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Motivation and the self

The L2 Motivational Self System is rooted in ‘self research’ in psychology. In 1986 Markus and Nurius published in the journal American Psychologist an important paper that was simply entitled ‘Possible selves’ (Markus and Nurius, 1986), and since then the concept of the possible selves has made a remarkable career. It refers to the future-oriented aspect of our self-concept, describing our visions of what we might become, what we would like to become, and what we are afraid of becoming. When we use the word ‘vision’, we use it literally: possible selves are more than mere long-term goals or future plans in that they involve tangible images and senses. If we have a well-developed possible future self, we can imagine this self in vivid, realistic situations. A good example of this imagery aspect is how athletes regularly imagine themselves completing races or stepping onto the winning podium in order to increase their motivation. That is, possible selves are a reality for the individual: people can ‘see’ and ‘hear’ a possible self.