How We Are Motivated

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A healthy goal of an individual is to live within one’s means—or to actively choose not to, for good reasons.  A toxic goal is to continually try to keep up with the Joneses. The goal of capitalism and big business is for us to overspend. Then they own us–a modern dynamic of servitude and slavery–because we are always in debt and never do catch up with “the Joneses.” However, big business can’t “own” us without our active participation. Although trying to keep up with others could lead to ruin, it can also lead to motivation to improve, which would be helpful.  To best care for ourselves, we need to be clear about whether our motivation to spend is healthy or toxic.

Salesmanship is the art of selling goods and services to people who actually benefit from having those goods and services.  It doesn’t help if the customer decides later that they are unhappy with what they have been sold, and either returns the material goods or posts complaints on social media.  The objective of healthy salesmanship is to search for win-win solutions.  This may include educating the customer about choices they were not aware of, which in turn can create an even better win-win result.  

Advertisements can contain healthy educational material.  But they can also try to convince you that what you want or desire is what you need, so that you will spend your money for the enrichment of the advertiser. The idea is to “hook” your impulsive inner child and to bypass your inner Parent and inner Adult in order to make the sale.  These advertisers don’t care about win-win results.

One way to “hook” you is to amplify your anger and frustration with the disparity between what you have and what you perceive your neighbor to have. This tactic often ignores the effort and resources your neighbor may have invested to get what they have. It also begs the question, “How much is enough?”  I once heard a story about a conversation between Frank, who made $5 million a year, and his friend Tom, who made $2 million a year.  Most of us would consider both men to be wealthy. Frank said he “needed” to make an additional million dollars per year. Astounded, Tom asked him how much money would be enough!  Frank replied that he wasn’t in competition with Tom, but with the people that made $6 million dollars a year.  With very few exceptions, there is always someone who is “doing better” than you, so using this logic will always leave you feeling angry and frustrated and “less than,” no matter how much you make or how many things you have.

Healthy people monitor their motivations.  They move away from any toxic feelings of powerlessness or needing to dominate or to have power-over others or to compare themselves to others.  They move towards feeling like they do have power.  They build Personal Power and Power-With to create healthy personal and social connections. They are clear about how much is “enough,” and are grateful for what they have.

  • When have you bought something you didn’t actually need in order to make yourself feel better or less vulnerable?
  • Name a time when your sense of competitiveness with someone else has served you in a healthy way.  
  • List examples of things you have in your life that are “enough.”

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