This short article explores the real motive behind all our actions.
|Steven Levitt, in his book "Freakonomics" defines economics as "the study of incentives". This is probably the shortest and most effective definition of economics. And economics is one discipline which exists because of the existence of human beings. Economics is one of the most important and popular social sciences.
Thus, if we extend the logic of economics into our own lives it can be said that life in itself is just a game of incentives. Whatever we do in our lifetime is determined directly or indirectly by the kind of incentives we get. Before I start sounding stupid let me clarify that by incentives I mean both monetary and non monetary incentives. Incentives can be both materialistic and spiritualistic. I will discuss one by one why life is a game of incentives.
Let me take the example of a mother's love for her child which is considered by many as the purest form of love because it is not selfish. A mother is looked upon as the ideal lover. But is this love also devoid of any incentive? Not really. When a mother loves her child she derives the satisfaction and pleasure of having loved and cared for her child. She feels proud to have been given the title of a mother and the more she cares for her child the more she is satisfied. And this is true for all kinds of love, which is apparently selfless. The incentive here is the personal satisfaction. This incentive is not material but spiritual in nature. But incentive nevertheless.
Let us take another example of the saints or hermits who supposedly live a detached life, who are completely free from any desire or selfishness. They don't want anything. But do these people really not want anything? Definitely they do. Most of them seek the highest form of learning and some of them even seek God. Here the incentive is the learning or the divine wisdom. And this incentive is such a powerful and intoxicating incentive that people give up everything in life.
When we give alms to a beggar, is our act really devoid of any incentive? Don’t we derive a feeling of self worth after such an act? I wonder how many of us would give alms if we can’t derive from it, the satisfaction of having done something good. The act of giving alms to the beggar, giving free service to the needy, taking care of the loved ones, all of these acts have something or the other to do with incentives, directly or indirectly. Only the magnitude and form of the incentive changes.
The fundamental reality of life is that no human being can do anything without getting any sort of incentive. The day any person is able to do that he or she will no more be a human being but will become a lifeless robot without any feelings. So it is not wrong to desire something in return for all your acts, what matters is what you desire and in what quantity. This is what differentiates between a "good" and a "bad", a "selfish" and a "selfless" person.