Currently viewing the tag: "motivation"

Question Vanishing

It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers. –Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man’s Fear

Fiction Writing Prompt: What is the question that your character is driven to answer? What lengths will he or she go to for the answer? Write a story about the search.

Journaling Prompt: Write about one question you don’t know the answer to. How are you searching for it?

Art Prompt: Questions and answers

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience what you believe is the most important question they can ask themselves right now. Give them strategies for exploring answers for it.

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney on Flickr


…although self-control is harder for people in these moments of fatigue; it’s not that people cannot control themselves, it’s that they don’t feel like controlling themselves, at least on certain tasks,” said Michael Inzlicht of the University of Toronto Scarborough. “In short, when people are ‘depleted’ or fatigued, they experience a change in motivational priorities such that they attend to and work less for things they feel obliged to do and attend to and work more for things they want to do — things they like doing.” –Science Daily

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story where your protagonist gets in trouble due to laziness brought on by fatigue.

Journaling Prompt: How does fatigue affect your self-control? How do you cope with it?

Art Prompt: Fatigue and self-control

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Inform your audience about how fatigue affects their motivation and self-control. Give them strategies to recognize when it’s affecting and how to deal with it.

Photo Credit: AbigailGeiger on Flickr

…you would think that the more people are paid, the harder they will work, and the better they will do their jobs — until they reach the limits of their skills. That notion tends to hold true when the stakes are low, says Vikram Chib, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech and lead author on a paper published in the May 10 issue of the journal Neuron. Previous research, however, has shown that if you pay people too much, their performance actually declines.

Some experts have attributed this decline to too much motivation: they think that, faced with the prospect of earning an extra chunk of cash, you might get so excited that you will fail to do the task properly. But now, after looking at brain-scan data of volunteers performing a specific motor task, the Caltech team says that what actually happens is that you become worried about losing your potential prize. The researchers also found that the more someone is afraid of loss, the worse they perform. –Science Daily

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a scene where your protagonist earns a raise or a prize. Show how it affects his or her job performance afterwards.

Journaling Prompt: What is more motivating to you: hope of gain or fear of loss? Why?

Art Prompt: Demotivated at Work

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Inform your audience about subconscious fear of loss and how it can be overcome.

Photo Credit: id-iom on Flickr

5 presidents

Some people are natural leaders, but it’s important to know whether their leadership derives from a motivation of service or narcissism.
“Narcissism can sometimes be useful in a leader, says Nevicka. In a crisis, for instance, people feel that a strong, dominant person will take control and do the right thing, ‘and that may reduce uncertainty and diminish stress.’

“But in the everyday life of an organization, ‘communication — sharing of information, perspectives, and knowledge — is essential to making good decisions. In brainstorming groups, project teams, government committees, each person brings something new. That’s the benefit of teams. That’s what creates a good outcome.’ Good leaders facilitate communication by asking questions and summarizing the conversation — something narcissists are too self-involved to do.

“Nevicka says the research has implications beyond the workplace — for instance, in politics. ‘Narcissists are very convincing. They do tend to be picked as leaders. There’s the danger: that people can be so wrong based on how others project themselves. You have to ask: Are the competencies they project valid, or are they merely in the eyes of the beholder?'” –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Create a character sketch for both a servant leader and a narcissistic leader. How do they differ?

Journaling Prompt: Write about leaders you have worked with and their motivations.

Art Prompt: Narcissistic leader

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about narcissistic leaders in politics and how to spot them.

Photo Credit: Beverly & Pack on Flickr

picture book

Kids love dogs. Dogs love kids. I don’t think the results of this study should surprise us at all. 
…second-grade students with a range of reading aptitudes and attitudes toward reading were paired with dogs — or people — and asked to read aloud to them once a week for 30 minutes in the summer of 2010.

At the end of the program, students who read to the dogs experienced a slight gain in their reading ability and improvement in their attitudes toward reading, as measured on the Curriculum-Based Measurement (CBM) and Elementary Reading Attitude Survey (ERAS), respectively — while those who read to people experienced a decrease on both measures.

Another surprising result was the high rate of attrition among students in the control group. Of the original cohort of nine, a third failed to complete the program. No students left the dog-reading group. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write about a dog helping a kid. Doesn’t have to be reading. Could be Lassie getting Timmy out of the well. Just work on that dog / kid relationship.

Journaling Prompt: What has your pet helped you learn?

Art Prompt: Kids and Dogs

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about a way that dogs help humans.

Photo Credit: catnipstudio on Flickr


stock trader

What kind of person chooses to harm others. Sure, psychopaths do. People with anger issues, yep. But who would have guessed this one?

“Various studies have suggested that a certain kind of psychological profile gravitates toward the fast-paced, high-pressure environment of the trading floor — and that this profile probably has more than a little in common with psychopathic personality, a clinical condition marked by gregariousness, impulsiveness, dishonesty and lack of empathy.

“A recent study from the University of St. Gallen, in Switzerland, goes one step further. The research, led by forensics expert Pascal Scherrer and prison administrator Thomas Noll, finds that professional stock traders actually outperform diagnosed psychopaths when it comes to competitive and risk-taking behavior.

“According to Der Spiegel, Scherrer and Noll had a group of 28 stockbrokers participate in various simulations and intelligence tests, and then compared their results to a group of psychopaths.
“They found that the traders showed a higher degree of competitiveness than the psychopaths — and that the traders were surprisingly willing to cause harm to their competitors if they thought it would bring them an advantage.” –Huffington Post

Writing Prompt: Write about a character who is not evil, but chooses to harm another person. What are the circumstances and emotions involved?

Journaling Prompt: Write about a time you made a choice knowing that it would hurt another person.

Art Prompt: Stock broker

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about the effect of competitive jobs on people’s ethics.

Photo Credit: Mike Baird on Flickr



Have you ever wondered what people are getting out of playing video games? I always thought it was pure escapism, but it seems that it is much more than that.

“A game can be more fun when you get the chance to act and be like your ideal self,” explained Dr. Przybylski. “The attraction to playing videogames and what makes them fun is that it gives people the chance to think about a role they would ideally like to take and then get a chance to play that role.”

The research found that giving players the chance to adopt a new identity during the game and acting through that new identity — be it a different gender, hero, villain — made them feel better about themselves and less negative.

Looking at the players’ emotion after play as well their motivation to play, the study found the enjoyment element of the videogames seemed to be greater when there was the least overlap between someone’s actual self and their ideal self.

“When somebody wants to feel they are more outgoing and then plays with this personality it makes them feel better in themselves when they play,” explained Dr. Przybylski. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: What video game would each of your characters want to play in order to experience being their ideal self? Write about what they are feeling as they play the game.

Journaling Prompt: What is your favorite game? How do you feel when you are playing it? What do you get out of the experience of playing it?

Art Prompt: Video game

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience about videogames and alternate personas.

Photo Credit: Sebastian Fritzon on Flickr

two men talking

The science of hormones and their effects on human behavior is really fascinating. 

Oxytocin’s positive effects are well known. Experiments have found that, in games in which you can choose to cooperate or not, people who are given more oxytocin trust their fellow players more. Clinical trials have found that oxytocin can help people with autism, who have trouble in social situations. Studies have also found that oxytocin can increase altruism, generosity, and other behaviors that are good for social life.

But the warm fuzzy side of oxytocin isn’t the whole story… Recent studies have found that people who were given oxytocin, then played a game of chance with a fake opponent, had more envy and gloating. These are also both social emotions, but they’re negative. “It kind of rocked the research world a little bit,” Kemp says. That led some researchers to think that oxytocin promotes social emotions in general, both negative and positive.

But Kemp and Guastella think oxytocin’s role is slightly different. Rather than supporting all social emotions, they think it plays a role in promoting what psychologists call approach-related emotions. These are emotions that have to do with wanting something, as opposed to shrinking away. “If you look at the Oxford English Dictionary for envy, it says that the definition of envy is to wish oneself on a level with another, in happiness or with the possession of something desirable,” Kemp says. “It’s an approach-related emotion: I want what you have.” Gloating is also about approach, he says; people who are gloating are happy — a positive, approach-related emotion — about having more than their opponent and about that person’s misfortune.

If Kemp and Guastella are right, that could mean that oxytocin could also increase anger and other negative approach-related emotions. That could have important implications for people who are studying how to use oxytocin as a psychiatric treatment. “If you were to take a convicted criminal with a tendency towards aggression and give him oxytocin to make him more social, and if that were to enhance anger as opposed to suppressing anger, then that has very substantial implications,” Kemp says. –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: What approach-related emotions does your protagonist typically experience? What changes his behavior?

Journaling Prompt: Describe a time when you felt envious. What triggered that and how did you behave?

Art Prompt: Envy

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about approach-related emotions and their function in your workplace or family relationships.

Photo Credit: pawpaw67 on Flickr

take my hand

What kind of man cheats on his wife? The results of this study may surprise you.

For men, significant predictors of infidelity are personality variables, including propensity for sexual excitation (becoming easily aroused by many triggers and situations) and concern about sexual performance failure.

The latter finding might seem counterintuitive, Milhausen said, but other studies have also found this connection. “People might seek out high-risk situations to help them become aroused, or they might choose to have sex with a partner outside of their regular relationship because they feel they have an ‘out’ if the encounter doesn’t go well — they don’t have to see them again.”

For women, relationship happiness is paramount. Women who are dissatisfied with their relationship are more than twice as likely to cheat; those who feel they are sexually incompatible with their partners are nearly three times as likely.

“All kinds of things predict infidelity,” Milhausen said. “What this study says is that when you put all of those things together, for men, personality characteristics are so strong they bounce everything else out of the model. For women, in the face of all other variables, it’s still the relationship that is the most important predictor.” –Science Daily

Writing Prompt: Write a scene where your character is considering cheating on their partner where the character is a female. Write the same scene where the character is a male.

Journaling Prompt: Write about your personal experience with infidelity, temptation, or betrayal.

Art Prompt: Betrayal

Nonfiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Tell your audience how they can create fidelity in their relationship.

Photo Credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino on Flickr

lady luck

There’s sheer luck (winning the lottery) and there’s hard work (with almost no reward). The magic happens when sheer luck and hard work combine. In show business, this often gets called “overnight success” even though the artist has been working away without recognition for years. In your writing, your characters can run into this kind of phenomenon as well. Make them put in the work first, and their lucky breaks will feel more believable.

        “We can’t expect to be lucky all the time.”
    “There’re thousands of those things stored in that place,” Ross pointed out. “If we do find anything useful—it will have to be by luck!”
        “Well, luck is what we have to count on in our game.” Ashe’s voice was tired, drained. He moved slowly, rubbing his hands across his eyes. “When you give up a belief in luck, you’re licked!” -Andre Norton, Galactic Derelict (free for your eReader at FeedBooks – part of the Time Traders series)

Writing Prompt: Write a scene where your character’s hard work pays off in a stroke of good luck.

Journaling Prompt: How has hard work turned into good luck for you?

Art Prompt: Luck

Nonfiction / Speech Writing Prompt: Write about the role of hard work in what seems like luck.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk on Flickr