What’s their motivation?

What's the motivation?

Everyone has a motivation.

I’m not talking so much about motivational. Motivational can be found everywhere you look, and it’s very often a great thing. Whatever gets us moving is a good thing. The origin of the word “motive” comes from the Latin verb movere meaning “to move”.

No, I’m talking here about motivation.

When someone does something, what’s their motivation? Is it genuine? Is it caring? Is it well-intentioned? Or is it self-promoting or self-protecting? When someone we see up close does something, we tend to know, when we take a little time in solitude to ponder and reflect on it a little, whether their motivations were generally good.

The question of motivation also applies way beyond our closest circle.

When you read something in the news, what’s the motivation of the writer and the organisation who brought it to you?

At its most aspirational, journalism is a quest for truth and accountability. It is, or was, a noble craft. But now, in an era when we have the double-whammy of so few people pay for newspapers and there are so many newspapers and media outlets to choose from, the question of motivation is a good one to ask.

When we see a media report about an opinion poll, a new medical breakthrough, or a new superfood, the question “what’s their motivation?” is a decent place to start.

It’s not about default cynicism or distrusting everyone by default, but blind faith and trust usually leads us somewhere we don’t want to go.

Trust has to be earned, and when it’s broken it can take forever to restore.

For so much media now, the motivation is one of these:

  • They want you to click, because each new pageview triggers a few more adds which adds a few fractions of a cent from advertising revenue to their bottom line
  • They want you to share, because each new share gets a few more clicks, and a few more pageviews
  • They want you to dwell and go down the rabbit-hole, because each second you spend there is another second in which you might see another ad
  • They want your attention, because your attention, combined with the attention of thousands of others, adds up to some value to them and adds to their bottom line
  • They want you to see the world a certain way, their way, so that you’ll come back again tomorrow and next week and next year

[It’s not all like this, of course. News is not all negative and not all fake. News and the media play a significant role in holding malign power-brokers to account. But lots of what we see online on news media sites is not journalism but “content”.]

The same question — what’s their motivation? — is valid across the spectrum, from local politicians to central Government to charities to financial institutions to business. What’s their motivation?

What’s my motivation?

Please ask this question here too: What’s my motivation? Why am I doing this?

I could offer you an answer, and the answer would be something like this — that I do this because I would like to become better at communicating, because I believe great communication can change the world for the better; that I do this to practice my writing; that I do this to send thoughts into the world and see where they go; that I do this to try to help others see things differently in a similar way that other people have helped me see things differently. You could also say this work is selfish: I want to do this work. I want people to value and respect the work I do. I want that value and respect to lead to something that can help me to make a living for me and my family, and maybe if that happens I can keep doing the work. If I have to do something else, I won’t be able to do this.

But your own answer, whatever answer you come up with after your own reflection, is probably more valid to you than anything I say to you here.

Thanks for being here, and if you trust me to some extent, I’m grateful for that and as I try to figure out the world and how it works and how we can all life well within it,  I’ll do my best never to disrespect that trust.