Monday, December 30, 2013

Dressing well and the origins of motivation

One interesting thing that happened over this past year was that I gained an interest in dressing better.  Around October or so, I started reading blogs on men's style.  With this new found information, I had my clothes tailored to fit better, and started shopping for all kinds of different clothing items.  I overhauled my entire closet.  I went from wearing jeans and "witty" t-shirts to wearing ties, sport jackets, and leather brogues on a daily basis.

People who know me are predictably surprised at how I appear now.  Most are supportive, and nearly all are curious as to why I decided to make this change.  This is an interesting question in general.  I have no good answer for them.  How did I develop the interest and motivation to pursue this line of decision making?  It's not like I made a conscious decision one day to change the way I dress.

This sort of thing happened to me before.  I became interested in playing guitar and making music.  I became interested in studying philosophy.  I can't tell you why I all of a sudden became so interested in these things.  They just happened to me.  It's as if a railroad switch went off in my brain, redirecting my attention and effort to certain things, and away from others.

This leads me to conclude that I don't have very much control over the passions and motivations in my life.  If I'm not interested in something, I can't will myself to be interested in it.  Isn't the same true of romance?  We can't make ourselves be attracted to someone, can we?  The only explanation I have at the moment for why we are motivated in the way we are is that we are affected by a variety of external factors.  Some perfect storm of external events and stimuli makes a permanent or long lasting impression on us, thus directing our attention to or away from certain sorts of things in life.

What this seems to imply is that if we want to change our interests or motivations, the best that we can do is to somehow affect external events so that we experience the combination that produces the motivation.  For instance, if we want to be motivated in eating better, we cannot simply will ourselves to make the decisions associated with healthy eating.  Instead, we have to expose ourselves to the sorts of circumstances that will affect our brain in such a way as to develop the motivation to eat more healthily.  Of course what those circumstances are for any type of motivation is a mystery, and there is no guarantee that experiencing a particular cocktail of events will produce the right kind of motivation.

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