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The pursuit of happiness is an American biographical film based on Chris Gardener's one-year struggle as a homeless person. The film is inspirational. It depicts stockbroker Chris Gardener, who once went without food or a place to stay, but now owns and operates multinational holding companies with offices throughout the United States. The film depicts how a person can persevere in the face of adversity and never give up. The Pursuit of Happiness demonstrates that a single individual may have several motivating factors simultaneously and that these motivating factors change as circumstances change. Intrinsic motivation is oriented toward self-satisfaction or reward (Ciccarelli & White, 2015). This type of motivation is associated with high levels of creativity. I find that this was the type of motivation that was displayed by the main actors from early on in the movie. Chris Gardener invested heavily in a device called Bone Density Scanner (Muccino, 2006). The device is better than the current technology and of higher prices. The intrinsic motivation, in this case, is even much clearer because it was shown even when the situation was not unfavorable for Gardener. The presence of external incentives sometimes blurs the clarity of intrinsic motivation (Cerasoli, Nicklin, & Ford, 2014).
Gardener shows extrinsic motivations too. The motivation for any situation is dependent on the circumstances. I notice that as his situation changes, Gardener tries to adapt and maintain his cool for the sake of his child. However, a closer examination of his situation shows that there is a shift in priority. Extrinsic motivation is goal directed (Ciccarelli & White, 2015). However, it limits creativity. Life became difficult for Gardener as he is forced to live out in the streets with his son Christopher. Gardener became desperate to find a job. In my experience, it is very difficult to focus on a mathematical equation in the face of adversity such as hunger. The motivation to drive the hunger away overpowers the desire to solve any other problem. This is the mechanism by which Ciccarelli & White propose that the extrinsic motivation limits creativity.
The motivational theories have other classifications of motivation that do not depend on the intrinsic and extrinsic types. The evolutionary approach of motivation posits that these basic drives exert the most significant influence on the motivation of an individual (Ciccarelli & White, 2015). However, this approach is insufficient without the input of the needs and drives approach where the individual is responding to psychological tensions. The most basic drives are the primary drives which are geared towards survival (Ciccarelli & White, 2015). In the movie, the father and the son ended up on the street and spent a night sleeping in the bathroom. However, they made their unfortunate situation different by pretending that they are hiding in a cave from dinosaurs. In this instance, Gardener is presenting as an anomaly to the recognized motivational theories. I would expect more savage behavior from him at this time, which is contrary to his affection for his son that drives his imagination and creativity in this tough solution. He is not only responding to the basic biological needs but also shows a capacity to recognize the higher or secondary drives.
McClelland suggests that people are of different psychological dispositions and therefore will have different motivations (Arnolds, 2016). The motivations for an individual in these theories will be expected to be constant all through their lives. He divides them into those motivated by power, affiliation, and achievement. To some extent, this theory is true of Gardener. According to Kennedy, (2010), he struggled hard to get the contract for the firm while trying to make an honest living for his only son. Gardener has to pick up his son at the day care center and has to be on time to get the room for him at one of the local homeless shelters. His hardworking spirit, talents, and skills, together with his charismatic and personality, earned him the truth and several people signed contracts with the brokerage firm. He impressed one of the top officers by solving a Rubik’s Cube record time. His outstanding hard work earned him a lot as he does not even take the lunch break, unlike his colleagues. His actions show a consistency of character. Gardener fits in the category of people motivated by affiliation. He is a team player all the way.
In conclusion, Chris Gardener’s life history proves that an individual can have more than one motivational factor and that these motivational factors are not mutually exclusive. His intrinsic motivation started showing early in his exceptional work, and his extrinsic motivation drives his survival without blocking his intrinsic motivation. He also shows motivation by affiliation. All these motivations exist in one person.
Arnolds, C. A. (2016). The Influence of need satisfaction on employee productivity: An empirical assessment of selected need theories. http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11892/155955.
Cerasoli, C., Nicklin, J. M., & Ford, M. T. (2014). Intrinsic motivation and extrinsic incentives jointly predict performance: A 40-year meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 140(4), 980-1008. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0035661.
Ciccarelli, S., & White, N. J. (2015). Psychology. New York: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Muccino, G. (Director). (2006). The Pursuit of Happiness [Motion Picture].
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