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Arousing and depleting motives - The Motive Center
July 3rd, 2005
11:26 pm


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Arousing and depleting motives
Back from a rather exhausting round of travel, and it occurred to me that this might be a good time to talk about arousing motives, as mine were aroused in ways that did not lead me to do any blogging!

I did read various LJs, but couldn't get charged up to write anything myself. Now, to be fair to myself, at one point I had taken a redeye to Europe (about 3 hours restless sleep), followed by strenuous work and short nights for three days straight, ending in a nightmarish return through Zurich and London, getting stuck in London and almost not getting a hotel room because of Wimbledon and probably Live 8, and so forth. However, when I got back, after only a couple of days I found myself going to a friend's party, hanging with my family, playing with my kids, etc. What's up with that?

I think it was that I had about drained my Influence motive for the time being, and had aroused my Affiliation motive.

Mostly I have referred to motives as being stable, because generally, and across time, they are. When I was part of the investigators for the Sears, Maccoby, & Levin longitudinal study in 1988, we found that motives were pretty stable over the previous ten years (the participants had aged from 31 to 41). But in a given setting, they can be temporarily aroused, or (with great difficulty) drained.

When working with clients on the road, in this case doing a training session in a foreign country, my Influence motive was getting a huge workout. I was the lead for a program in Croatia, which meant I did most of the training. Here's where my Influence energies were being drained:

1. Watching the audience, which was new to most of this content and weak in English, to make sure they understood
2. Checking on my colleagues to make sure I hadn't said something dumb or to make sure they got a few words in during the training, and being polite over dinners and whatnot
3. Trying not to stand out as an ugly American on breaks, over dinner, etc.
4. Watching the city around me to see if we were being observed, commented on, etc., as we spoke in English walking around Old Town
5. Calling colleagues in the US when need be and managing concerns
6. After two and a half days of this (and short sleep the whole time), I met a potential client in Zurich airport with a colleague I had never worked with before presenting something that my colleague had never done before, so I was constantly observing the client to make sure we were on track and my colleague to make sure I didn't mess up his client.
7. I got put on a late plane to London due to a breakdown and had to fight to get a hotel room, had a cab driver who ripped us off (a first for me in London), and all without losing my temper.

Okay, I'm way above average on Influence motive, but everyone has their limits! When I got onto the plane to Boston at last, I found myself unable to read the history book I had brought--which appeals to the Influence/Power motive--and even had trouble rereading a familiar mystery. I read a magazine, slept, and played a lot of Sudoku, which engaged my Achievement motive. I read quickly--this was unusual! I think I was just flat out of Influence motive, and also lacked sufficient self-control to stay focused on anything longer than a short magazine article. The brakes were worn out by the previous few days of holding onto my temper and impulses.

As I've noted, writing for publication tends to be based in the Influence motive. So is LJ, at least for me. So I nothing left to motivate me. I did read it, because I wanted to see what my friends were up to--but that's Affiliation motive. I talked to friends, both on the road and when I got home.

Separation from family arouses the Affiliation motive, and I've done a bit too much traveling the past two months, so even though I was physically tired and short on self-control, I was able to spend time with my daughters and wife--perhaps not on the most intellectual level, but enough to play a few simple computer games, chat, and cuddle. To put it another way, my Affiliative energy kept me going even though I was physically exhausted.

Now I've had a few days to recover (I got back Thursday afternoon, I write this on a very pleasant Sunday after a pleasant and restful weekend before the 4th of July), and my Influence motive has started to pick up again. I've gotten more bored with Sudoku, at least for the moment, and started following up on world events and politics again, which I actively avoided in Croatia for the most part.

Motives are sources of energy, but they're not all necessarily pumping at the same rate at the same time. What happened here was a major push on Influence/Power motive, even despite arousal, which drained me dry for a day or two, leaving some Achievement motive (Sudoku) and some Affiliation, both probably reduced by simple physical exhaustion, but the Affiliation got pumped up by my being away from home, and kept me going for a bit longer after the rest had tanked.

There's probably more to be said on this, but I'm still jetlagged!

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