By James Harvey Stout (deceased). This material is now in the public domain. The complete collection of Mr. Stout's writing is now at >


Jump to the following topics:

  1. What is motivation?
  2. What is the source of motivation?
  3. Techniques for exploring our motivation.

What is motivation? It is the dynamic by which we are driven to perform a particular action. When we are motivated, we feel an urge arise unbidden from our depths. We are ready; we feel that the time is right; we know that "this is what I am supposed to be doing"; we want to do it regardless of our previous failures, or any rationales to the contrary, or any pain or difficulty which we will encounter.

What is the source of motivation?

  1. The ego. The ego's motivation is to create our human world, e.g., our home, income, social life, a healthy body, etc.
  2. The soul. The soul's motivation is to explore the archetypes of spirit; we discern soul's motivation through intuition. This motivation is not contrary to the motivation of ego or the a-field elements:
    • Ego. Soul respects the ego's drive to create our human world, because that human world is the arena in which soul will function for its study of archetypes.
    • Charged a-field elements. Soul does not interfere with the dynamic by which the previous elements discharge themselves. The soul uses all of these experiences -- the pretty and the ugly -- as a means for learning about the dynamics of spirit and its archetypes.
  3. Defaults. In addition to the motivation from ego and soul, there are motivations which derive from various dynamics and mental functions. These modes of motivation are mechanical defaults which we use when we are not directed by the fresh, creative guidance of intuition.
    • Charged archetypal-field elements. In every situation, we are confronting archetypes. Intuition can guide us in generating the particular elements (i.e., thoughts, images, energy tones, and actions) which constitute an appropriate response to those archetypes. However, if we are not aware of intuition (or if we ignore it), our thoughts, imagery, energy tones, and actions will not be entirely appropriate; for example, we will not say exactly what needs to be said. Because of this inappropriateness, the elements do not fully discharge their charge; instead, when they leave their permanent record in the archetypal field, there is a charge which lingers. It is this charge which compels us to recreate the archetypal situation for the specific purpose of discharging the residual energy. Thus, much of our motivation derives from these charged elements; for example, if we have generated hateful thoughts toward "irresponsible people," we will be compulsively motivated to perform irresponsible acts until we have resolved the charge. (This compulsion is often called "karma.")
    • Values. During a decision-making process, the mind refers to our "values"; for example, if we must decide between a high-paying job and an enjoyable job, the mind might discover that we value "enjoyment." We feel motivated to comply with our values; contrarily, when we do not comply with our values, we experience the painful sensation of "guilt." When we are motivated by our values, we are energized and excited; we find the drive and desire and resources to endeavor, and we feel satisfaction when the goals are reached, regardless of people's reaction. What we have achieved is real to us, because it satisfies our values. But if we accept other people's values as our own, we probably feel a weaker drive and an emptiness at the conclusion (if we had enough enthusiasm to persist toward the completion at all).
    • Desire. Motivation is the psychological process which is triggered when we experience desire.
    • Pleasure and pain. Although the motivation of ego and soul might lead us into activities which are incidentally painful, we are generally motivated by a desire to achieve pleasure or avoid pain. (Even then, we are motivated by pleasure and pain, because we feel fulfillment when we comply with our values, and we feel guilt if we do not comply.) These are two different motivations; some people are influenced primarily by a desire for pleasure, but other people's lives are guided mostly by their aversion to discomfort. The first group experiences more satisfaction and fun; we can join that group by expressing our goals in a positive way; for example, our motivation can be to earn money "for our family and our own comfort," rather than to earn money "to stay out of debt."

Techniques for exploring our motivation.

  1. Archetypal field-work.
    • Self-talk. For example: "I am a responsible person." "I feel good when I fulfill my duties." "I can find something interesting in everything that I do." "Life is a fascinating adventure." "I enjoy exploring the many facets of life."
    • Directed imagination. We can visualize ourselves performing a task which needs to be performed.
    • Energy toning. To motivate ourselves, we can cultivate the energy tones of pleasure, excitement, passion, exhilaration, etc.
    • The "as if" principle. There is a time for examining our motivation -- but when the introspection degenerates into rationalization and psychologizing, we need to cease the introspection, and then turn to the chore and "just do it," acting "as if" we are motivated.
  2. Intuition. Intuition can assist us in various ways, with regard to our motivation:
    • Intuition can suggest goals which naturally motivate us.
    • Intuition can reveal our contrary motivations. For example, if we have not been motivated to study for an exam, intuition might show us that we have a "fear of success" (and so we secretly want to fail the exam).  
  3. We can explore will and willpower. Will is the psychological function by which we direct our attention and actions toward the goal for which we are motivated; in contrast, willpower is the default which we employ to force ourselves to pursue a goal for which we are not motivated.
  4. We can examine the defaults by which we are motivated when we are not driven by ego and soul. As listed previously, those defaults are values, desire, and pleasure.
  5. We can explore our "positive intention" (as it is called by Ken Keyes, Jr.). Sometimes we are motivated to do something which is destructive to ourselves and/or to other people. At those times, we can search for our underlying "positive intention"; for example, if we are motivated to overeat because we like the physical sensation, we might satisfy our positive intention (to experience sensation) by substituting eating with exercising, sports, sex, or another physical activity. Keyes said, "How do you identify your positive intention? Just ask yourself what you would experience inside if you got what you want. When you go behind what you're doing or saying in the moment -- behind the goal you're wanting to accomplish -- you will recognize the reason for your goal. You are trying: (1) to see yourself as, or 2) to hear inside that you're, or (3) to feel secure, comfortable, lovable, loved, alive, strong, capable, worthy, etc. ... Remember, a beneficial, positive intention is always a desired internal experience -- not an action or goal." (The Power of Unconditional Love, copyright 1990 by Love Line Books.)
  6. We can enhance the ways in which we motivate other people. Parents motivate their children; teachers motivate their students; bosses motivate their employees. We tend to motivate people through an external system, in which we give pleasure (e.g., compliments) or pain (e.g., humiliation). These external rewards are useful and necessary, but they can cause problems: external rewards can distract people from their internal reward system, and external punishments can cause fear, resentment, and retaliation. Ideally, we paradoxically motivate people to motivate themselves; we ignite their internal system, so that they perform well for the sake of the job itself and their own satisfaction. Then, the supervisor is not the personal dispenser of pleasure or pain; instead, he or she is a facilitator to an environment in which people want to do well.
  7. We can develop patience. Sometimes lack of motivation occurs because this is not the time for any particular action. During this phase of the cycle, we can rest so that we will be ready for action when motivation does arise.
  8. We can explore Maslow's hierarchy of needs. This model helps to explain why different people are motivated by different goals. In the hierarchy, we are driven to fulfill a "lower" need before a "higher" need seems important. (When that lower need is satisfied, it no longer drives us.) In other words, a hungry person isn't motivated by self-fulfillment; he or she wants a sandwich, and will work for it -- but a well-fed person is not motivated by that sandwich. According to Maslow, as we satisfy each need, we move to the next one, in this order:
    • Physiological needs. These needs include hunger, thirst, health, housing, etc.
    • Safety needs. These needs include physical security (e.g., a home which is secure from prowlers), a stable environment, law and order, and freedom from fear and violence.
    • Love and belonging. These needs include friendship, affection, acceptance, social connections, etc.
    • Self-esteem. These needs include self-respect, achievement, recognition, etc.
    • Self-actualization. The previous four levels are founded on a sense of lack. But after satisfying those basics, we start to become complete, distinct individuals who are inspired to pursue the expression of our full potential, our self-actualization.