I've kind of noticed a similar thing about organized religion, specifically the more fundamentalist type religions. The lifestyle is rigid and at times hard, but they choose to live this way, in hope of an eternal reward. From the inside looking out, it's hard to imagine how anyone would want to live a moral life, without the tenets of the religion.
They're slightly different ideas, but I think they shared something common.
For me personally, I love my job, and I excel at it. I don't mean to brag, but when time comes for performance appraisals, I always achieve the highest results. Why? Because I love my job, I love to excel. Interestingly enough, I'm paid less than anyone else on my team (I'm kinda young and have only been there a few years). But it doesn't matter - I'm not working so that one day I can make a ton of money, I'm working for today, for the difference I can make today and the results naturally follow.
I was listening to a lecture on Evolution and Atheism last week, and the speaker commented on how studies tend to suggest that as intellect increases, it has an inverse effect of how religious a person is. He commented that amongst the top scientists, perhaps only 10% are religious. With no eternal perspective, the religiously minded person might ask why? Why push the bounds of what we know if you're just going to die and have nothing to look for.
So I got to thinking about this... It seems to me that religion and capitalism are all about the future.
One day I'll be rich and therefore I'll oppose taxation on the wealthy now, because one day it will be me.
One day I'll live in heaven and then I can enjoy being around family and friends that I love. I'll ignore them now, because God needs me to fulfill various responsibilities to achieve that.
One day I'll be rich, one day I'll be happy - I guess they do motivate in a way. But if we give those up, do we run the risk of losing motivation? I would suggest not.
Life isn't about money, and life isn't about being happy one day. I believe a former LDS prophet was the originator of this quote, and it was...
Maybe as a culture we're seeking motivation in places it shouldn't be. Maybe the key to a truly happy life, and a successful culture is to seek for motivation in the here and now. Seek to live each life to it's fullest. Seek to enjoy your family and friends now. If wealth and eternal rewards in heaven await, they'll come regardless, but why not enjoy the journey.