Shellie Sampson Jr., Ph.D., a former headmaster in an urban school, discusses the dynamics of goal-setting concepts while relying on the recent research of scholars as well as his own research conducted at an urban school in a major city. While sharing the results of a comprehensive study that included high school counselors, administrators, and African American male students, Dr. Sampson provides strategic information that will help others move their lives to more productive levels. He extensively covers urban trends that affect the lives of African American adolescents, goal-setting methods, and ways that young adults can build a motivated life.
Society is filled with those who are coping with success in their own context, yet many are suffering from a devalued life of underachievement. The Motivated Life provides the encouragement that will enable all those who struggle with success to think, search, and create a new life for themselves.
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THE MOTIVATED LIFEA Study on Goal-Setting, Well-Being And Achievement
By Shellie Sampson Jr.
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Shellie Sampson Jr., Ph.D.
All right reserved.
Why the Urgency of the Motivated Life?
He is not so lost as he who has no dreams. -Anonymous
Life is defined by a moving motivation. Motivation requires a perspective on life itself. Personal direction, stability, and positive self-esteem require a clear focus and on-going effort. Chosen goals and involvements are carefully pursued. They increase the quality of life for the seeker. Motivation is not a stop and go operation. It is not a project by project task. It is an ongoing pattern with plan and purpose. It is a momentum.
Many social and scientific explorations start out with a key focus in mind that eventually leads to a wider perspective. Many investigations that seek information about a particular subject start with certain focus groups, test groups or segments of a population. Some groups have greater challenges than others in certain categories. In the case of adolescents in general and African American adolescents in particular, motivation and goal-setting is a major area of concern. Motivation and goal-setting continue to be important subjects in society.
This book The Motivated Life resulted from a long term study of motivation and goal-setting over many years. This study originally centered around achievement motivation of adolescents and young adults in a school setting. But, after a period of time I realized that motivation is as much about a whole life as it is about specific desires, educational pursuits and success. Motivational thought and principles go beyond study groups and careers. It encompasses the entire range of life from childhood to mature adulthood. It is difficult indeed to live a productive and meaningful life without ongoing energized tendencies that move the person toward a satisfying level of well-being and personal development.
Maintaining high levels of motivation in most companies and institutions is a high priority. For most people who live in this complex global society the need for organized, planned lives is critical. There are personal, employment concerns, bureaucracies and institutional policies to deal with. Those who interact with schools, places of work, or businesses cannot afford to engage others haphazardly. Even informal social gatherings may require some degree of reflection for those who "plan" to attend. The motivation to present the best display of ourselves and talents should prompt our preparation.
The purpose of The Motivated Life is to reinforce the felt importance and application of motivational and goal-setting principles. The significance of motivation is most critical in for learning and planning for the future. The book begins with insights gained from three main sources. First, the literature provides us with an overview of the characteristics of adolescents and young adults in transition. The literature provides particular insights about motivational, social, and educational concepts. This information includes key ideas in goal-setting, success, role of the family, the school, neighborhood, and the influences of urban life. The reason for this overview serves as a reminder that motivational tendencies emerge from many sources. Some of these sources are obvious. Some of them are not. Many factors work together. To create a kind of trajectory or directional push that helps to move us in one direction or another. We do not live in a void. The places we go, the people we meet, and the things we hear can affect what we will or will not do. In fact, personal and social meaning is an acquired "taste". That is we not only develop our thinking from a pool of collective sources, we interpret that information from our own vantage point in society. If we are somewhat satisfied with the conclusion of our experiences we feel a sense of well-being. If our reflections on life do not lead to some sense of balance and well-being we attempt to find ways and insights that add to our satisfaction and minimize our anxiety.
The second phase of the book deals with the study group of Afro-American adolescents in an urban setting. This also includes motivational perspectives of experienced guidance counselors and others. The way the study was carried out is outlined for readers who may want to know. The study utilized research definitions, concepts, and ways of viewing motivation. This information was in turn used to measure and assess the various dynamics of goal-setting and motivation that affected the motivational life of the students in the study. This information includes factors relating to self confidence, preparation, personal habits, and hindrances to motivational life. The reader may select a section of particular interest to review in more detail in the book. Each section presents insights about motivation in regards to putting a more complete picture together on the subject of Motivated Life.
The third part of The Motivated Life uses information from the literature, the study group and related concepts to discuss overall applications. This discussion is for a wider audience of readers engaged in on-going self help tendencies. This discussion moves from adolescents to adults living in a complex post modern world. In this world motivational tendencies for success, achievement, and well-being are extremely important. The post modern world can be illusive, very competitive and fast moving. Motivated persons must be flexible, alert, constantly learning new things and new ways of coping and achieving. A motivational program is proposed in the book to aid those who need to engage a structured program for realizing success.
The Goal-Setting Approach for a Better Life
The book begins with an overview of motivational study in the urban context. There is no lack of research and data to document the plight and problems of urban adolescents and adults. There has been a stream of continuous dramatic publicity about the social difficulties of African American males in particular. Problems and concerns like: urban life, economic well-being, poor social adjustment, violence, school failure, incarceration, and hip-hop music (messages) are often highlighted in the popular media. One question has stood out in this context: Do African American urban youth and some adults really desire to live the motivated, achieving life?
Carolyn Tucker, a researcher and clinical psychologist specialized in behavioral medicine and minority achievement orientation. Tucker states that most of the issues concerning African American children can be summed up into two categories: behavioral problems and academic failure. Many adults are also challenged by poor social adjustment and a failure to master any particular field. Tucker attempts to bring some factors together in order to confront the one summary issue of social failure. However, included in these factors are the restrictive and at times the oppressive role of urban life. We all have a domain (life-world) in which we live. The social environment and the historical setting of the times do affect our motivational orientation and sense of well-being. Experiences as "the other" in the context of clashing value systems and worldviews affects how we process information. These experiences include stereotypic labeling, severe economic disadvantages, and the challenges of fair, affordable judicial representation when needed. Yet, there are many good examples of those who have achieved despite the social, political environment. These persons have transcended their circumstances because they lived the motivated life. At the same time, others were experiencing personal and academic failures. These persons often experience a lack of clarity about coping options and relevant goals.
This book will explore the possible use of strategic goal-setting actions as a means for the many who struggle in disproportionate numbers to survive and thrive. The challenge of setting goals involves internal and external factors. This includes the perceptions urban youth have of their social context and educational institutions. The problems urban male and female adolescents face are compounded by the demands of a globalized, increasingly technological society. Global citizens must be able to learn and compete on a world-class market level. Anyone who does not think about his or her future could be at a serious disadvantage.
A few glowing stars cannot overshadow the on-going plight of the many. As the world becomes more troubled and complex, the numbers of groups that are struggling are going to increase. Nurmi and Salmela-Aro maintain that persons who have a low level of experienced well-being tend to be more concerned with existential (immediate) interests and demands. This may tend to distract their attention and focus from planned goal-setting activities. These persons are instead occupied with raising their conditions of well-being. Factors like tight income, tense family and peer interactions may affect well-being and relationships. Those who have high feelings of well-being and low stress levels are freer to focus more upon achievement goals according to their age, maturity and social conditions.
If this is the case, the challenge will be to encourage the adolescent or young adult to move beyond the existential preoccupation of everyday life and focus on the motivated life beyond mainstream needs and concerns. Striving persons must think more about the solution than the pain of the problem. The individual must not become dysfunctional and unstable. People must move from needed reflection of the social-political context to planned performance. New innovative strategies can help to minimize effects of shock and despair.
Practical Rationale: Why Goal Setting
My basic premise is that motivation goal-setting activities when practical can and ought to be the organization principle that orders daily life. Random thinking and acting on a "as you go basis" limits the accomplishments and well-being of the person. There is little control if there is little thought about short and long term goals. Most people especially adolescents need to engage in a goal-oriented motivated life. Adolescents need to be purposeful and meaningful in their personal pursuits. Life is more than electronic games, music, clothes, and leisure.
In recent years a growing interest has been shown in goal setting. Leading researchers assert that goal setting in African American youth has been under-studied. Yet, goal-setting is necessary for making value choices in the wider social context. Goal setting opens a window to understanding human behavior. It is one way for a person to move from the present into the future; it is a way for people to organize their lives and thinking. Goals can move people beyond abstractions to concrete activities. Goals make it much easier to exercise efficacy (controlling effects) because actual action steps can be identified and monitored. Having goal images helps to free the individual from current stimuli and distractions. Goal-movement allows one to peer into the future. Even changes in apparent goals can occur with more ease when the process of goal setting is already in place.
For the student, goal setting offers the means and the opportunity to develop and strive towards a meaningful future. The student can exercise autonomy by setting and pursuing personal goals. The adult can readjust his or her life through the discipline of goal activities. The person who sets goals must utilize primary factors that make up a sense of self and future expectations. In other words, goal pursuit requires a "know they self" examination. The activity of setting goals involves individual movement towards an integrated self. This includes intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) information to pull together various experiences for self-directed development. Goal setting provides social and personal reasons for students to engage in schoolwork and achievement behavior. Without goal-vision the lives of people diminish because there is no incentive to take their lives to another level.
African Americans have always valued education as a means of social mobility, but have not always translated this value into effort and patterns for success. Freeman, Gutman and Midgley argue that this is important. African American students who endorse extrinsic goals from the environment do so because they tend to be more adaptive to the socioeconomic realities they must face. Achievement goals, by themselves, cannot be correlated with the overall academic performance of some students because of other factors, such as social relevance, social behavior, and teacher response to diverse students.
Kaplan and Maehr maintain that recent helpful research in achievement goal theory should translate into the practice of facilitating the learning and motivation of under achieving students. They further argue that social research concerns should include the need to support the upward social mobility of these students and not just emphasize student deficits. It is not research for research sake. School performance in all schools should reflect the proper and applied use of goal theory to develop the student as a valued person. Often the best insight is not always used to help the student. Higher teacher qualification is no substitute for personal regard towards each student. (Rogers)
Task-oriented goals help the student to concentrate on the assignment and not other people. This approach helps to avoid self-handicapping ego goals, which tend to put too much focus on student comparisons. Task-oriented goals center upon task-mastery and student competence not the level of other people. The tendency to over engage in gap comparisons that don't always include other relevant information demeans hidden talent and potential yet to be developed. Gap comparisons may obscure individual differences and be used to justify categorizing persons in a restricted track or domain.
Life achievement goals afford opportunities to interpret the environment and construct personal meaning. Sandra Graham reports that concepts of motivation include what is to be expected and the value of a goal if it is achieved. This implies that there are value judgments at work in determining what is desired as an ideal in the future. The motivated life pattern goes beyond dealing with a specific crisis in the present. The person is more concerned with their whole future. This future anticipates a better quality and rhythm of life. The person experiences better cohesion if they can connect thought and action.
The literature provides support for a study of goal-setting tendencies of striving adolescents and adults by demonstrating the following: First, more research needs to be done on goal setting as a significant element of the motivated life. Second, the motivation levels of urban male students in particular are far from optimal. Third, the research that has been done in the past about motivation was heavily race comparative. This may or may not be an important factor for some researchers. But this study focuses on the motivation of urban adolescents and adults as significant persons getting ready for their future. The study of goal setting and goal theory is practical in dealing with family management and collective planning for connected groups. For example, motivated parents must learn about health care, budgets and relevant school conferences. At the same time these parents must negotiate their own employment conditions, transportation arrangements, home operation needs, banking transactions, legal matters, local political concerns, and other personal concerns which must be managed. Each family related institution must be adequately addressed to stay ahead of potential problems that pop-up from time to time. A motivated life style of diligence and perseverance becomes necessary in handling the many affairs of every family. The motivation life is organized around keen awareness. In other words don't wait until a problem arises. Work to "get your house in order."
African American Male and Female Differences
In terms of family roles, religion, social services and educational participation, the development of the African American male and female has been considered as different even though there is some overlap. Scholars argue that the Black female has exhibited a greater sense of agency, self-direction while encountering oppressive gender structures for many years. Society's response to the African American female's facial and physical appearance inferred that these females often lack beauty according to mainstream standards. High-achieving Black females are more likely to accept mainstream values than high-achieving Black males. Cokley maintains that they are more likely to value school achievement as a means of enhancing their self-concept and respect. They live more motivated and meaningful lives.
Excerpted from THE MOTIVATED LIFE by Shellie Sampson Jr. Copyright © 2010 by Shellie Sampson Jr., Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
2. ADOLESCENTS FACING ENVIRONMENTAL COPING....................18
3 THE DYNAMICS OF GOAL-SETTING MOTIVATION....................40
4. EARLY INDICATORS OF MOTIVATION TENDENCIES LESSONS FROM LIFE: SCHOOL AND SOCIAL SETTING....................64
5 PUTTING THE PIECES TOGETHER: EMERGING PATTERNS STRUGGLING TOWARDS THE MOTIVATED LIFE....................89
6 THE NEW PARADIGM OF THINKING, LEARNING AND LIVING....................128
7 CONCLUSION: STUDY RESULTS AND FUTURE PLANNING....................151
APPENDIX A: DEFINITIONS RELATED TO THE STUDY....................176
APPENDIX B: THE STUDY SET-UP....................179