Lack of solitary motivation

Estimated reading time: 1 minute, 37 seconds

As long as I can remember I struggled to complete tasks and achieve goals that required me to act cloistered, unless I had higher than normal motivation. Whether it was writing an essay or building a model volcano for the science fair, it was excruciatingly painful to go it alone. Over the years, I learned not to look at this procrastination with self-reproach and criticism. Rather, I have sought out supportive people who can accompany me while I accomplish these simple to sometimes arduous tasks, even if their only contribution was their mere presence. Having someone there, paralysis abates.

While re-reading Rapt by Winifred Gallagher, I came across a quote from the Chinese protégé of U.Mich psychology professor Richard Nesbitt describing their cultural differences as, “You and I think about the world completely differently. You think it’s a line, and I think it’s a circle.” The analogy clicked for me. It’s not that I was raised in an exclusively East Asian culture. After all, I was raised in Brooklyn, New York!? But I realized that my childhood (perhaps unique in some regards, but not in this one) isn’t a zero sum game between a collaborative perspective and a linear, self-guided view. I was brought up in a mixed culture and was exposed to a desire to work well with others while being told by those outside to be independent. This definitely explains (for me) why I am motivated independently to carry out some goals, while others I have no zeal without the support (at the very least) or cooperation in an activity, even if I know it is an obligation or only benefits me, or both.

This fills me with curiosity about how others who were raised in exclusively US, non-US or mixed cultures learn to act and interact as it relates to motivation. Do you attend to matters of importance aloof, together with friends, family and colleagues excitedly, or on a case-by-case basis?

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