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“Will” Theory in the Modern Context Report (Assessment)

The role of psychology grows, as human civilization develops: new researches are conducted, and new psychological areas of a human being are investigated. More and more people search for application of theoretical knowledge on psychology into working sphere of people’s life.

Each employer is interested in his staff’s motivations and will on a workplace, because it reflects on productivity and personal satisfaction of the employee himself. The psychological phenomenon of will inspired this paper. It focuses on “will” motivation theory, and its application in the modern context. The aim of this paper is to reveal the nature of will theory, and to show that it is applicable to workplace situations. What is the will? How the “will” theory can be applied in the world of business?

Since XVII century, the phenomenon of will was discussed one way or another. Descartes formulated his understanding of “will’ theory that may be expressed in the following key concept: the will motivates all action. In XX century, there appeared other concepts of this theory. Proceeding from the “will” theory of some researches, any act is predicted by striving-creating impulses; owing to will, a person decides whether to act or not. In his book, James (2007) formulates the phenomenon of the will:

“Desire, wish, will, are states of mind which everyone knows, and which no definition can make plainer. We desire to feel, to have, to do, all sorts of things which at the moment are not felt, had, or done. If with the desire there goes a sense that attainment is not possible, we simply wish” (James, 2007, p. 486).

Although, the will has a passive nature, it stimulates a person, because the will is “capacity to arouse active impulses” (James, 2007, p. 300). Nevertheless, the roots of will should be found in motivation.

According to Gleitman (1981), “motives have a dual function” (Gleitman, 1981, p. 55). They “direct behavior” and, in the same time, “mobilize the organism so that its behavior will be more aroused and energetic” (Gleitman, 1981, p. 55). Motives can produce either positive or negative feedback.

The positive feedback “strengthens the very response that produced it. The result is an ever-increasing level of activity” (Gleitman, 1981, p. 57). The negative feedback stops the action, responding to external stimuli; it happens, owing to self-regulation. However, as psychology developed, the problem of motivations in the context of human daily life was not popular.

According to Reeve (2005), this field was stagnant almost 20 years, but in the 90s, the situation changed. There emerged new creative theories about application of motivation to every-day life:

“All this activity produced an enormous amount of new knowledge, and these advances opened up new areas of application in the home, at work, during sports and exercise, and in caring for people’s health and well being” (Reeve, 2005, p. 3).

Consequently, the author sees the topicality of the problem, and is concerned with its practical application. Reeve states that motivation includes strivings, desires, wants, aspirations”; the author’s book is intended to answer two crucial questions: “why we want what we want” and “why we do what we do” (Reeve, 2005, p. 3). There are some key points that should be useful for the solving of the stated problem.

Analyzing different drive theories, the author reveals the sources of motivations: internal motives (needs, cognitions, emotions) and external events that influence the expression of motivations (Reeve, 2005). In the book, one can read that person’s motivations can be expressed in behavior, physiology, and self-report. The author thinks that motives benefit person’s adaptation; direct his/her attention; vary over time and influence the stream of behavior.

Also, the author stresses that “motivation study reveals what people want” (Reeve, 2005, p. 15). It is time to answer the questions: “What is a motive?” The author answers: “a motive is an internal process that energizes and directs behavior”. Thus, motives presuppose certain actions, and person’s behavior.

In the context of work, motives help to accomplish one’s goal and satisfy a person with a well-done job. There are both internal and external factors that form the person’s motivations.

For example, a woman wants to start-up her own business, because she is stimulated by different factors: economic necessity, need for independence, the desire to be own boss, personal and professional achievements, etc. Often, the will is not enough to achieve the goal; there are many challenges on the way to success. One example can be illustrated for demonstration of female motivations and barriers in business start-up.

Everyone can imagine a woman with two children and a husband with low income. She wanted to start up her own business with the help of a bank, but in the end, she was dissatisfied with bank-services as her family was financially unreliable payer. She had obvious motivation: lack of money to provide sufficiently her large family (4 people). In addition, she wanted to build self-esteem, and felt safety.

She addressed to her friend who helped her to organize her own small business based on plastic details production. Patronizing attitudes from male dominant staff and inconsistent support, she was about to fail. Time passed, and she managed to provide her family with the necessary money.

She hired her husband, and the situation started changing as her enterprise increased its capital and financial resources. Business world made her stronger, and more independent. She was her own boss, and her own business success. She coped with many problems, and found strengths to move ahead regardless of challenges and hard times. Owing to the woman’s flexibility and positive thinking she achieved her goal.

There is an other example that can illustrate employer’s behavior, directed for the benefit of the staff. One can imagine a boss who wants to increase the rating of the company. Each employer is interested in his/her company success that would turn a profit.

A good boss knows that satisfied and productive staff can contribute to the company success. Why is it so essential to know motivational strategies? Only positive motivation, not manipulation, can lead to desired effect. Sooner or later, a person would feel that he/she is manipulated, and it would have a negative influence, and lead to disagreements, resignation, low working efficiency, etc.

Positive motivations, which lead to voluntary actions, have another effect. An employee can be positively motivated by different factors: high salary and posts, social status, reliable reputation, etc. Favorable working conditions (friendly and credible team, proper workplace, benefits and others) can help a boss to change the situation for the benefit of his company. This manner, external motivation is provided. Internal motivation is a more complicated phenomenon.

How the employee’s will can be stimulated? A boss should treat the staff well: appreciate its knowledge and hard work, reward the working efficiency with corresponding salary and benefits, maintain a favorable working atmosphere, and look attentively after the team to see a possible problem in time.

If all rules are followed, an employee would have a strong will to work, because the work, for him/her, has a positive feedback that reflects the company welfare and success. As a result, a person is considered as a productive and satisfied employee.

Proceeding from everything mentioned above, some conclusions can be made. Will is inseparable from motivation. Motivation is characterized by certain voluntary actions or their absence. A motivated person pursues a certain goal in his/her actions, and usually, directed to the positive feedback.

The “will” theory is surely applicable in the modern context. Employers elaborate new motivational strategies; their concern about improvement of staff management is evident. Both external and internal factors play the role in satisfaction and productivity of employees. The main task for managers, is to direct the employee’s work in highly motivated stream with positive feedback.


Gleitman, H. (1981). Motivation. In W.W. Norton and Company, Psychology (Gleitman, 1981) (pp. 55-95). New York, NY: University of Pennsylvania. Print.

James, W. (2007). The Principles of Psychology (Vol.2). New York, NY: Cosimo. Print.

Reeve, J. (2005). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "“Will” Theory in the Modern Context." February 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/will-theory-in-the-modern-context/.


IvyPanda. (2019) '“Will” Theory in the Modern Context'. 20 February.

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