Tip #786: They Could, But Do They Want To?

“I never do anything I don’t want to do. Nor does anyone, but in my case I am always aware of it.”  Robert A. Heinlein

I’ve just read two interesting articles about motivation and volition. In the first article, Susan Fowler claims that there are three scientific truths of motivation. They have nothing to do with power, money, status or achievement.

Instead, she writes that “your high-quality motivation- and the energy to achieve your goals and find meaning in their pursuit- depends on creating choice, connection and competence.”

She says that we all want to thrive (do well and flourish) and thriving requires choice, connection and competence.

Ms. Fowler believes that the evidence is obvious:

Choice is necessary because we have an innate need to feel we have options and are in control of our choices.

Connection is necessary because we need to feel a sense of belonging and to contribute to something greater than ourselves.

Competence is necessary because we have an innate need to feel effective at managing everyday situations and a sense of growth and learning every day.

She never explains the scientific basis for her assertions in this brief article. Perhaps she does in her book, Master Your Motivation: Three Scientific Truths for Achieving Your Goals.

The other article introduces the idea of volition. Paul Matthews feels that no transfer of learning will occur unless both motivation and volition are present.

He distinguishes between the two by saying that “motivation is a state, an emotion, and is largely unconscious, whereas volition refers to a conscious act of free will.” Motivation says “I want,” while volition says “I MUST.”

Matthews notes that motivation is often triggered by external stimuli that can easily change. Volition, on the other hand, “implies deep personal attachment to an intention, which leads to a determination to achieve it,” despite any discomfort associated with it.

Matthews also has a book that goes more deeply into this topic: Learning Transfer at Work: How to Ensure Training Leads to Performance.

Ms. Fowler discounts the role of volition. She doesn’t feel that willpower or discipline have anything to do with thriving. Choice, connection and competence alone provide the impetus to follow through.

I think we can reconcile the two opposing viewpoints.

Wikipedia defines volition or will as “the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action.”

It makes sense to me that volition is what makes us follow through on our motivation. I may be motivated to lose weight, but until I commit to diet or exercise nothing is likely to happen. My volition or willpower is necessary for me to achieve my weight loss goal. But I will not commit if I don’t feel I have the control over my choices or the capability to take the required actions. Only then will I make healthier eating choices or begin to exercise.

We need volition and a sense of choice, connection and competence to ensure sufficient motivation for transfer of learning. I have to want to do something, feel it’s important, know I have the necessary capability- and then choose to take specific action before anything will happen.

What do you think?

May your learning be sweet.


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