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What Motivates me: My Autobiography





PSYC E-1508 


Motivation Autobiography 

By: Kim Byrd-Rider  



Motivation Autobiography 

In this paper about my personal journey through motivations, I am choosing to follow the seminal motivational works of Karen Horney (1950), Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory (1943) to reference my past motivations. Tony Robbins’ motivational theory (Robbins, 1994), goal setting strategies (Reeve, 2018) and self-efficacy motivators (Kleiman, 2018) among others will play minor roles in the timeline, also. 

Karen Horney’s theory (1950) revolves around the concept of the false-self vs. the true-self. The false-self consists of only three solutions: the mastery solution, the self-effacing solution and the resigned solution. According to her, everyone has all three solutions but one solution will dominate a person’s personality, beliefs, thoughts and choices. All three of the solutions are considered by her to be neurotic: mastery (moving against others), self-effacing (moving toward others) and resigned (moving away from others). The three begin to develop via an unhealthy imagination beginning in childhood. All three develop as a need to build a (false) idealized-self to motivate, deal with and cultivate a motivational “search for glory”. 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory involves motivation based on needs: physiological needs, safety needs, love/belonging needs and esteem (Maslow, 1943). These needs are described by Horney (1950) as the needs that drive the imagination to build the false-self (Horney, 1950). This is where the two theories intersect and I did not escape either need based motivational process.  

The Past and Present 

As a middle child, my motivation was to find my own way outside the family unit (McDonald, 1971). I had a younger and smaller brother that constantly wanted to wrestle, punch and physically fight with me. Because I was larger, I could win. So, I fought back. This went on almost every day until I was around sixteen. His motivation finally diverted away from me and towards girls. He also became motivated by surfing and left a lot. I was moving/fighting against him, thus creating a mastery false-self that has followed me throughout my life. 

I loved my father and emulated him. If he ate mayonnaise on his sandwich, then I ate mayonnaise on my sandwich. He was also a mastery neurotic. My father provided me with a strong mastery false-self neurotic coping-style example and my brother honed it for me. In psychology, this provides self-efficacy motivation through vicarious performances (Kleiman, 2018), which means I had someone to learn from. 

My Twenties and Thirties 

In my 20s, I was married with two children and my family financially plateaued. I began to want to climb Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory (1943) wanting more of all of the needs he talks about: physiological needs, safety needs, love/belonging needs and esteem. My husband and I were renting a house and owned one shared beat-up car. My husband complained continuously about this situation. My mastery neuroticism reared its head and I thought, “I’ll fix it!” My neurotic imagination believed I could do anything (Horney, 1950). I uncovered motivational tapes at the library by Tony Robbins and listened to all 20 of them (Robbins, 1994). He provided multiple motivational strategies that my mastery neuroticism could soar with on my “search for glory”. My original motivation was to help my husband out of his financial predicament but I started to feed on the mastery-type results. This fueled the strength and power of my mastery motivational drive. 

I first started on the finances. I asked my wealthy step-father how to manage money. I followed all the goals my step-father made for me and dug us out of bad credit and into good credit. We were able to buy small cars, then big cars, and then a house. All of that was very rewarding to my mastery neurotic false-self and my false-self grew more entrenched and more powerful.  

Tony Robbins (Robbins, 1994) said to set a goal, then change your circumstances so that you have to do it. I wanted to lose 25 pounds of baby fat but I only worked out at the gym sporadically. Taking Tony Robbins’ advice, I decided to become an aerobics teacher. (Remember, I said my imagination thought I could do anything.) I had to show up to work (aerobics class) and I got paid. Plus, they gave me a free gym membership and free nursery services which helped with my financial goals. It was a winning situation as I lost 25 pounds. Having aerobics classroom control also fueled my sense of mastery. 

Tony Robbins (Robbins, 1994) also gave me strategies to push aside negative self-talk to remove motivational obstacles and develop positive self-talk to increase self-efficacy beliefs. Once I conquered the strategies, I was hard to stop. I began experiencing some of the “glory” in the search, which is a trademark of a strengthening false-self (Horney, 1950). 

The problem with strengthening the false-self is that it comes at the expense of losing the true-self. “The (true) real-self with its capacity for growth, is fighting for its life against the false-self ,” (Horney, 1950, p. 131). Self-realization (the true-self) brings the “clarity and depth of feelings, thoughts, wishes, interests, the ability to tap one’s own resources, the strength of one’s own resources, will power strength, the special capacities or gifts, self-expression and inter-relations with spontaneous feelings (Horney, 1950, p. 17). But I was not using the true-self for motivation, yet. 

During my aerobics teaching days (late 1990’s), Madonna started doing yoga. She went on the Oprah Winfrey show, which I watched every day at 4 p.m. while I folded laundry. Madonna’s body had changed from chubby to lean and strong. Oprah asked her, ‘What’s with the new body?’ Madonna said, ‘Ashtanga yoga. I only do Ashtanga yoga six days a week with a teacher that I shipped to my house from India.’ Oh boy, did we get calls at the gym the next day. Everyone wanted a yoga class. My manager’s motivation was money. I heard my opportunistic manager on the phone saying to customers, “Yes, we have a yoga class at 5 p.m. on Monday nights. Come in today. We will get your membership processed and you can attend class on Monday.” She then announced an emergency aerobics teachers’ meeting on Friday.  

The gym did not have a yoga class. The only open slot in the aerobics room schedule was Monday at 5 p.m.. That’s how she knew the time. She said to us at the emergency Friday meeting, “Who knows how to teach yoga?” All 15 of us just looked at each other and said, “What’s yoga?”  

We were in Oklahoma City in the 1990’s and yoga was very underground. I had heard the word once. Someone was teaching it in an attic somewhere and I was afraid to go. It was something only weirdos did. Interestingly, I was curious when Madonna made her announcement and was spontaneously motivated to find a yoga class. I found a yoga class at the YMCA in Norman, a nearby college town, the day after Madonna’s announcement. Genuine curiosity and spontaneity is a motivation of the true-self (Horney, 1950). This was the first glimpse of true-self motivation entering my life. 

Going back to the aerobics meeting. When my manager asked the yoga question and no one volunteered, I leaned over to my friend and whispered, “ I took a yoga class yesterday. It was so weird. I felt better after I came out, then when I went in.” In aerobics, and any exercise class for that matter, I felt worse after it was over (exhausted, sore). I am not sure what motivated my manager that day. It could have been that she heard me, that I was moving my mouth too much or it could have been fate. The curious and spontaneous motivation of my true-self shifted my life that day. My manager turned to me, handed me a yoga training brochure, and said, “You’re it. Now go get trained this weekend. The gym is paying for it. You have a class on Monday at 5 p.m.” 

My mastery motivated false-self did not want to get fired and I thought I could do anything (Horney, 1950). Learning a pleasurable exercise for a change motivated me, too. My true-self was curious and it seemed like something fun. Both the false-self and the true-self were involved in this decision. Thus, began my slow discovery and evolution towards self-actualization.  

During that training weekend, I discovered one weekend does not make a yoga teacher. Although, I did start teaching on Monday, I signed up for the two year yoga training program for fitness instructors. It is there I discovered that people could self-actualize and yoga has a well-defined path to get there. This involved the awakening and strengthening of my true-self. My motivations began to change. 

The Switch from the False-Self to the True-Self Motivation 

While the motivations systems of Karen Horney (1950) and Maslow’s theory (1943) both promote self-actualization as the pinnacle motivation of the true-self, neither one says how to reach it. It is not enough just to know that self-actualization exists and you want it. Self-actualization is a process. Over a 20 year span, I have diligently tried to shed my mastery neurotic-self, although it is extremely wedged into my psyche. The false-self dies a slow death by incrementally diminishing in life-lessons. Situations arise where the mastery false-self rears its ugly head, I have to recognize it and work through meditations to shed a sliver of it. Over the past 20 year training period, the false-self is beginning to fade as the true-self arise and claims more authority. The motivation of reaching self-actualization requires mentors to navigate the complexity of ancient philosophies, religions and graduate schools. 

If the goal is to improve well-being and life satisfaction, the trait of curiosity is as high achieving as gratitude and kindness in this realm (Emmons, & McCullough, 2003; Otake , Shimai, Tanaka-Matsumi, Otsui, & Fredrickson, 2006). Curiosity is a trait, not a virtue, and is also a component of the flow of state (Agarwal, & Karahanna, 2000).  Curious people move toward complex, uncertain and/or novel activities (Tomkins 1963; Turner & Silvia, 2006). The curiosity trait is associated with the willingness to choose activities that develop skills, increase potential, stretch abilities and it promotes self-growth oriented behaviors (Tomkins, 1963; Turner & Silvia, 2006).  Pleasure, joy and other emotions strengthen relationships but curiosity intrinsically (as opposed to extrinsically) motivates exploration of the self and world (Tomkins, 1963; Turner & Silvia, 2006). Intrinsic motivations are more powerful than extrinsic motivations (Reaves, 2018). Curiosity expands knowledge and skills (Tomkins, 1963; Turner & Silvia, 2006) and is most definitely a protective factor for mental and physical health. Curiosity was named by Karen Horney (1950) as an aspect of the true-self and became my new motivator. 

The Training Period: Wholistic Education (1996-2009). My Thirties and Forties. 

Religion Training and Book Studies (1996-2009) 

A very religious friend of mine began a book study on Neurosis and Human Growth by Dr. Karen Horney (1950) from the perspective of matching it to what the New Testament Bible says. It opened my eyes to the struggle between the false-self and the true-self. It also opened my eyes to seeing how Jesus understood and spoke about the false-self and the true-self. I went through the book study four times approximately. I believed, as I was told by the media and my parents, that my personality was unique. I was special. It is very hard to grasp the concept that my personality was a false creation and that I was really one of three neurotic personality types. The real me was buried under the fabricated false-self I was operating under. 

In the area of religions, I curiously tested most of them. I read, learned, acquired and listened to religious leaders, in the hopes of discovering the religion (the true path) to self-actualization. A very famous Buddhist monk gave a lecture I attended. When he was asked which religion was best, he replied, ‘Religions are like boats. Everyone rides in their favorite boat but they are all going to the same island. Eventually, they will have to get out of the boat to stand on the island.’ That made sense to me, so instead of testing boats, I returned to my favorite boat: Christianity. My motivation for returning to Christianity may be familiarity. I grew up in Christianity. It may be because I feel comfortable with the others in this boat or it may be because I think Jesus is really cool and an excellent navigator.  

I was excitedly curious to study Jesus within the different denominations. I went to Catholic Mass every morning. On Friday nights, I attended the modern non-denominational church. On Saturday nights I attended the Baptist church. On Sunday mornings, I went to the Methodist Sunday school taught by a seminary professor. After Sunday school, I attend any church I might have been invited to during the week or one I knew. I was collecting a lot of information from multiple sources.  

During this time, I had started college, where I took three years of Biblical Greek for my language requirement. For homework, we took two paragraphs from the new testament and translated it from Greek to English every week. My professor was a very intelligent ex-seminarian who had become an atheist, which made the class very interesting and non-secular. After 2009, I moved from Oklahoma, the land of Christian teachings, to Colorado and then just attend daily Catholic Mass. My curiosity motivation had been filled. 

The conclusion I have reached from my motivational quest is that religion is a requirement if you want to travel in a boat as opposed to swimming to the island of self-actualization. Swimming to the island would equal engaging in life with only the false-self and the absence of any religion. You’re going to drown.  

Mimicking a boat won’t work either. While Jesus’s traits are no doubt self-actualized, merely mimicking his traits does not equate to acquiring them. Thus people in any religion appear hypocritical when they mimic the religious icons for self-promotion purposes. The false-self strives using the motivation of self-promotion (Horney, 1950). Alex Baldwin can imitate President Trump exquisitely on the show Saturday Night Live, but as is publicly known, his real political views are the exact opposite as President Trump’s. 

Mindfulness Training (1996-Present) 

In the area of ancient philosophies, I was motivated by curiosity again to investigate yoga philosophy with a series of the best yoga teachers I could find. The eight-limb path of yoga outlines the path to bliss, super-consciousness and self-actualization (Feuerstein, G., 1989). I was motivated to incorporate it into my life for the sake of resurfacing the true-self.  

From 1996-2003 (seven years), I taught 22 yoga classes per week. I would say money motivated me but really people were asking me to do it and it was better than any job I could dream of. There were very few yoga teachers during this time. I went to weekend yoga workshops from national level teachers once a month. They not only taught the finesse pieces of the yoga poses but they shared yoga philosophy from their gurus. Many advanced yoga teachers came through Oklahoma City and Dallas and I was motivated by curiosity and my true-self to always be there.   

School (2003-2009 full time, 2009-2019 part time online) 

In 2002, I got divorced. The marriage was built on my false-self principles. It crumbled when I began to discover my true-self. I needed a more stable job with insurance and loved decreasing peoples pain through movement. I decided to become a physical therapist. I moved myself and my two children in with my mother and started undergraduate school full time in 2003. I was 36 years old. My children were ten and seven years old and I continued to teach 10 yoga classes per week throughout college. I lived with my mother for six years and experienced all that that entails.  

My father used to say, “What is your plan B if you don’t get accepted to physical therapy school?” I would say, “There is no plan B. I am going to get in.” I just knew I was and this motivated me beyond any motivation Tony Robbins (1994) could concoct. I believe the motivation came directly from my true-self which knew my potential and purpose (Horney, 1950). It was a completely different feeling from earlier false-self motivations. The true-self motivation had perseverance, self-sacrifice and self-control at its foundations as opposed to a sense of striving. 

The problem was physical therapy school was very difficult to get into. Acceptance GPA was 3.7 from undergraduate school with a 3.2 minimum for all your science classes combined and I had not been in school for 18 years. My true-self motivated me to work as if my life depended on it. I really felt like my life depended on it. I was the eighth alternate for physical therapy school at the University of Oklahoma masters program. Thankfully, seven people did not accept for reasons unknown to me. I was the last one accepted on August 18th of 2006. I was accepted one week before classes began. 

Sometimes it takes someone you trust with power to give you motivational inspiration to persevere (Kleiman, 2018), even if they are lying. In psychology, it is called verbal persuasion (Kleiman, 2018). One of my yoga students was on the faculty advisory board for the University of Oklahoma. In undergraduate school, I told him that the science classes were incredibly hard. I did not think I was going to make it. He told me to work super hard and just get into physical therapy school, then it would all be downhill. It wasn’t. It was even harder. When I told him it wasn’t getting easier, he responded, “I just said it was going to get easier because I didn’t think you were going to get in.”  

The Working Period (2009-Present) 

In physical therapy school, they do not teach an exercise class. They teach body mechanics and bio-engineering. From that base therapists are supposed to figure out what exercises to use. This lack in therapy exercise skills was something I knew how to remedy. I genuinely wanted to share yoga with physical therapists to improve the patient experience. This did not involve self-promotion. It was a true-self motivation. I decided teaching a continuing education course for physical therapists on integrating yoga into their practice was best. I also knew that yoga had the treasure of a path to self-actualization within in it. If learned, that could change the world as we know it.  

To lecture, I needed a doctorate degree in physical therapy. I used true-self motivation to muscle through two more years at Boston University. I lectured in almost every state in America for a continuing education company. After teaching this one day course, the participants were hungry for more information. My true-self was motivated to give them more and provided my stamina to develop and run a yoga certification course specifically for healthcare providers. I started a company, Byrd Rider Rehab.  

That wasn’t enough. I knew psychologists were struggling with their patients, too, and a yoga certification could help them. To teach to them I needed a psychology degree. My motivation for choosing Harvard to get the psychology degree was for teacher-mentor quality and (frankly) marketing potential to reach more healthcare professionals. 

The Future: My Fifties until Death. 


Long Term Work Goals 

 Starting with a long term goal and then breaking it into smaller short term goals produces increases in successful outcomes (Reeves, 2018). My one long term goal is changing the healthcare system to adopt mindful strategies for healthcare professionals and their patients. How that is going to happen keeps evolving and morphing. I diligently try to be open and fluctuate towards opportunities if they pertain to this goal in any way. My long term sub-goal is to be completely and comprehensively prepared for those opportunities. So, I continue getting mindfulness certifications in yoga, tai chi and meditation. I also continue getting helpful graduate degrees for this goal, for example, in physical therapy and psychology. I do not want an opportunity to reach my long term goal to pass me by because I am not qualified. I clearly see two problems that are involved in my long term goal: 

  1. Healthcare professionals operate from a standpoint of mindlessness, to the mental and physical health detriment of themselves and their patients resulting in low quality care job performance (Garthwaite, Gross, & Notowidigdo, 2018). Implementation of workplace mindfulness healthcare staff programs need to be developed and put in place to change the culture. 

  1. Our older adults are the wisest, most life-experienced, most educated, most patient, most life-perspective people on the planet. We need to start using them as guides for children in our medical clinical-care models.  

The medical model is a much need inter-generational model. It is a daycare model for preschoolers and seniors together. Offices for healthcare providers will be on the periphery: psychology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and possibly others. Patients will be treated in the group setting using the elements of inter-generational play/activities. Healthcare professionals possess graduate level educations on the subjects of mental and physical needs, goal setting and activity building strategies to achieve solution resolution. The entire group will benefit from this integrative healthcare model using mindful interventions. 

The panicle personal long term goal to reach is sustained self-realization. It can be broken down into categories for short term goals using what I deem as valid sources provided by my past lessons. 

Short Term Self-Actualization Goals 

The true-self (self-realization) emerges and strengthens through self-actualization methods and interventions. The goal of self-realization does not need an equal time commitment as “the search for glory.” It needs to replace it. So short term goals are based on self-actualization interventions. There is debate on what those should be but the sources I will use to build this list are the Bible, the Eight-Limb Yoga Path and psychology. There is a lot of cross over between Christianity, Indian sage Patanjali’s Eight-Limb Yoga Path (Feuerstein, 1989) and psychology (Jongman-Sereno, 2017) for self-actualization strategies. My past motivational lessons give me confidence in these three philosophical lenses. I am going to condense some of the redundancy to build my categories for self-actualization short term goals into the following table 1: 


Table 1 

GOAL CATEGORY                 



Right living: Ethical & Moral 


Mindful physical exercises (yoga and tai chi, massage) 


Breath control exercises 


Mindful concentration meditations, mindful awareness meditations and self-compassion/self-empathy meditations 





Practice caring and paying attention to what others are thinking or feeling 


1.Therapy 2.Neurosis and Human Growth book-club, Karis Fellowships 3.Attend one yoga workshop per year 

4. Practice Forgiveness of self & others 


1.Continue my degree in psychology 2.Finish iRest Meditation Certification 

3.Read or study Bible  


Update goals regularly and thoughtfully, so there is something being done in each category 


Table 1: Self-Actualization Short-Term Goals 


Daily yoga, religious rituals and learning can never end because the false-self keeps trying to override the true-self (Horney, 1950). If constant attention is not given to continued self-actualization, the false-self takes over again. That is my motivation for daily practice. This is not only the foundation but the infrastructure, catalyst or even vehicle to reach addition types of goals, like professional goals or relationship goals. 


Long Term Relationship Goals 


I have some very good friends that I do not see often but I want to see more. My goal is see the special people in my life at least one time per year. I wish to make more diverse fiends. Knowing others helps us know ourselves better. I need more diversity. I am going to travel out of the country one time per year and try to make one friend there. I may not see them again but I will learn from their diversity for that short time. I want to make sure the people in my life know that I am grateful for them. For a short term goal, I will try to show my gratefulness for the people in my relationships in as many ways as I can. 


Typically, I feel like I am submerged in the mastery false-self and am constantly trying to put it in check (which may be true). After reflecting on my past, I see that my true-self is alive, well and more present than I thought. While my mastery false-self is still very evident to me, I see now that my true-self is responsible for the pivotal turns in my life. My struggle of my false-self vs. my true-self has not been in vain. 

In the first draft of this paper, I had the short term goals (table 1) labeled as my long term goals. In that order, the motivation to accomplish them becomes long term striving to reach self-realization through daily short term work and relationships goals. I would have to recruit the false-self to complete striving motivations and daily personality work/relationship roles. 

I realized, contrarily, that practicing the table 1 interventions daily (short term goals) produces optimal results for my work and relationship goals. This order pushes work and relationship goals into the long term goals category. In this new current order, the true-self has the opportunity to control the events in my daily life. From this foundation my work and relationship goals can grow authentically. 

So many of us look for joy in self-realization as a result of our successful work and relationship goals. I, too, naturally ordered it that way when I first wrote this paper. After examination, I now believe if self-actualization interventions (listed in table 1) are performed daily (short term), then the long term work and relationship goals organically flourish, thus producing sustained joy.  




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I'm Dr. Kim
Byrd-Rider, PT

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