How do our emotions motivate us?



Emotions can often dictate our actions, they cause us to feel compelled to behave in a certain way. Most of the time, our actions are representative of the emotions that we are experiencing. We are lead to believe that emotions are the opposite of reason, that when we are emotional we fail to be rational.


However, emotions are a special class of motives that helps us attend to and respond to important (usually external) situations and communicate our intentions to others. The psychology of emotion has retained this meaning by viewing emotion as a special sort of motivation directed externally in our behaviour.





Emotions also increase our arousal, attach the values we call “feelings” to people, objects, and events that we judge important, and produce an approach or avoidance response. Let’s look more closely at these components of emotion.


Emotions serve as arousal states that signal important events, such as when we need to be motivated to achieve a specific objective. It creates a level of arousal that we require in order to push ourselves to achieve our goals. We use our emotions to drive us. As the catalyst for our endeavours. Without them, we would not have the vigour and drive to fulfill our ambitions. We would simply be in a constant state of malaise and no productive work would be done. Thus, it is important to understand how our emotions motivate us so that we can use it as a guide rather than allow it to control us.


Motivation would fall under the component of cognitive interpretation, where our minds perceive a certain task to be of utmost importance to us. We cognitively process that these objectives are worthy of certain emotions. In the case of motivation, we are likely to experience positive emotions such as excitement. Thus, we consciously associate our emotions with them.


However, we may also experience negative emotions that end up motivating us. For example, we may feel anxious before a big meeting or exam because we understand that the outcome would greatly affect us. Thus, as a result of the anxiety we experienced, we might be more likely to study harder.


The motivation comes as a direct result of the emotions that we experienced. We feel the need to take action because of the anxiety that we faced, we do so in an attempt to improve our chances of a positive outcome. We tend to be motivated to perform certain actions in order to experience positive emotions and minimise the possibility of feeling negative emotions.



Remember that your motivation comes as a direct result of your emotions. Whatever emotions you experience is likely to result in a certain form of motivation. Be mindful of these and only allow your emotions to guide your motivation if it is something you feel is worth while.


Often, we have misguided motivations, we aim to please others rather than please others. We do so because we feel a sense of insecurity (emotion) and thus look to overcompensate by conforming to people's expectation of us. If you bear this in mind, the next time you are feeling motivated, ask yourself what is the source of this?


Ask yourself, if you feel like it is a healthy source of motivation. It is important that you are not motivated for the wrong reasons, because even if you achieve your goal, a sense of emptiness will overwhelm you.

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