reasonable rules. They talk with each other about their work and
For your purposes, these childhood experiences or the lack of them
may be of interest but they occurred in the past and, therefore, are
unchangeable (although we might change our reaction to our past).
What can you do now that enables us to be highly motivated? How can
you be so intent on reaching a distant goal that nothing gets in the
To accomplish great things, we must not only act but also dream, not only plan but
Atkinson (1957; 1981) suggested it is much more complicated
than just a single need making us do something, although that's part
of it. Borrowing a lot from learning theory, he says three factors
A large number of competing motives or needs are striving for
expression at the same time, such as the need for achievement, the
need for close relationships, the need for power, and the need to be
cared for by others. Besides the conflict among many motives, the
theory assumes there is a conflict between the hope of success and
the fear of failure, i.e. an approach-avoidance conflict over each goal.
The fear of failure can keep us from trying in school, just as the fear of
rejection can keep us from getting emotionally involved with someone.
The strength of the approach and avoidance tendencies is
determined by the relative strength of the needs to achieve and the
needs to avoid failure (or success), plus the next two factors.
What we expect to happen if we follow a certain course of action.
We observe the situation and, based on our past experience, estimate
the likelihood of success and the chances of something bad happening,
depending on what we do. Having some hope is necessary, but it is
not a simple situation. As discussed in attribution theory later, a highly
motivated achiever may utilize complex optimistic or pessimistic
cognitive strategies (Cantor, 1990). For example, an optimistic, high
achieving student may seek out friends who value and reinforce
his/her successes in school, he/she frequently re-lives in fantasy
his/her past accomplishments and dreams of the future, and he/she
may relax with friends before an exam. This is called "illusory glow"
optimism because such a person nurtures and protects his/her self-
esteem and confidence. They expect to do very well, they work very
hard, they enjoy their successes, and, if they should fail, they