Much of my recent thought time has been devoted to wondering about my own personal motivation. Have you ever speculated about how many thoughts you have during a single day, or in an hour, or a minute? Your ‘default mind network’ is responsible for many hundreds of thoughts each minute.
My meandering mind is frequently devoted to understanding my own personal needs in this, the 9th decade of my life. Why have I made this monumental commitment to articulate my thoughts and ideas into a weekly blog? Why do I need to make myself vulnerable by exposing my writing for judgement by the rest of the world? What is this urge regarding challenging myself to write a regular blog? Why is it that I require myself to play croquet competitively and am not content to play ordinary “social croquet?” These ideas have been in the forefront of my mind recently and maybe have influenced my interpretation of some recent on-line reading
Loretta Breuning of the Inner Mammal Institute has recently revamped her website When I read about the roles of the neuro-transmitters which are necessary to give us human a feeling of well-being, it made me feel that maybe it takes me more effort than most people to boost my positive hormones! The general theory behind Loretta’s work is that the human is not built to be happy at all times. The main goal of the individual is the transfer of our genes into the next generation –a further development of Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection.
Breuning states that the primary need of us humans is to be constantly on the lookout for danger signals. If we think about the danger of one lion, or one gunshot wound; we realise that a single incident or event can result in a life threatening situation. The danger of these potential threats to our life means we need to be constantly on the alert. The production of cortisol is the internal warning of a threat to our well-being.
When succeeding in a challenge we receive a spurt of dopamine, when we bond successfully with another human we stimulate oxytocin, and serotonin is added to our blood stream when tasks are accomplished successfully. Part of the human condition is to be on the alert to promote these neurotransmitters in order to elevate our mood. Opportunities for achievement and for bonding will give us our next dosage of a happy chemical, according to Breuning.
Today I was reading the regular week end post from Jules Evans. This British philosopher’s weekly report of happenings, meetings and cultural endeavours never fails to stimulate my interest. He has come up with a new theory of motivation – something rather novel which comes as a surprise to me. “ People who get bored easily need more stimulation and activity as this helps them to overcome the lethargy of a depressive mood state”, states Evans. He describes how during the past week he watched Free Solo – a documentary about 33-year-old Alex Honnold’s attempt to free climb El Capitan in 2017. Evans describes his discomfort as he watches the apparently foolhardy rope dangling activities of the protagonist whilst solo rock climbing. Honnold participates in ongoing dangerous solo expeditions for many years without having an accident. Things change however, when he accidently falls in love and after making a commitment to the young woman his accident free record is shattered. In the following year he has two climbing accidents. These events give rise to the hypothesis that to be successful in this fear enhancing activity you need to be totally dedicated to your craft with no external distractions. You need to be bored!
Evans follows up with the story about Time Ferris who has written five best-selling books, has a successful on line presence and a lucrative interest in such companies as Uber and Facebook. To round off his achievements he is a word champion of the tango, a polymath and a body builder. Whilst it would seem that someone who is such an achiever would be contented and worry free. In fact Tim admits in a recent podcast his intense need for achievement, as he is motivated by a feeling of not fitting in or being worthwhile. This appears to me another variation of the ‘boredom hypothesis.’
Now that I am busy internalising the writing of Loretta Breuning and Jules Evans I need to think about whether I have learned anything about my own need to achieve and compete.