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The Power of…Silent Motivators

Updated: May 7

There's an interesting theory about 'motivation' which I stumbled across recently.

It focused, primarily, on how powerful the 'unrealised dreams of a parent' can be, in the psyche of their children.

These often long-abandoned hopes and aspirations, can apparently plant a seed of determination like no other, and assign meaning and value to particular behaviours and goals, which transcend the ego, and the realms of 'self.'

It’s not something I’d ever considered in any depth, until I found an interview with Julia Roberts, where she discussed her experience of feeling propelled to pick up where her father left off, in regards to ‘making it’ as an actor.

Some would say this ‘pressure’ (if we can call it that) is far from a good thing, for it might inadvertently prevent a child from forging their OWN path, or pursuing their own interests.

On the flip side, however, I can see how consciously following in a parent’s footsteps (whether to be an actor… or a Wordsmith, in my case) can be a great source of comfort, and to such an extent that might cancel out at least some of the negative effects of ‘taking the baton.'

This ‘comfort’, from where I stand, is three pronged.

Firstly, it’s a tie that binds, which seems to become even more important when the person it’s binding to, exists only in memory.

Secondly, it represents the warm bear-hug of heredity, where drawing on the ancestral talent pool creates a feeling of being part of something bigger than one's self.

From a personal perspective, it's this facet in particular, which is interesting.

Particularly in times of feeling alone in my ‘brain full of words’, there's some small consolation in not being the first, nor likely the last, to come up against the 'blessing in disguise' of this particular gene.

There is a third and final source of ‘comfort’ to this equation, and that’s the one of ‘legacy.’ It’s the satisfaction of making flesh a loved one’s vision (even if via personal interpretation!), and eliminating the risk that their efforts (eg. the poems upon poems, ambitiously filed away!) were in vain.

This theme of 'actuation by procreation' is one that plays out in more movies than I’ve kept count of.

Most obviously, there is that Y2K classic - 'Coyote Ugly,' where the lead character - an aspiring songstress named Violet - manages to overcome the same stumbling blocks that, years earlier, had blighted her mother's singing career.

There is also 'The Notebook', where the mother recounts the head-over-heart 'mistake' she has always carried with her, almost as a back-handed cautionary tale to her daughter, who then atones the 'failure', by choosing to lead firmly from a place of love, over logic.

It's a theme which holds almost universal resonance, since it speaks to the (often big) part of us which fears the concept of regret, and unfulfilled potential.

It's not surprising, given the apparent inter-generational, emotional wrath that the shoulda, woulda, coulda monster wreaks!

All this goes to show, just how complex this 'silent motivation' perhaps is, and how much it comes to shape our definition of 'success.'

It's also a testament to the power of asking ourselves those all-important, why-am-I-the-way-I-am shaped questions, lest we don't miss out on all the gifts of self-understanding, that are arguably a form of 'success' in their own right!

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