For Love of the Effort?

The behavioral economics lessons from my online course this week centered on motivation. This lecture mainly looked at motivation in the workplace, asking what, besides money, induces people to work, because the reward of money is not enough for an employee. The conclusion was drawn that people become more attached to things, tasks, ideas into which they put some effort into creating. Wow! I, being metaphorically inclined, immediately saw a connection to feeling invested in relationships.

Dan Ariely, my professor, describes this phenomenon of increasing fondness and attachment for an object through being involved in the effort of creation as “the IKEA Effect.” He has shown that people tend to value and esteem things they made even when the process is perceived as negative or the created product is of poor workmanship. Through effort, value and meaning increase.

This idea of effort leading to attachment does ring true to me on many levels. I felt like I put a lot into my relationship, so when we broke up I felt all sort of pain. I thought things like: “What a waste of time!” “I gave him so much and look what he does!” So much of breaking up was about detaching myself from the relationship, letting go of ideas, thoughts and attachments of all kinds. I had been willing to work, to put in effort and so I was the one who was most attached…I was willing to love that imperfect man and nourish our imperfect relationship because I was invested in a relationship I was helping to create.

Did I put too much effort into my relationship, leaving not enough for my partner? Am I too independent and self-motivated that no one perceives how to put effort into me? I ask these questions rhetorically, knowing they are not exactly the right questions…but intriguing to consider if that is possible.

When Ariely casually made a glib comment that tasks should “play hard to get” to keep us motivated to work on them, I had a shocking realization. I finally had a clear explanation of that little relationship game of playing hard to get which I have often refused to do! When someone “plays” hard to get, the other has to extend more effort to win a date or a kiss! Hence, the love of the chase!

Now, as I wrote this, I wanted to put a woman and a man in those roles respectively because this is how it has been described to me…men love the chase, so women have to play hard to get. But here are two questions; (1) If men are motivated by the effort of the chase, what is the great motivating effort of the women? and (2) how does this play out in homosexual relationships? During my recent break-up, my mother, in an attempt to help me, asked if I had ever considered if I were a lesbian. And (alas?) I am not. Perhaps if I were, I could be the chaser, and it would not be to my detriment. This is not about men and women, but it is about masculine and feminine.

So let me throw a wrench in the equation. This way of looking at things conflicts with some of my newly-tapped-into philosophical wisdom. From reading the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, various Buddhist texts, and the material from the School of Practical Philosophy, I am learning how attachment leads to suffering! As I just mentioned, breaking up was painful, and probably because of my attachment. 

So, now my challenge, my journey seems to be to learn to love while remaining detached; to be attached only after becoming conscious that I am already detached; to be yin and yang, feminine and masculine, both the receptive and the pursuing!

Playing hard to get intentionally to tease and entice a man seems incredibly manipulative. This is not the way for me. I do not believe all men require the chase, nor do I believe women must act demure in order to find love. However, I am a go-getter in many ways, tending to take charge and lead. My dad taught me to just go ahead and do something when you see it needs doing! In this modern world, women are losing touch with their feminine qualities and men are being emasculated as we all try to balance these two elements. It would be a game, a trick to simply act demure, whereas being demure could be honest if we have reclaimed the feminine principle truly. Setting out to accomplish a goal, even bagging a man with “feminine” wiles, is still, at it’s heart, accomplished with masculine energy. As long as I am trying to get something from a man, I will be competing with his masculine energy and negating my own feminine side. How do I remember my femininity? What form can effort take that draws on this more gentle, receptive energy? There is more to The Feminine than I realize, than we realize- so, let us all open up to how to reclaim the yin in this yanged-up world. Cheers!

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