Jump to content
The Wifcon Forums and Blogs

Recommended Posts

Kathleen D Vohs, professor of marketing at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota writes, “Once you’ve reached a peak level of acceptance, however, you’re not going to be motivated to work harder.” 


This is a raveled statement inconsistent with Buddhist philosophy.  It’s neither true nor false; it merely shows a lack of understanding of the principles of Buddhism.  So then, what is it a practicing Buddhist realizes he needs to accept to progress toward an improved state?  Emptiness—which is to say, that which is ubiquitous and perpetual, a recurrent state intrinsic to the temporal world.  Herein we are confronted with an oxymoronic condition, which is emptiness in the face of abundance.  He needs to accept the feeling of emptiness, which will continue to burden him even as he passes through many stages in life achieving successes.   “[A] peak level of acceptance,” well now, that would be nothing short of nirvana.  It would require more than a week or two of sitting in your company’s meditation room to reach such a state.  I recently read the following essay, a portion of which is as follows—




So what would be the focus of law (as a set of norms) if it is to reflect the appropriately internal motivation so central to Buddhism? It must be designed so as to promote individual happiness—but that is too easy and too quick. It must be designed so as to operate on one’s dispositional states, such that one is disposed to be motivated properly. It must be designed to change hearts and minds, not merely behavior.


So, if a law (let us refer to that law as a norm for now to avoid complexities surrounding the contrast between law in action and law as codified) is to be designed in such a way, a way appropriate to the internalist norms of personal development and motivation reformation, it must be internally endorsed, not externally enforced. Importantly, this norm will not work to promote the values it is supposed to instill unless one endorses it.


In the case of external norms, one need not care about the norm or be motivated appropriately for the scope of that norm to apply; while I might not care about social sanction, the norms of social behavior will still be applied to me. But how can we formulate norms that will encourage this, that is, facilitate right motivation in the right way, rather than enforce behavior that leads to happiness in a manner entirely inconsistent with the internal focus of Buddhist norms? More simply, how can we formulate norms that capture the essentially internal motivation of Buddhist norms? Notice how odd it would be to say “to make people strive for their own happiness” rather than, more appropriately, “to encourage happiness.” (Shockley, Kenneth, “Internal Motivations, External Coercion, and Educating for Happiness” as published in the Buffalo Law Review, Vol. 55: 635-735 (2007).)


Vohs might be correct in her assumption that “you’re not going to be motivated to work harder.”  However, this seems a narrow-minded goal.  Would not the better goal be for a greater work product, a smarter, more efficient method of doing business, and mutual satisfaction between parties.  While hard work can certainly lead to economic growth and prosperity, in and of itself, it does not necessarily guarantee the results intended and has been a bane to many workers.  Take the case of Warren Buffet, who nearly refuses meetings.  His practical goal for some time has been to read prospectuses alone in a comfortable environment and make three of four wise acquisitions each year that will yield him and his stakeholders a worthwhile profit.  Herein, there seems to be a level of utilitarianism.  Many people benefit, as well as the larger economy.  This he does in a modest office in Omaha, Nebraska.


Yes, Buddists are concerned about profit too.  The Dalai Lama said—


Economic motivation is very powerful and we cannot expect people not to be personally motivated by economic gain. Also without money, there is no progress. Even Buddhist monks who are aiming for Nirvana in their day-to-day life, they need money. And I think from the Buddhist viewpoint, is

really a matter of balance….


Surely the companies that will take us through the halfway mark of the 21st century will not disavow profit.  Profit is essential—without it the company dies.  But what else might become acknowledged as being important and by what other models can companies maximize profit?  Lest we forget that Apple, Google and Nike are not companies of our grandfathers’ generations.  Oh I watched them take the wrecking ball to the ole Montgomery Wards, Woolsworths became a Family Dollar and Sears has gone online.


Have a good weekend, folks!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am a student of Buddhism and currently am in Dialectic Behavior Thought (DBT) therapy which uses mindfulness as a cornerstone of its process. 

This article discusses mindfulness and meditation which are the seventh and eighth aspects of the eightfold path while ignoring the first steps.

Right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and meditation. 

 “…first let’s consider the word “right.”  The word the Buddha actually uses was samma.  Samma is usually translated as “right” – but not “right as opposed to “wrong,” or “bad,” or “evil.” Normally the moment we say “right,” we’ve already implied “wrong.”  We’ve implied dualism.  It’s better that we understand right as “this is appropriate,” “this works,” “this in sync with Reality.”  Buddhism Plain and Simple – Steve Hagen Chapter 5 the Art of Seeing

Then the researches provided mundane tasks and measured motivation.  What does motivation have to do with mundane office tasks?  And while their motivation to complete the tasks was less there was no corresponding decrease in quality.  Did they measure peace of mind, contentedness, or satisfaction? 

Then they used financial incentives to try and increase motivation. To start a high level review of the successfulness of money as a motivator I’d recommend “Drive by Daniel Pink” https://www.samuelthomasdavies.com/book-summaries/business/drive/.   This is one of the (many) reasons pay for performance is, to me, a deeply flawed concept. 

And even the ruler they are using to measure (motivation) can be seen as inaccurate. 

“Discipline, Burke continues, is what "drives you to do the work you don't enjoy, but is required.  Discipline conquers fear. Discipline keeps you going when your curiosity, motivation, and excitement evaporate."


I do not want motivated employees, I want disciplined ones.  Motivation is fleeting, ephemeral, and elusive.

In my experience mindfulness and meditation lead to deeper appreciation of people, a calmer attitude, and the ability to continue to strive for improvement in the face of an apparently impenetrable bureaucracy.   It has nothing to do with motivation and everything to do with discipline. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Motivation is an emotion.  Your reasons for self improvement may stay constant and your willingness will fluctuate.  Motivation gets you started.  Self-discipline keeps you going when the motivation runs out. 

The majority of an 1102s job is fairly routine, generic, and administrative in nature.  We can discuss the "good old days" forever and the clericalization of professional jobs will likely continue until replaced with full automation (i.e., AI).  Since most of what we do as a profession is relatively mundane it is difficult to sustain motivation.  A manager can strive to create a workplace that maximizes sustained motivation ( http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/post-tribune/opinion/ct-ptb-hoagland-smith-september-st-0925-20170924-story.html) and that is difficult to as a lot of constraints are agency directed.  

Motivation provides that initial burst of desire and energy to start improvement (intellectual, physical, emotional, etc.).  However that eventually fades and discipline is what allows you to continue even when the emotional drive decreases.

"It gets easier. Every day it gets a little easier. But you got to do it every day. That's the hard part. But it does get easier."




Link to comment
Share on other sites

This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Create New...