Yetley: Personal motivation vs. need for acceptance


Photo: Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Abby Wright-Taylor, freshman in engineering, studies during dinner at the Memorial Union food court on Thursday, Sept. 19.

Claire Yetley

On Monday, I did an informal survey and asked 17 female students what motivated them. I made the question as simple as possible: “What motivates you?” Two people had very vague responses, four had responses of a somewhat materialistic nature, one person said equality (which inspired me), and then there were the remaining 10. Five responses could be categorized as self-motivation, and five could be categorized as seeking acceptance from others. This leads me to believe that students are still discovering who they are as individuals and need to learn the difference between acceptance and motivation.

Granted, someone could be completely comfortable with whom they are and still feel motivated by another person. But there’s a distinct difference between self-motivation and seeking acceptance from others. Acceptance can function as a form of motivation, but be careful to avoid self-denial or the type of people who will never accept you.

The two groups of five may have both had the same goals, to get into the best graduate school or to get the best job, but the way they worded their statements is what differentiated them. Did they say: “ I want my dream job”? Or did they say: “I want to make my parents proud”? Both could mean being a doctor, but are very different motivations.

Making a family member proud is commendable. But the goal is not self-reflecting. This shows that students are still searching to find themselves. Everyone moves at a different pace, but this is the point in most students’ lives for figuring that out.

College is the perfect time for soul searching. Iowa State offers so many options to get involved in just about anything. Whether it’s something that has always been a passion or just a hobby, there are opportunities to develop that interest. It could also be something that has just never been available at other schools; it’s important to try new things.

Your time at college is not only a good opportunity for self-discovery, it’s a critical time for it. As students, we are invested in our education. We’re invested in so many ways; not only financially, but mentally, emotionally and physically.

The financial aspect is obvious: College isn’t cheap. If students aren’t willing to do the mental work, then they might as well not attend college. Education is a huge intellectual challenge, especially at the university level. College is a physical investment. Although studying doesn’t seem like it would be physically taxing, taking the time to study and go to class is an investment of one’s time and energy. Students give up four or more years of their life so that they can make a better future for themselves. This kind of devotion wouldn’t be for something insignificant.

Because students are in the midst of a major investment, it would be a mistake to invest in something that is not personally important. It’s possible to go through life doing something that’s not very interesting or enjoyable, but college gives people the option against that. Students have choices. Hopefully they choose to be motivated by an aspect of who they are or strive to be, rather than trying to fit into a role they do not truly want to play.

Acceptance is a necessity in our society. The responses that sounded like they were looking for acceptance are not wrong responses at all. Successful people didn’t get where they are in life without being accepted somewhere by someone. Getting hired, successful networking, or being able to work with another person, all these are examples of being accepted. The trick is to not get distracted seeking acceptance from the wrong people. And above all, seek to accept and gratify yourself before all others.

Seeking acceptance is different than being motivated. Perhaps, when I posed the question to students, I wasn’t clear enough about the difference between the two. But that just shows how we confuse the two terms in everyday language.

When a person seeks acceptance, that person is giving their time and effort to another person. Motivation is like a gift given to yourself. Whatever your goals are, make sure your motivation is clear. Acceptance is giving, while motivation is given. Even if you don’t have finalized goals, be sure you’re in college for the right reasons.