The One True Hero

When it comes to television in my household, I mostly dominate. I’ve pretty much always used television as a wind down at the end of the day.

I want to stop using my brain. So basically, I’m only interested in filth.

My husband on the other hand would prefer to watch fast-paced movies or nothing at all (he prefers to read world news and about other trending topics from the web). While I would love to do this, it would not “turn off” my brain and therefore would keep me up late at night. I’m an over-thinker so I need to dull my mind in order to relax and drift to sleep. I know that sleep experts would cringe over this but I have my routine and it works for me.

All that said, my husband understands this and in an effort to spend quality time with me, we try to watch things that we can BOTH be interested in. This is a challenge. One of the kinds of filth that I enjoy is reality television. As a (mostly) intelligent human being I feel a bit ashamed of this but as a Behavior Analyst it makes perfect sense. Give me Hoarders, The Kardashians, My Strange Addiction or even Honey BooBoo and I’m in Hog Heaven (pun intended). I want to know more about the human existence in all of its forms. I always have. Reality television- no matter how scripted- is at least based on different human experiences. My husband would rather French kiss a barracuda than even talk about some of these. What we have been able to agree on watching are certain reality competition shows. We love to travel and experience different cultures so The Amazing Race has been one of our favorites. But recently we found something that combines one of our major interests (Nerdom) with reality television.

The Quest.

And the bingeing began.

Wikipedia gives the most succinct synopsis:

Twelve people compete in a reality competition that takes place against the backdrop of a high fantasy setting, the kingdom of Everealm. While the ongoing storyline is scripted and the contestants are interacting with actors throughout the competition, the actual challenges and eliminations are genuine and determined by the contestants' abilities and decisions.

[Lily Sparks of Gawker praised the show saying,] "The Quest is vicarious wish fulfillment, and one of its greatest joys is witnessing the sheer unadulterated happiness on the contestant's faces. I have never seen people enjoy their time on reality TV so much, ever, and I love it."

No cash prize.

The only prize is the honor of being named The One True Hero.

So why in the world would people do this? Isn’t the cash prize the reason people leave their homes, take on crazy challenges for weeks and subject their every waking moment to a camera crew? Ok. So for some, the motivation is “fame”. But as you watch this particular show you see that for all but maybe one, this is clearly not the case. See Lily Sparks Gawker review above. This was genuine enjoyment, all for a title. A title with associations to characteristics and behaviors that we have all read about in fairy tales and felt a longing for since we were children. The contestants on this show talk about their interpretations of these verbal associations throughout their journey. Words like, strength, bravery, perseverance, “a big heart” are just some of these. So the prize is really not just the title. It’s the “self-fulfillment” of knowing that you displayed these characteristics in your behavior throughout the show. You won the challenges and the other contestants saw in you the things they associate with heroism.

Once again, I’ve stumbled upon motivation that has nothing to do with access to tangible reinforcement.

And I get it.

In fact, this may be part of Daniel Pink’s class of motivators related to Purpose. But this is deeper than anything I heard him talk about. It isn’t just about giving to a charity and the warm fuzzies that gives you.

It’s about what it says about who you are.

I would argue that most of what we share on social media (behavior) is about an attempt to show people how we want to be seen as human beings so they will see us that way moving forward (consequence).

Traveler, Adventurer, Philanthropist, Animal-Lover, Mother, Friend. These are titles that motivate us because they are associated with characteristics and behaviors that we find reinforcing in a deeply personal way.

The Quest has shown us that giving people the opportunity to live out the behaviors associated with these titles of high-esteem, will be willing to give you everything they have.

Let’s use this understanding (in the right way of course). Let’s use it because it is mutually beneficial. Let’s use it because it allows us to achieve our goals while allowing others to become full-filled as people on a grander scale.

Let’s be thoughtful and innovative to create opportunities for people to genuinely feel like a HERO.