Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Not Everyone's Motivation is the Same

That should be obvious, but as with many things that seem obvious, it isn’t the case. And there’s something that many people, who are ensconced in their own cocoons, don’t seem to realize or acknowledge:

We’re all different. We have different goals. We have different reasons for doing things. We have different motivations.

Why we do things, when we do them, and the degree to which we do them varies from person to person. It’s true of anything, from learning to self improvement to exercise.

A good example is language learning. There is a growing cadre of self-described linguists on the web these days. Some of them seem to collect languages in the way others collect trading cards. For that portion of the group, having an increasing number of languages under their belts is a mark of pride and a source of bragging rights. And some of them scoff at people who take up a language but who don’t aim for mastery or even fluency.

In that area, my motivation is far different from theirs. I’m not interested in learning a foreign language. Besides not having much ability in that area (I’m 0-3 in trying to pick up a foreign tongue), I really don’t have a compelling reason to do so. It’s not enough for me to learn German to a level of fluency that will enable me to, say, watch or listen to Deutsche Welle with comfort. It’s not reason enough for me to jump back on the horse to learn Japanese to better appreciate the movies of Kurosawa, Ozu, or Suzuki.

Since I have no compelling reason to do so, embarking on learning a foreign language would a pointless exercise and a waste of my time and energy. Whenever I plan to travel to a foreign country where the primary language isn’t English, I do make a point of learning the basics of that language. It makes the trip easier, and opens a few more doors. But it’s situational knowledge, which I quickly forget a short while after I return home. I don’t regret forgetting, or learning, that bit of a language.

It can take a while to realize that others have different motivations than you. When you finally realize that, however, you gain a bit of insight into not only others but yourself.

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