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My girlfriend Priya is studying in the final year of commerce. I feel that she should be studying further and do post-graduation. She feels that she is not motivated to either study or do any extra-curricular activity. Can you guide on how I can motivate her to take up some activity?

Motives play a large part in human behavior. They run the gamut from basic wants to long-term behavior. Motives drives behavior towards goals and the goal-seeking behavior can persist if the motivation persists. An important characteristic of motives is that we never observe them directly. Therefore, you have to infer Priya’s motivations from her behavior. Some of the motivations for studying further are – to learn further, need for a post-graduate degree, to get a good job, a good place to make friends and connections that you desire, and because it is more fun than working for a living. Sometimes it is to avoid the unpleasant consequences of disregarding social pressures from parents and others and the need to conform to what is expected of her. She is in college as a response to some combination of these needs and motivations. Now, these motivations may not be enough for her to study further. You can use the motivation theory to help her change her behavior. Motives give us an idea about the range of things a person does. Here you have to tap the achievement motivation in Priya. People in whom the need for achievement is strong seek to become accomplished and to improve their task performance. Perhaps Priya needs to become more academic oriented and to work on tasks that are challenging and on which her performance can be evaluated in some way, either by comparing it with other people’s performance or in terms of some standard. You need to find out her internal and external criterion, which denotes her standard of excellence. If she feels that there is no excellence left to achieve, she might not be motivated. Our motivational needs come from our observational learning and from the expectations that people have from us. In order to motivate Priya, you need to do the following things. Firstly, guide her towards moderately challenging studies that promise success in the immediate front. She may not like to take up studies, which is very easy, where there is no challenge ad so no satisfaction of her achievement needs; nor may she like to take up a very difficult study where the likelihood of success is difficult and delayed. If you are realistic in your choice, you may be able to make a good match between her abilities and what is demanded of her. Also, choose a path in which her performance can be compared to that of others and she can get feedback on how she is doing. The path must reflect her personal characteristic like intelligence and give a feeling of her getting ahead. When she will be successful, she will tend to raise her level of aspiration in a realistic way so that she will move on to a slightly more challenging and difficult career. She also needs to have control over the outcome of her studies. Sometimes a gender difference accounts for the difference in expression of achievement needs. Some women believe that their successful performance would have negative consequences such as unpopularity and a reduced feeling of femininity. These women view success as a counter to their roles in the culture and are therefore afraid of it. They have accepted a traditional view of women’s role in society and are yet to be placed in competitive situations – therefore they fear success. As the beliefs about sex roles have changed in recent years, it is easier to let go of the strong fear of success. Look in Priya’s personality as to what would act as an incentive for her. To influence her attitude, you have to look at why she is avoiding, shunning or rejecting the studies. She has evaluated that studies are not useful to her. However, our lives are filled with opportunities for attitude change. There are some basic units involved in attitude change. The first is that you must be very credible when you are trying to influence her. The more that she believes in you, the more she is likely to be persuaded by you. You should also be having authentic information about what you are advising her to take up. Your trustworthiness will be the main influence on her. The proposal has to be attractive to her to be swayed by it. If you push her towards some drudgery, it will be rejected in the first instance. You could work on the concept of prestige suggestion in which your persuasion appeals to her status and prestige. It is necessary to present a balanced view of the benefits and losses of taking up a post-graduation or some activity. You have to be prepared for certain defensive statements from Priya. Whether your persuasion will influence her or not depends on how she perceives or interprets the talk. If the talk is very discrepant, she may avoid it. She may only pay attention to those points that fit her initial attitude and ignore those points that do not fit. This may create a dilemma for you. In this sense, the best option for you is to establish a rapport with her in which she can explore her inhibitions for not carrying her career further and stagnating. It may take a lot of empathic understanding and conversation for her to be able to trust you. You need to lay the foundation of empathic understanding before you can influence her using these methods. She can be motivated to achieve if her inhibitions are taken care of.