Why do we do what we do?
Let me clarify.
What makes us do what we do?
For most of us, if we really are truthful with ourselves, there’s an external motivation for us to actually get off our butts and do something.
For a lot of people, that motivation has to come at the expense of having a pain in our lives. But is this purely source of our success? Or is it something else?
But before we go there, here’s a bit of context.
There’s this recent video of Dr. Michio Kaku talking about the one test that predicts whether kids will be successful in the future: the marshmallow test. Here’s the vid:
What are your initial thoughts? Here’s mine…
Does Personality Play a Role?
When I watched this video, I started thinking about which group I identified with. I’d like to believe that I’d be part of the “wait for 2 marshmallows” group. In fact, if I was to recall myself as a kid, I probably would have waited.
I’ve always seem to be motivated by things that could be.
For example, I was never the kid to go on spending sprees whenever I was given a few dollars. In fact, I always saved the money I earned for something I REALLY wanted. Usually an upcoming video game. And since I had put that earned money into buying those games, I tended to play the heck out of that one until the next one I bought came along.
But where did that saving strategy of mine come from?
Michio brings up a good point. Do our personalities really affect whether or not we’d go for the immediate gratification?
If I was thinking about the DISC personality profile, I’d imagine Supportives and Calculatives would be the natural two marshmallow types.
Being a base Supportive (S) myself I know a few things about them. Besides being tremendously stubborn, we tend to only do things that are going to mean something in the long run. If we can’t make that connection, there’s not much motivation for us to act.
That being the case, it makes sense how I would have developed my saving strategy early on.
As far as Calculatives – I’d imagine that they’d think “Oh, two is better than one. I can put in a little more time to get that reward.” So that’s pretty straight forward.
As for D’s and I’s – I think they might be more prone to being “one marshmallow now” types.
Dominants are known for wanting results right away. The I’s, (called Imaginatives) are known to be constantly seeking fun. Waiting for 2 marshmallows – that’s not fun! Having one now is!
But then again, Dominants are usually the most successful people out there and I’d believe that many celebrities on TV are Imaginatives.
So I don’t know if I’d say that personality yields this response.
Which Motivates More? Future possibilities or pain?
In The Delusion of Passion, David Anderson shares with us what he had to go through growing up. He went through a TON of pain before he got his opportunity at Goldman Sachs. Growing up, more often than not, he had to battle the odds to get what he wanted. He did so because he was uncomfortable being where he was in life.
He had a pain that he used as motivation.
Who would have predicted that he’d be as successful as he’s been? Would he have been a one or two marshmallow kid? Hard to tell.
If I had not much going for me growing up, I’d think that taking the marshmallow right away was the only for sure option. In fact, The Atlantic addressed this in a recent article. The article essentially states that the whole test produced unreplicable results and, at best, was biased. Apparently the pool wasn’t all that big and the sample they used for the study was full of kids that grew up around Stanford.
Yeah, that’s a bit of a bummer that we can’t predict people’s future as simple as Michio would have said.
Or maybe it isn’t?
If what the article says is true, then the potential for what could doesn’t motivate all of us. So what does?
I believe that we’re still motivated by things that could be true. But looking at David’s story, it would seem that pain has been as much of a motivator (if not more so) for him as the possibilities of what could be in the future.
Maybe it’s this combination of having some emotional pain and hope for what could be that is the driving force behind so many successful people. The more pain, the more fuel they have?
So now that you’ve soaked all of this in. Think about what you’ve accomplished in life. Legal or not, are there things that you’ve put together that were successful?
Why did you put together that process or do those actions? Was it from pain? Was it because you imagined something that wasn’t there? Or was it both?
Make sure you make a journal of this so when you’re ever running on empty, you know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Knowing your Why is essential in long term achievement.