Identity & Motivation

It’s the ultimate accessory. We don’t leave home without it, and yet, somehow, very few of us really pay much attention to it. Like a watch with a dead battery that still gets worn because it’s in style, we waltz through life with an identity that seldom gets paid any direct attention. We wear our identity with pride, typically without much real regard as to how it’s formed.

Visit any major city in the world and you won’t have to search long before you find a bar or pub where displaced LSU alumni gather on Saturday nights every fall to crowd around a television and cheer on their fighting tigers. Is it because each of them has a fond memory of the grades the earned while at LSU? Doubtful. Perhaps it’s because they are all actively donating money to the alumni association and want to see a good investment? Again, unlikely. No, these crazy tiger fans gather together because they find community in shared identity. They are brought together because of a label they have given themselves. But identity is far more than just a label.

Identity is generally believed to be composed of two parts. The first is referred to as your perceived self, and deals with how you picture yourself. The second is known as your idea self, which deals with the person you wish to be. These two aspects of identity play into your self esteem. The distance or difference between your perceived self and your ideal self determines your self esteem. Generally, the greater the distance between your perceived and ideal self, the lower your level of self esteem will be. The smaller the distance, the higher your level of self esteem would be.

Why does this matter? A task or job that works toward the purpose of closing the gap between your perceived and ideal self will usually be one that intrinsically motivates you. A task that isn’t related to closing that gap? Generally not one that you’ll find yourself motivated to continue performing. Intrinsic motivation.

At the end of the day, identity affects the very fabric of who we are, what we do, and who we associate with, and what motivates us. So, who are you? Who do you want to be? Are you pleased with your answers?

 
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