Why do people not do what they should do? That's the question I'm tackling, and I'm doing it through one aspect of motivation, the subcategories (subcats), which are the immediate expression of motives at a thought level. They tell a story: explicit need, action to a goal, obstacles to the goal, enablers of action, anticipation of success or failure, and goal accomplishment or failure. (In fact, you can use them to plot a book in a very basic way. In my book I contrast the archetypal romance, epic, and mystery using the subcategories alone.)
The important thing here is not everyone expresses every subcategory, and this reflects the way they think about (motivated) problems. Let's look at some examples.
If someone doesn't express Need, then their motivation is likely to be unfocused, reactive--they're responding to opportunities rather than seeing them in advance or focusing on them.
If someone doesn't have the Instrumental Action subcategories, they may have motives but don't take action.
If someone has lots of Block imagery, they may come up with reasons not to do anything--they may feel helpless and not act.
If someone lacks Block imagery and Anticipation imagery, especially with a lot of Action imagery, they may be a kind of "Ready-Fire-Aim" person--jumping into action without anticipating obstacles. They may be very confident, but hit-and-miss in their actual success, either because they don't see obstacles before they happen, or because they are not good at judging the odds of success. (On the other hand, they may just change direction when they hit an obstacle, abandoning a goal and moving on!) Someone who goes for a lot of get-rich-quick schemes may be showing this pattern: "sounds cool! Let's do it!"
If these are the bones of motivation, as I suggest, it means that if you lack some of them, your motivated movement may be impossible or at least hampered.
My buddy and fellow researcher Ruth Jacobs identified a pattern known as "helpless Power" in her dissertation research, which I think is fascinating. It is someone who has strong Influence/Power motive, so they see how organizations work, they are aware of the power-players, and so forth--but they don't see that they have any power. They see the game, but don't see themselves as a player. One of my favorite manifestations of this was at a client I worked with, where one person had just been promoted to executive level. Shortly thereafter he participated in a major strategic planning project. He was working on new directions, great new ideas, changing the organization, and loving it. But something worried him. He turned to the more experienced executive next to him and said "you know, this is what I've always wanted, this is great, but I've got just one question--will they let us do this?"
His colleague was amused. "You don't get it," he said. "You are 'they.'" There wasn't anyone else--the only person who could stop him--was him!
Ruth was looking at specific imagery, a variation of Power, but I think you could see something similar by someone who has all negative anticipation, all the blocks, and none of the positive imagery--they will see every possible problem, and none of the opportunities. It's inhibiting! You have the energy, but why use it if you feel certain you will fail?
Answer: because maybe you won't. If you really explore the situation, maybe you'll find you've judged the odds poorly. Maybe the cost of failure is very low.
So the question becomes: are you only looking at the negatives and not the positives?
For many things, and certainly for writing, you are they.