Sunday, July 13, 2014

Matot 74 -The Secret of Effective Motivation

The Parasha of Mattot deals with the request of tribes Gad and Reu'vein not to cross the Jordan and inherit a portion in the land of Israel  – the land of milk and honey but on the east bank of the Jordan .   R' Issac Sher explains that they saw their vast herds of cattle as a gift from God and a sign that  cattle breeding was the  occupation that God intended for them. This how they would serve the nation and make a contribution to the economy. They now saw the East bank, suited to cattle breeding , as rightfully theirs. In fact, there is no argument on this point. Moses only criticizes them for their immoral choice not to cross over the Jordan and join their ' brothers ' in the mitzvah of conquering the Land of Israel. . The tribes of Gad and Re'uvein explained that they would build pens for their sheep and cattle, and cities for their children and then arm themselves in order to take the front positions in the battle before the children of Israel. Moses corrects them  – children are one's first priority- not money , build cities for the children and then pens for the sheep etc . .If the motives of Gad and Re'uvein to inherit the East bank were internal and part of their service of God, what went wrong that the tribes were unsuccessful and  the first to be exiled?
The answer can be found in a  Research Project  of American military cadets from the West Point military academy. Being in the military has both internal –intrinsic (lishma) and instrumental – extrinsic- (lo lishma) consequences. Examples of internal consequences – becoming a leader and making a contribution, or  enjoying the military way of life are inherently related to the job etc whereas status, making money and  good job  conditions are instrumental- extrinsic consequences. The question asked – how did the motives of the cadets impact on their careers in the army. Cadets who were internally motivated did much better than those cadets who joined the military because instrumental –extrinsic motives like status and job conditions. But what about mixes of motives, surely 2 motives - high internal and instrumental are better than one= high internal . 
Remarkably, cadets with strong internal and strong instrumental motives for attending West Point performed worse on every measure than did those with strong internal motives but weak instrumental ones. They were less likely to graduate, less outstanding as military officers and less committed to staying in the military.
Strong instrumental and materialistic motives undermine intrinsic Mastery orientated learning and shifts the learners' attention and goals from competence development to   competence demonstration or performance goals. Their focus is on ' achievement' rather than on the process. They 'have' knowledge so that they can pass an exam, get good grades or a degree …..But the content does not become part of their own individual system of thought, enriching it and widening it…This leads to superficial learning, lower Mastery goals and higher performance avoidance goals when the tasks are challenging so as not to appear unsuccessful.
There is a story of a student who asked his Zen Master, how long will it take for him to find Zen. The Master replied – at least 10 years. I f I really apply myself and work very hard, how long will it take me? The Master replied 15 years. And if I tripled my efforts, how long will it take me? The Master replied 20 years. The disappointed student then said to the Master, I don't understand – when I work even harder to achieve my goal it takes longer! The Master answered – when you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye left on the path.
The Talmud talks negatively about those who learn with their left hands –their motives are instrumental ,they focus on achievement , checking to see how many pages are left to finish the masechta=tractate , rather than   learning with the right hand and having internal motives. Here the focus is on the process, being on the page and understanding it deeply.
When businessmen are driven by internal motives – enjoying what they do and having a mission of serving the public, they are financially successful. However the tribes of Gad and Re'uvein, despite these internal motives failed to see how setting up business on the East bank would not be serving the nation but would    undermine the morale and confidence of Israel. They were also making a value statement of choosing to live far from the spiritual centers and in a less holy location. Financial gain made their decision hurried and impulsive and blinded them in not be able to see that sometimes financial opportunities may God's way of testing them, rather than a validation of their business policies and vision. The problem with their decision to ask to settle on the East Bank was the timing of their request.
As parents, teachers and employers we should help  people focus on internal motives rather than making financial or other instrumental  consequences their motives. This guarantees not only intrinsic reward but also better quality of work and learning and success in its widest meaning.

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