--- In the following essay, and others, do not make the
error of equating self-interest with selfishness. They are
not the same. Fundamental
Self-Interest is what we are born
is a position of
satisfying one's own desires, even if doing so excludes or
damages the interests of other individuals or society.
a new self-interest that has sprung from an underlying
fundamental self-interest. It is a self-interest that feeds
underlying self-interests, is
truly good for the
person, and is
society or at
least benign to society. Self-Interest Horizon
describes how far
outside of one's self he perceives his self-interests to
is not a negative term. It simply means to consciously
select that which is in the person's Enlightened
Self-Interest, and working to reaching those goals. This
process should be guided by a good, moral, knowledgeable,
and wise teacher or parent. (Read the essay
is everything you are mentally. Your beliefs, knowledge,
character, skills, motivations, fears, etc.
Self-Interest --- In the following essay, and others, do not make the error of equating self-interest with selfishness. They are not the same.
Fundamental Self-Interest is what we are born with.
Selfishness is a position of satisfying one's own desires, even if doing so excludes or damages the interests of other individuals or society.
Expanded Self-Interest is a new self-interest that has sprung from an underlying self-interest.
Enlightened Self-Interest goes beyond fundamental self-interest. It is a self-interest that feeds underlying self-interests, is truly good for the person, and is good for society or at least benign to society.
Self-Interest Horizon describes how far outside of one's self he perceives his self-interests to lie.
Self-Made is not a negative term. It simply means to consciously select that which is in the person's Enlightened Self-Interest, and working to reaching those goals. This process should be guided by a good, moral, knowledgeable, and wise teacher or parent. (Read the essay "Self-Made Person.")
Personhood is everything you are mentally. Your beliefs, knowledge, character, skills, motivations, fears, etc.
FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN NATURE
The fundamental motivation of every human is his own self-interest. It is true at any age. It is "part of our design!" It is fundamental. It is pervasive in human kind.
Some fundamental (natural) self-interests are given below. They are listed in order of priority.
1. Food, shelter, (money or provided by parents with money)
2. Security and safety
3. Feeling of power. (Makes one feel safe.) Derived from belonging to a powerful group, such as a family, school, or gang, or expressing one's own power.
4. Acceptance by others.
5. Feeling of independence. Derived from self-power or self-ability. Possessions feed it.
6. Feeling of self-worth (I am a capable person). Respected by others.
7. Feeling of interdependence ("I am needed! I need other people!")
It is a bad situation when children cannot feel safe at home or at school. They then expend a great deal of energy and effort to feel safe by joining groups and gangs, or in finding ways to have the power to protect themselves. Teaching, using any method, becomes difficult.
As each of these needs are in turn satisfied, their force and influence upon the person diminishes. The next self-interest need then takes on greater significance.
It should be the job of anyone involved in teaching to expand the self-interest horizon of our students to include those ideas, skills, and actions that are truly beneficial to them and to society, and that also satisfy the fundamental needs of a human. We need to show them how what we have to teach will help them satisfy their own present self-interest needs. Those things then become the next level of their own self-interest! They gain importance!
HOW WE DEVELOP MENTALLY
We develop by building ourselves up in layers starting with our natural Self-Interest. In order for this mental structure to be sound, each new layer of Self-Interest needs to be firmly connected to the foundation provided by the next lower layer of Self-Interest. Satisfying the upper layer needs to feed and nourish the lower level.
If this is NOT done, the upper layer is fragile, and can be easily swept away by appeals made to the unsatisfied lower layer. Why keep the learned upper level if it has not supported the Self-Interest layer below it?
The most fundamental and inescapable layer is one's own natural self-interest. As we grow older, new layers of self-interest are built up. These new layers can produce either antisocial behavior (selfish or criminal) or positive social behavior. If the child figures it out himself, or is appropriately guided, the new layers could be socially positive. I call this Enlightened Self-Interest.
THE YOUNGER CHILD
A younger child is usually motivated by security. To meet this need he tries to please his parents and parent surrogates (teachers). His own natural self-interest is to do so. He is extremely dependent upon them. At a deep internal level he knows this. He unconsciously feels that in order to assure their continued love and support, he must get along with them and please them. Therefore he tries to do what they ask. His focus is to please these adults.
His focus of motivation is outside of himself: to please parent types.
When a child is only motivated to please others (parent types) there is no firm connection established between the teachings and the fundamental self-interest of the child. That structure is weak, and therefore has the mechanism for its own failure built in!
The teacher should make special use of the motivation to please parent types. It should be the conscious goal, coupled with real effort, to teach the children how to properly develop themselves. We do this by nurturing Enlightened Self-Interest. We must be sure to first build upon the child's natural self-interest, firmly connecting the new character teachings, motivations, the desire for education, etc. to the basic self-interests, or prior developed Enlightened Self-Interest.
If this is not done young enough, we may lose the window of opportunity.
MID AGE CHILD
As he gets older the child becomes more secure. The link of Self-Interest that was based upon obtaining security from adults begins to weaken. There is a shift of focus towards his peers. He wants to feel that he fits in, and is accepted by his group. He begins to go with the group, and to follow the dominant (and powerful!) persons in that group. To do this, he tends to try to please his peers, especially the dominant ones.
His focus of motivation is STILL outside of himself: to please his peers, especially the dominant ones.
This new focus, coupled with a growing desire to be independent (defined in the child's mind only as independence from adults!) greatly reduces the influence of adults, and often directly interferes with adult influence. At this point we begin to lose the child regarding educating him.
It is at this stage of life that a child can begin to fall away from ethical belief and teachings. It is a common result if the dominant peers have poorly developed ethics and goals. Children turn off to school, because the leaders of their group don't like school. They are afraid the leaders will reject them.
NOTE: - - - Dominant people are strong willed people. They see their own self-interest as having power or influence over other people. Sometimes this involves evil manipulation, often at an unconscious level. Unconsciously, sometimes evil is recognized as a source of power over other people.
The Self-Made person builds himself. The image below is a rough overview of the process in which it is done. We build ourselves up by starting at the bottom, and working upward. At each step something new may be added to our personhood. It might be a new interest. It might be new knowledge or skill. It might be wisdom. Etc. Your Personhood is the sum total of all of the things you add.
It isn't a one-pass operation. You do not start at the bottom and make one pass upwards to the top, and then stop. You are continually starting over at or near the bottom with some new part of your development. Hopefully, this will continue for all of your life.
As you develop some new aspect of your personhood, you may not have to spend any effort at some step or steps. Also, you may not do them exactly in the order shown. The picture shows the general idea.
A Simple Example
Fundamental Self-Interest: A small child wants to be independent.
Expanded Self-Interest Horizon: He figures out that one way to do that is to be able to tie his own shoes.
Setting Life Goal: "I want to be able to tie my own shoes."
Setting Life Rule: He learns from parent, or figures out what he must do in order to tie his shoes.
Motivation: He "moves" himself to work upon mastering the task. He keeps at it until it is easy and automatic. He has reached his goal.
Character: He has developed a small bit towards having an independent and "Can do" character.
In this simple example, he doesn't need to go on any further in the process.
As the boy in the example continues to grow, he will repeat the process many times, each time on some new thing to master.
From the example we see new development usually can start with a basic or fundamental interest. The Expanded Self-Interest is layered on top of that. Since it springs from the fundamental interest, and it feeds that fundamental interest, the two are firmly connected.
It is the teacher's task to guide the student to pick goals where the Expanded Self-Interest is also an Enlightened Self-Interest!
The first step is defining a Goal that is firmly connected to the Enlightened Self-Interest.
Next define a rule or rules.
Internal motivation is now virtually automatic.
Effort is extended, and the goal is reached.
This same sequence can be applied to any learning task.
Individuals fail in this process when they fail to see that learning a new thing is really in their self-interest. The sequence never gets started!
It is the task of the teacher to find either a fundamental self-interest, or an already existing Enlightened Self-Interest, upon which she can Expand the Student's Self-Interest Horizon to include what the student SHOULD learn.
As adults, we can make the mistake of telling the child (either directly or indirectly) that his goal is to please the adult. Sooner or later that no longer works (usually sometime in Jr. High). The child is not used to Expanding his own Self-Interest Horizon and we adults don't do a good job of helping him to do it. (When the writer gave motivational talks, some of the kids began to Expand, and the results showed it.)
Notice that the young and mid age child has externalized the focus of Self-Interest (motivation). First it is to parents and parent surrogates (teachers). Then it is to peers and peer leaders.
It should be a major focus of education to shift the focus to be within the child. That is a lasting source of motivation. This needs to start when the child is young, and still looks to parents and parent surrogates for guidance. There is a window of opportunity. Ideally this should focus on grades 3, 4, 5, and 6, where the child is still parent-motivated but is developing more sophisticated mental processes. Our goal should be to guide the child to skip (as much as possible) the phase of motivation to please his peers. He will do this because we have guided him to build his own INTERNAL motivation. FAILURE TO DO THIS IS LIKELY TO RESULT IN LOSING THE CHILD AS A READILY TEACHABLE PERSON!
It would be much better if every teacher in every grade would teach motivation using this model. They should work to move the motivation inward, attaching it to the long lasting fundamental Self-Interests or prior Enlightened Self-Interests. If they did, then the children would become accustomed to "Expanding their Self-Interest Horizon," and establishing internal motivation. Negative peer effects would be greatly reduced. It then would take a minimal effort from the teacher to educate them.