Les Brown (n.d.), the famous big band player, once said, “We all need some form of deeply rooted, powerful motivation – it empowers us to overcome obstacles so we can live our dreams.” This quote hits at the very center of the need for motivation. I mean, why do we need to be motivated? Put another way, why is motivation necessary in order to achieve goals? The answer can be found in the very understanding, the very roots of motivation.
In many of my papers, I write about Maximus in the movie Gladiator (Scott, 2000). In the movie, Maximus seems to epitomize the “great man”. He has a life’s mission. He has a purpose. He is highly motivated. He will accomplish his task no matter what the circumstances. That is the determination that every man, and indeed every woman, wishes to one day harness in the search for their dreams because without that type of motivation little can be accomplished outside the realm of talk and bluster. Moreover, at some point, after Maximus had been cast into slave-hood he makes the decision to kill the evil emperor. This decision is backed by extreme motivation provoked by the death of his family, the murder of the good emperor, and the abolition of his life as a whole. It is the choice to kill the evil emperor, in response to these variables, which I would like to discuss.
As I thought back on the movie and others like it, I realized that the point of many of them is to allow us the unlikely possibility that the superego will work in unison with the ID without the mediatory supervision of the ego (McAdams, 2006). In the case of Maximus, the tables have been tilted against him so drastically that a socially acceptable form of violence ensues. He has lost his family. He has had his life stripped from him, all unfairly. He has done nothing wrong. It is in these special circumstances when we feel that life has become so completely unfair, that a violent reaction is both socially acceptable and even expected. Then, and only then, will the ID work in unison with the superego in order to satisfy the needs of all, without the need for a socially acceptable outlet by way of the ego.
Likewise, throughout the movie Maximus’ only really want is to go home to his family and live in peace. When this goal has been unavoidably blocked he is forced to adapt his purpose in life to his new circumstances. In doing so his path to self-actualization changes drastically. At that point, he forsook all the other levels of motivation, physical needs, social needs, etc…, to the exclusion of self-actualization. By gaining this high level of motivation Maximus was able to overcome incredible odds in order to self-actualize.
Moreover, it was Maximus’ need for justification, for revenge that led him to want to kill the evil emperor. This psychogenic need for justification interacted over a period of time with the press of his family being killed and his life being stripped from him and resulted in a thema. It is through this thema that Maximus was able to turn an undesirable situation into a desirable situation. Through the interaction between his need for justification and the press that faces him, Maximus is able to overcome his situation in an adaptive manner.
In conclusion, Maximus was motivated by a cooperative ID and superego, the need to self-actualize, and the need for justification in response to the press of his family’s death and the decimation of his life. It is clear that goals without motivation are like a car without an engine. In order to reach our goals, we must have the proper tools (i.e. motivation) at our disposal.
Brown, L. (n.d.). Retrieved April 28, 2008, from Quoteland Web site: http://www.quoteland.com/author.asp?AUTHOR_ID=244
McAdams, D.P. (2006). The person: A new introduction to personality psychology. Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Scott, R. (Director). (2000). Gladiator [Motion Picture]. United States: Universal Studios.