As promised, here is the first installment of our new monthly feature:
If this is the first time you’re playing along, you may want to read our initial explanation. You can find it here:
Is It Really True? Quiz Intro
Please remember that in this quiz there are no right or wrong answers. We simply want to stimulate dialogue in our community about some of our commonly held cultural beliefs. This quiz comes out of a practice we have of asking ourselves if the beliefs we hold as the “truth” are our own, or if we have just adopted them unquestioningly. We hope you enjoy playing along.
Here’s the first statement…
Fear of getting a ticket is the best way to stop people from speeding.
Do you agree or disagree?
Here’s what we came up with when we examined the statement.
Why would governments give tickets in order to stop people from speeding?
We believe that everything we say or do is to meet a need or experience something we value. And when we want something we come up with ideas for getting it–strategies such is giving tickets to people that don’t obey the speeding laws in order to stop people from speeding. Since cultures, societies, and governments are made up of people, we believe the same holds true at that level.
Keeping all this in mind, the first thing we want to do is get to the essence–the underlying values–hidden within any strategy.
What values are people trying to satisfy with this strategy?
We guess these might be the needs or values underlying the strategy of giving tickets to stop speeding:
- safety–so less people are injured or die on the roads.
- predictability–so you have greater confidence about what you can expect when you get on the road.
- effectiveness–by establishing clear agreement about what is and is not unsafe.
Can you think of any other needs our values people may be trying to satisfy using this strategy?
Why this strategy?
Now the question becomes, why this strategy? In our experience, behind every strategy we choose there is a belief that guides the choice and our subsequent actions. So what’s the cultural belief that led the government to choose this strategy as opposed to any other?
Here’s a possible belief we came up with that might have led to adopting this strategy:
- People need authorities who “know better” to set strong boundaries that will govern their actions.
Which may point to these even deeper underlying beliefs:
- People can’t be trusted
- People only care about themselves
- People make bad decisions on their own
Can you think of any others beliefs that might lead to making laws that impose traffic fines as a way to prevent speeding?
Does this strategy work?
If your goal is to make people worry about getting a ticket, then we would say this strategy works. But if what you really want is safety, predictability and effectiveness then we think it’s probably not working very well.
Think about it. How often do you still see people speeding? How often do you speed yourself? Why is it that so many people continue to speed if there’s a law that tells you not to, and is enforced by the use of speeding tickets?
We’ve identified a number of reasons for this, but the one we’ve picked to explore here is the difference between intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation.
We define the difference this way: being motivated from our internal values vs. being motivated from externally imposed consequences.
If you’ve been brought up in a typical world culture, then you are no stranger to externally imposed consequences. They start at a very young age. Early on, the authorities in your life teach you what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s good and what’s bad, what’s appropriate and inappropriate.
And you probably quickly learned that you get punished for being wrong or bad and rewarded for being good or right.
So here’s another rule–don’t speed. Enforced using an externally imposed consequence–you’ll get a speeding ticket that will cost you a lot of money and a lot of time if you disobey.
What does this strategy accomplish?
- There is a cultural belief: People can’t be trusted so authorities must tell them what to do.
- The culture teaches using a system of punishment and rewards.
- Government came up with this strategy of punishing people who break speeding laws by giving tickets that costs them both time and money.
But what do most people learn from this strategy–both now and when they were children? In our experience the lesson learned is:
Don’t Get Caught When You’re Breaking the Rules.
Given the number of people who still speed, it doesn’t appear that this strategy–or what people actually learn from it–satisfy the underlying desire for safety, predictability, or effectiveness.
What might satisfy these underlying values?
Now let’s contrast the use of extrinsic motivation with intrinsic motivation. What would it take to cultivate intrinsic motivation?
How would we motivate people to do things–such as obey agreed upon speed limits–simply because this was in harmony with their personally held values?
Let’s start with the underlying belief.
What if we were able to change our cultural belief from “people can’t be trusted,” to “people can be trusted to make decisions that are for the highest good of everyone involved” because they inherently care for, and want to contribute to others and themselves.
Where would this belief take us?
Would we change how teach our children?
Let’s see . . . If our underlying cultural belief was that “people can be trusted to make their own decisions,” then most likely we would want to support them in staying present to what’s most important to them–what they personally value.
And we would probably ensure that our children’s education included developing their emotional intelligence. This would support their ability to make decisions based on how their actions might benefit or impact themselves and those around them.
We would still want to do whatever we could to maintain safety, predictability, and effectiveness on our roads, but with this underlying cultural belief, what strategy might we come up with?
This is where we start getting into very unknown territory. We’re not raised to pay attention to our internal values, or whether the consequences of our actions are in harmony with our values. Instead, we are constantly being distracted by external authority telling us what to do–and by the threat of consequences if we don’t obey.
So where this would go and how it would turn out is anyone’s guess.
But imagine being raised in a culture where your caring, kind and competent nature was valued and nurtured. Where your ability to reason and come up with successful, satisfying choices for everyone concerned was respected.
Imagine that your education, both at home and in school, had focused heavily on supporting you in making your own decisions, with respect for your internal guidance. And it supported this through teaching, conversation and experiences designed to help nurture these abilities.
Now imagine, as a society we have decided that limiting speed really will support achieving the goal of keeping our roads safe, predictable, and effective. What strategy might you use to achieve the greatest possible compliance with these speed limits?
What occurs to you?
That’s our thinking on the subject. Please let us know what occurs to you about any or all of this in the comment field below.
We look forward to reading your response.
With great trust and respect for your ability to choose wisely,
Beth and Neill
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