Motivation - Doing The Right Thing
In the first chapter of the Bible (Genesis), God advisedadmonished Adam and Eve that all was theirs except the apple from the Tree of Wisdom. That is, the Choices of Good were broad and there was apparently only one bad. However, and as you know the story, humans being what they are, the apple was tasted. Thereafter, all of us have had to deal with the choices of "right vs. wrong." Culturally, when we choose right, we should be happy and/or acceptant, and when we choose wrong, by tradition, we should feel guilty or fearful of punishment. It is this "guilt" or fear that motivates most of us most of the time. Ideally, our actions should be naturally toward "the good" or "the right" or "responsible behavior (responsibility)" which happens, therefore, to be away from the bad. However, most of us are motivated by pain avoidance rather than doing the right thing. Frequently, the right thing is more difficult and/or less fun than the wrong, and so we are less motivated to do the right except as an avoidance of pain (guilt or fear).
Realistically, guilt does lead-push us in a positive sense towards responsible behavior. Avoiding the feeling of guilt is probably the dominant force that results in responsible behavior in most of us, most of the time. Some (not you or me) are naturally good and/or in the right direction.
It is typically human to focus on the negative such as guilt or pain. Although human behavior is usually affected by multiple factors, it is my belief that humans tend to be weak as opposed to strong and that moral responsibility based on positive ideals is notably lacking (in general), at least at the present time and in most individuals through out most of history. What good I see is mostly because of avoidance of bad. It is my belief that the history of the human race has, in general, been guided by the avoidance of guilt-pain, which avoidance is then glorified into a positive behavior rather than recognized in its origin as the avoidance of bad behavior to avoid guilt-punishment. I do not diminish the importance of joyful and positive behavior and recognition thereof, but I imply that the largest part of human behavior is based on the above (probable) psychological truths.
Marital fidelity is less an ideal pursued out of human goodness as there has typically been an excess risk to infidelity. Paying our taxes is not so much a positive responsibility as it is, for most of us, a necessity to stay out of jail.
There is an aphorism that states "The price of freedom is . . ." I didn't finish this because I wanted you to think about it. The answer is more out of guilt than positive responsibility. That is, the price of freedom is "eternal vigilance." Eternal vigilance does not mean paying attention, eternal vigilance does not mean working hard, eternal vigilance means almost total attention all of the time without relent. That is a heavy load. Freedom is what we all say we need-want, and so with that freedom comes the responsibility. Incidentally that quote is from Thomas Jefferson, and it actually is "Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom." Speaking of "heavy" do you know what "Ondine's Curse" is? Ondine was cursed in that he had to push a very heavy stone up a steep hill. If he stopped pushing the stone, the stone would roll back and crush him. Hence, he always had to be pushing the stone and was never allowed to sleep lest he be crushed to death by the heavy stone. Hence, his curse of sleeplessness. This is another good (life) which comes from avoiding a bad (being crushed by the heavy stone rolling downhill over him if he fell asleep).
Try to see the joy and positive results in what you do, don't focus on the bad or pain-punishment avoidance, do things for the right, reason, and don't worry-concern yourself about "why?", just keep moving in the directions that you should.
H. Robert Silverstein, MD