There has been a lot of discussion in my gifted group recently about self motivation/determination and it's impact on a child's giftedness. Almost every book I have read on giftedness talks about task commitment/self motivation as an important factor in a child's success. I don't remember any of them discussing whether it is inborn or learned or how you develop it.
I have been reading a book called "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Gardner. In this book, the author feels that a person's can have one of two mindsets: either a fixed mindset where they feel that intelligent/creativity, etc... are inborn traits or a growth mindset where they believe that a person's intellect or other traits are constantly changing based on how hard the person works. In this view a person with a fixed mindset would be less likely to take on challenging tasks because they either believe a smart person should not have to work hard or that a failure would prove they are not as smart as others believe them to be. A person with a growth mindset would view gladly accept a challenge and view failure as a learning experience.
I believe there is some merit to these views but don't believe they tell the whole story on why a person is or is not motivated. There are so many factors that work together to make a person who they become. I am sure some part of a person's motivation must have to be inborn or personality based. I am also sure that a person's experiences will lead them to be more or less motivated.
I have three different children. I would probably say that in certain instances Newt is very self motivated but not always highly so. He will work hard on things that interest him but also need a push at times when a lot of effort is required. Dylan is motivated if it has to do with physical labor or creating something but is very unmotivated to keep his room clean or do school work, especially reading. He has become more motivated to practice his guitar and do his math as he has matured. Haley is the most highly self motivated of all my children. She will work hard to overcome any challenge. She works hard to do her schoolwork without being asked, practice violin, keeps her stuff organized, etc... How many not quite 5 year olds would work independently to master things like she does without any input from anyone else to motivate her? It is amazing to me to watch her and see what she comes up with.
Besides birth order each of these children has had the same basic upbringing. I spoiled them all though Haley may be the most spoiled just because of circumstances (she is so much younger than the boys and my last/ the boys entertain and play with each other a lot so I play with her/ etc....) I try to praise effort rather than their personal traits for all of them. Their personalities must play a role in it. I do believe that they can learn to be self motivated by being brought up to set goals and reach those goals and by being parented in a growth mindset sort of way. I think maturity and developing their own interests will also them to become more motivated.
Some of it must be heredity. I am very goal oriented and have been as long as I can remember but I don't know if I was that way at 4 or younger. Maybe it was the way I was brought up. Who knows for sure? Some people grow up in incredibly awful conditions, end up being very self motivated, and succeed.