that we do not deserve success, self-defeating rebellion against doing
what we are pressured to do, tendencies to avoid any self-evaluation,
and, of course, greed, hatred, and other self-destructive or self-
defeating drives. All of us try to generally increase our desired
motivations and/or to reduce our negative motivations.
While the power of our physiological and conditioned drives are
undeniable, we must remember that by deciding and declaring "By
God, I'm going to _______ (get a 3.5 GPA, get a divorce, start
jogging, stop drinking...)" we have created our own powerful
motivator. Likewise, by amassing lots of good reasons for changing we
have created another powerful set of motives. If we are determined to
change in some specific way, our task is to maximize the positive,
pleasurable motivations and reasons for doing the desired behavior
and to, likewise, maximize the negative, painful factors associated with
continuing the unwanted behavior, i.e. failing to change. Once
determined to change, most people can either "just do it" or they can
easily read chapters 4 and 11, and find ways (methods) to get where
they want to go. It seems to be necessary to believe we can probably
accomplish the change we want, while at the same time we are scared
of what will happen if we fail to change.
Recent theories (Cantor, Markus, Niedenthal & Nurius, 1986)
suggest that our notions of what is possible play a major role in
motivation. Our self-concept contains many "possible selves:" "I could
become" selves, "I'd like to become" selves, "I should become" selves,
and "I'm afraid of becoming" selves. These possible selves reflect and
influence our "life goals" and, at the same time, our progress toward
our life goals alters our possible selves. Thus, parts of our selves are
constantly changing (even though the total self is pretty constant).
Our current and possible selves and our personal plans change our
behavior in complex ways. For example, on the same exam, why does
good student A set high goals and study hard, while good student B
expects to fail and works frantically, and good student C blows off
studying altogether? All three want to achieve and have been
successful. Their different possible selves may explain the differences
in their attitudes and behaviors.
Student A is an "optimist," expects to do well, and works hard
to meet or beat his/her past achievements.
Student B is a "pessimist," fears careless failure, overlooks past
successes, and predicts doom to soften the blow when it
comes. He/she tries real hard to avoid all the awful outcomes
he/she is imagining.
Student C is a "self-handicapper" who wants to impress others
but fears getting an average score which would tarnish his/her
image of being brilliant, so he/she hopes to do fairly well on the
exam while letting everyone know he/she hasn't studied, thus,
preserving the image of being real smart.