Lack of Motivation/ work ethic in American youth

Every one is faced with the challenge of living his life amidst the challenges that it presents to the individual. The individual must determine the way he must live his life, the way he is supposed to live his life, and how to behave or react to the situations that life presents to him. In a way, all individual carries a goal in his life in order for him to get what he wants and what he deserves.
Through these situations, one may feel overwhelmed and incapable of making the right choices at the right time. there are also several times in which a person will experience failure and be wrong about the decisions in his life. To understand the cause of failure, the emotions that contributes and results to failure, entails a sense of lack of interest for the individual to pursue his dreams or aspirations in life. All these things are a contributing factor to the development of motivation in the individual. Or the absence of which defines the lack of motivation.
The paper will explore the concept of motivation. In doing so, the discussion regarding how motivation is developed and the reasons for the lack of it will be evaluated. Specifically, the paper will examine why American youths lacks motivation and work ethic despite the opportunities presented to them in a first-world country like the United States. To begin, let us define the concept of motivation. Motivation is defined as a noun that gives a person a reason to act (Encarta, 2006).

It can also be defined as the desire of an individual to accomplish a goal or participate in any activity that promotes his goals and aspirations in life.  Motivation is the driving force behind the actions and behaviors of an organism. It is the internal state or condition that gives direction or desire to drive the person towards a goal-oriented behavior. Motivation should also be understood as based on emotions. It is the search for positive emotional experiences. A person motivated tries not to worry about the challenges or the negative ideas when facing challenges. Motivation is essential to be part of one person’s growth and life because simply, it involves the person’s performance in all learned responses to the challenges.
One good theoretical definition of motivation is used by Abraham Maslow in his developed concept, the hierarchy of needs. The hierarchy of needs explains how personality influences different fields of and within the individual. Maslow uses the hierarchy to reflect the realities of personal experiences. Maslow as a psychology theoretician is classified in one of the school of though in psychology which is the humanist approach.
In the particular view, their approach is not based on mechanical forces, reinforcements or stimuli, unconscious instinctual impulses or how other psychology school of thought perceives it. Humanist believes that the individual’s potentials drive him to his success. Maslow attributed that the fullness of one’s potentials is contributed by a mentality of a fully functioning person and a person who has a healthy personality. Maslow attributed these characteristics to a self-actualized person.
The contribution of Maslow in defining the character of an individual is essential for us in understanding why US teenagers lack motivation nowadays and lacks work ethics. In Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs, the basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing are instinctive needs. The basic needs are the first level in Maslow’s five levels of basic needs. The needs mentioned above the basic needs are understanding, esthetic appreciation and purely spiritual needs.
It must be noted that the fist level of needs must be fulfilled first before the rest and above needs are fulfilled. The need mentioned by Maslow that is important in the development of one’s self is first the physiological needs. The physiological needs are biological needs that serve as the basic needs like oxygen, food and water. Second, the safety needs. The safety needs, after the physiological needs are satisfied, the need for security alarms the person. Take for instance an adult responding to an emergency or a child’s moments of insecurity. Third level is the need for love, affection and belongingness.
After the two latter needs are satisfied, Maslow theorized that people seek to overcome feelings of loneliness and alienation. That is why this need is realized through socialization processes of the individual. The fourth level is the need for esteem. Both self-esteem and esteem from other persons becomes dominant at one point. Human needs stable self-respect and respect from other people.
Without this realization, people tend to feel weak, helpless and worthless. After four below levels are satisfied, the top level emerges and becomes dominant. This is the need for self-actualization. This level is what Maslow attributed as the person in which he must be and was born to be. The self-actualization needs enable the person to feel restless, on the edge or even confused in his pursuit for his right state of mind. Maslow believes that this level makes an individual realize what he must be doing for his personal fulfillment. He also believes that the society is placing hindrances for a person to fulfill his self-actualization needs. Education is one of the hindrances that Maslow mentioned. This had caused the call for action of educators to respond to this need and focus on the potentials of the individual.
After providing the basic theoretical concept for us to understand the lack of motivation and work ethics among teenagers, the concrete studies and reasons for such will be discussed and explored. Many studies had already contributed in the society’s understanding of how humans are motivated and the reasons for the lack of it. We mentioned earlier the theory conceptualized by Maslow, the Hierarchy of Needs, because the strong point in using this theory is the comprehension that the higher level of needs of the individual includes affiliation, recognition of talents and potentials, and competence.
Motivation is a concept in life that that originated in the Latin word “motus” which means to move. Being motivated is an indication of a person’s strong will to overcome obstacles and challenges. It initiates action for the individual to move towards a direction beneficial for him. Motivation is regarded as a process of integrating and interaction between internal and external factors of an individual.
In understanding the lack of motivation among teenagers in the United States, we must first give importance to the role of society and its means that reflects the lack of motivation among teens. Today, media and entertainment influence greatly on teenagers. Each of them is influenced through music, movies and others. These factors one way or another, without us knowing, is a contributing factor to one’s lack of motivation, the same way that these influences become a motivating factor in the formation of goals of teenagers. Some of them want to become rich and popular. Some wants to like the personalities that they admire.
But in further discussion of the lack of motivation and work ethics among teenagers, several reasons can be attributed to such in a much larger perspective and theoretical framework. According to Stipek (1988), several reasons for the lack of motivation are brought by internal and external factors. Teenagers do not define goals that characterize their personal success. These goals initiate the motivation, the drive for the person to do something to fulfill them. Or even if they have goals, the goals and activities in which it is executed is the wrong method in fulfilling it. The goals may also be non-achievable goals.
Another attributed reason for the lack of motivation is the negative feelings and emotions one person situates his or herself at. Teenagers also have the tendency to set goals for future endeavors, and if they fail, they lose the drive to try to achieve it once more. That is why goals must be set within bounds of achieving them in time. The prolong satisfaction of achieving goals in the distant future affects teenagers lack of motivation. The goals set by teenagers also are not reflected in their present-day activities.
The activities they include themselves may be not related to the goals they have set. Stipek (1988) also mentioned that the important goals teenagers must achieve should not conflict their present-day activities. Motivation also comes with reinforcements and rewards. Lack of motivation can also be attributed to low incentives that teenagers get disappointed at. Another significant reason why teenagers lack motivation is the interference and influence of personal problems in their family, society and the activities they participate in.
To address to this problem, parents and educators must share the same responsibility to increase motivation among teenagers to achieve success and realize their potentials. As we have discussed the reasons for teenagers’ lack of motivation, it is now the goal of educators, parents and the society in greater scale to act on this phenomenon. Parents and educators must encourage teenagers to become authentic, to listen to themselves and the inner voices that govern their emotions.
Parents and educators must teach the teenagers to be different because the reality is, everybody is different. The media and the different personalities and figures in the society today greatly influences teens today and this brings several challenges for the development of one’s individuality. Teenagers want to be who ever they admire and see on television, which brought such problems as the reason why teenagers want to be skinny, undergo surgical procedures to look like their idols or be popular.
They must teach teenagers to transcend the limitations and perception of cultural differences. They must also teach the importance of following their hearts desire, as cliché as it may sound. Their calling, fate or destiny will be able to motivate them in achieving their goals. To this goal parents and educators must encourage teenagers to discover their potentials and develop the skills they inherently have. Also important is to instill in teenagers mind that life is worth to be experienced thus the need to do necessary actions to live life to the fullest and to their potentials.
Parents and educators must also accept the teenagers for their own personality and must not give reasons for them to doubt what they want is not what they are supposed to do. Encouragement and reinforcements is very essential in overcoming the challenge with lack of motivation. from the real attitudes and perception of the teenagers, potentials are discovered and further developed into something the teenager will perceive as essential for him to achieve success and happiness. Also as the responsibility of parents, the basic needs must be satisfied. Included in which is safety, belongingness and esteem need. Parents must secure these needs before the teenager can focus on his personal development and achievement of goals.
He will appreciate the things done for him to achieve success in life. As for the role of educators, they must refresh the knowledge and consciousness of teenagers for them to realize their importance in the society. In conjunction with satisfying the need for belongingness, teenagers are encouraged and motivated is they have an idea of their worth and importance of the role they play in the society. Teenagers must be taught to control the activities in their lives, to get involve in activities that are related to their goals.
When an individual has control in their life, it naturally improves the condition of their life in all aspects. This means that teenagers must be taught to be aware how to grace under pressure and practice minimalism. Teenagers must also be encouraged by parent and educators to never give in to failure. They must let them understanding the failures is a natural occurrence that one has to learn and live in. parents and educators must also encourage teenagers to transcend into personal problems for their own benefits.
With the growing alarm rate of divorced parents in the United States, parents must make it a priority to let teenagers understand the situation for them to realize that they are still important amidst the personal problems they encounter. Whether it may occur in the home or in school, the responsibility to overcome lack of motivation must involve the teenager to adhere to the situation and react to it in a positive manner.
Although this is not an easy process as we are still govern mostly of our emotions, parents and educators must enforce teenager’s perception of a better life ahead of these problems and negative situations. Lastly, parents and educators must give teenagers the right to choose and present them with viable choices for them fulfill their potentials, goals and aspirations.
Stipek, D. (1988). Motivation to learn: From theory to practice. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Mary, Rose. “Tips on how to overcome lack of motivation while working at home”. EzineArticles. November 1, 2006. December 1, 2006 <>
Huitt, W. (2004). “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta State University. Retrieved December 1, 2006 from,
Anonymous. “Adherance to Youth Guidelines.” 1.
Maslow, A. H. “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Classics in the History of Psychology Christopher D. Green, 1943.
Messina, J. J., and Messina, C. M. . “Testing Motivation in Recovery.” 2006.
Perera, Karl. “Self-Motivation.” 2005.

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