What’s My Motivation?
While the title of this post sounds like the inquiry of a thespian pondering her next role, it is truly the question I am asking myself as I carefully select my focus practice for the culmination of a Coursera Course called The Science of Well Being. I was alerted to this free, online course by my husband and have been working steadily at it since September. The course is designed and taught by a Yale professor, Dr. Laurie Santos, who specifically created the course for her Yale students and herself to develop practices that actually create and enhance a foundation for appreciating and enjoying life. The psychology and neuroscience behind what truly seems to make life pleasurable and meaningful is the focus of this nicely paced class and the homework and Rewirements (a play on requirements) are intended to provide students with practical applications for the information being taught. I have decided to focus on developing a practice of deliberate kindness. Which has brought me to the question, “What is my motivation for this choice?”
I think I am drawn to the kindness practice because I am not a kind person by nature and it offers a challenge that I believe is worthwhile and virtuous. The challenge for me I think lies in expectation. Will I be able to act kindly without anticipating appreciation from the recipient? I honestly feel that the simple act of kindness without any hope for recognition or acknowledgement is the purest practice. I am able to be kind and enjoy making that effort to do so, but I feel somewhat daunted by the thought of doing it all the time. I am dubious about the cost. Will making the effort to be kinder wear me down? Will it backfire? When my acts of constant kindness go ignored will I get jaded and bitter? I hope to find that in being kinder as a habit I soften my somewhat harsher edges and become a gentler human being.
My number one strength, according to the character inventory I was asked to take at the outset of the course was judgment. Judgment is not kind. My very strongest virtue seems to stand in the way of this goal to be a kinder person. At least that is how it plays in my mind right now. Judgment is studious and critical and clinical – will Kindness, with her soft eyes and gentle heart, her tender understanding and wisdom get on with Judgment at all? What is my motivation here people? Do I want to be kind because it is diametrically opposed to my strength and seems prettier and sweeter and nicer? Do I want to be kind because it is nicer? I think that that is absolutely my motivation, I want to be a nicer person. I don’t want to be liked by others so much, although I would not object at all if that were a result, actually, my motivation here is that I simply want to like myself better.
My challenge for you then is to try the Science of Well Being yourself. Take the VIA Survey that assesses your strengths and share your results here.