of therapy propounded either in talks or in self-help books.

    Many motivators (I think the word gurus is abused in this context so I don't use it) don't try and define or dictate your life for you, but point you to the fact that you are in fact responsible for all of it - and you'll be happier once you've suffered through the decision rather than depending on someone else. They may state certain facts that they believe to be true - e.g. that they believe that everyone has a lot of potential; which isn't the same thing as trying to find one solution for a hundred people.

    You are right in the sense that no motivational talk can ever make anyone's life great; it's entirely up to the individual to do that - only that she may get a nudge towards doing that by the motivator - or indeed anyone he knows... a friend who believes in him, a family that supports her etc. But that's what motivation is all about. It's really quite a small part - which may be extremely significant because without it some people wouldn't take the first step. For others, there's enough self motivation and awareness that external motivation isn't really needed; so they may not benefit all that much.

    ReplyDelete
  3. umm. "self" help? :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Motivation ... Its a subject very close to my heart. As a teacher, the first thing I do in my class is 'Motivate' my students. If they are not motivated - they will not study. So, its not Accounts which come first - but motivation to learn accounts which matters.

    I totally get you, but I must also say that you are one hell of a disjointed writer when you are emotional! :-) Your point is true - one can only motivate ones own self. When we try to motivate others we are mostly using them. The fine difference is that people like me try to motivate students to study and improve their knowledge. Others are in it for monetary benefits etc etc ...

    And yes, there's no Mass Motivation. I'm drawing from my own wisdom when I comment on these lines, and Parvati please dont take the comment personally *peace*

    Truth works in ways that cannot be cloistered in an agressive lesson on individuality such as you have given. We are not islands and every single interaction with the outside motivates us to realize too. If a guru is in synchrony with me, and moves with me, leading me to places that I have no idea of, but am capable of reaching, and one realisation leads to another, the realisation being mine and the shove coming from him, I dont think that I should belittle it and write it off. Using this logic that you have propounded in this post, any relationship, any depth of emotion that makes life without the other death, a parasitical one.

    You have confused Influence with motivation. What you have said describes an influence. Motivation is when you do something because you want to do it. Its when you have an answer to the question - WHY.

    Influence is when you say the above - in short - I am influenced by my teacher / guru who motivated me to ...

    True motivation comes from within. When motivation is associated with an influence it is tied up with whoever it was who influenced you and as such - it is very generic and you need to be in constant touch with the source.

    When motivation comes from within - you are independant. You will draw inspiration from your own self. You do not need to have a muse from outside.

    What I do not like about motivation gurus and the like is the addiction / worship and undue andulence the so called followers give and the need to be tied up and keep going for more ... A true motivator would show you where to draw the inspiration from, from within yourself and then let you learn ...

    Well, that's what I do with my students - Inspire them to be inspired by themselves - TO love what they do - be happy and content with themselves - and be accountable.

    Yes, No man is an Island. But every man should be able to stand upright - if each were to lean on the other - I'm afraid no one would be able to stand :-)

    Motivation ... IS From within and a teacher helps you find it within yourself not from him or her so that you keep going back to him or her ... from time to time.

    Eroteme - You DO remember I like long comments - right?

    ReplyDelete
  5. A splendid and very enlightening explanation, Loveena - thank you!
    My only objection is to the point which you and E make that the Guru's work is a one-off duty of helping the Shishya motivate himself. I think a continuing relationship which might seem a dependence can ensue, wherein the Guru's evergreater wisdom will always be on a higher level than the disciple's and therefore drawing the disciple to the Guru all the time. Influence or Motivation, whatever you may call it, dependences cannot be avoided in any way. A child may never in his life be interested / motivated to be interested in History, without the teacher to help him do so. The total dependence of the child on the teacher for the first step itself makes the mention of independence, standing on ones feet etc etc quite laughable.

    #Anyway, I do agree with you that ultimately, there should be something in the individual that makes him do things of his own volition, otherwise he will need to look for motivation outside himself.
    In which case, I still dont see anything abhorrent in motivation coming from outside or inside one. If the outside source is available when my light within is dim, why not tap on it? And if between 2 persons, it is a natural way of being where one motivates all the time and the other gets motivated, why should we label it as parasitical ? It could be the spontaneous flowering of a relationship between two people.

    # I am fighting a losing argument, because essentially I agree with you and E that our inner flame should burn higher and brighter and carry us through night and light. Whether we are alone in this world or the world teems with a thousand others - self sufficiency is a luxurious commodity and highly fulfilling.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Parvati, your last para says it all, but I am commenting because you brought out one another point which I need to write on.

    I think a continuing relationship which might seem a dependence can ensue, wherein the Guru's evergreater wisdom will always be on a higher level than the disciple's and therefore drawing the disciple to the Guru all the time.

    True education is when the wisdom of the shishya exceeds that of the guru. The way I see it if my students are not going to become better than me - I see no future. They must become better and wiser than me and their generation wiser than them ... you get the picture.

    The cliche here is - when the shishya becomes wiser than the guru, does he declare it to the world? Does the guru declare it to the world? WHY should one declare or make known ones wisdom to the world? The very vice of pride brings down the wise and is their greatest folly.

    Indeed the desciple will do greater things than the master but his deeds are but nothing if he does not acknowledge his master who imparted the knowledge.

    Here's my last word - we live in a world where arrogance, pride and disrespect are the norm and its OK! We have education systems where the teacher knows EVERYTHING. Has to know everything. Class room disciplines where questioning is discouraged! Education where money is of great importance and not knowledge. Crammig up books is vital to get a certain piece of paper. All materialistic goals. No wholesome development. Everything commercial.

    Sticking to a certain guru is political - has nothing much to do with knowledge or wisdom - for a True guru would send his shishya out into the world and cut the umblical cord.

    We should never be bound, and its us ourselves who bind ourselves to others and the others do attach themselves quiet parastically ...

    So, Parvati if you were my student be sure I'll be sending you off into the world after teaching what I have to and well, though my doors of communication would be open I would be proud if you were to come by to say a Hi and not to clear doubts :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ok. Whether the student is wiser than the teacher or the other way, I think that the moment one has greater or lesser anything than the second person, there is an automatic turning of the lesser towards the greater. In the situation you spell out, the student is wiser and the teacher will learn from him. It cannot be helped.

    # Attachment is when we carry on an association for the superficialities and not the core strength - if I stay in a marriage not because I love and respect my spouse but for society, for security, for the respect and the sense of belonging marriage gives me, if I keep someone as a guru for his name in the world but not because he makes me a better person than I am.

    I am not speaking of attachment; I am speaking of associations that are so enriching, so full of positive vibrations and goodness and lots of spiritual and intellectual riches that the two who are in it, may seem parasitical of each other, but I think that I can only call them perfect beautiful relationships wherein one cannot live without the other. One wilts away quite naturally without the other.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hmmmmmm.... The world is a stage and we are all but actors. We all have our entrances and exits.

    Teachers got to teach and gracefully leave. It is my opinion that any good relationship - may it be Guru/shishya; husband/wife; Parents/children - any relationship if good is not parasitical. God forbid, but if I find myself a widow - I will have the strength to LIVE my life and not just die away. (When I say live my life I dont mean marrying again!)

    And Yes, I know I can - you are talking to a person who has loved and lost - every day is a struggle; there were days when one simply wishes to not open ones eyes - but the will to live is stronger when there is love. When I die I dont want my loved ones to mourn. I will be happy when they will after their sadness pick up and LIVE life not mourn and pine and waste away their lives and simply Exist.

    There are always better people and lesser people than oneself in this world.

    I was working on something else - but I think I'll work on this particular aspect of relationships too when I get time. Because I trully think that people need to realise just how strong they are and not swoon over somebody else!

    *Me tired* So no more explanations :) Sorry, Parvati. Loved the discussion. Hope to see more of you here :-)

    ReplyDelete
  9. :) - Sure. I think you have covered points regarding a healthy relationship between two people quite comprehensively. So there is nothing more to say even from my side (- this fact that I am speechless shocks me too! :-D ).

    It would indeed be a pleasure to read what you may later write on relationships.
    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you all for granting me a week to read these sets of comments!!! :-D

    ReplyDelete
  11. *Late comer me…stares open mouthed at all the comments!*

    :) Was very interesting to read the post and then find most of my thoughts voiced by others in their comments.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi E, There's some more work for your grey cells :-) I hope you do find it worth your time. I am counting on you to dissect my ANSWER when I do put it up - but before that do humour me by seriously answering the questions I've asked. *Pretty Please* And yes, annonymously.

    ReplyDelete