Why do you do something? You might be thinking, I do xxx because I like it, but what you want to do and why you do it are not necessarily the same thing. People who run marathons don’t just do it because they like it, but because they are motivated by the challenge. People in safe but boring jobs don’t always like or enjoy boredom–but taking care of their family might be their primary motivation. Conversely, some people have children without it becoming the primary motivation for their lives.
Motivation here means the driving force of every important or complicated decision, a recurrent theme which gives the most profound satisfaction and sense of fulfillment. And fully understanding your own, most important motivation can be deeply empowering (and…motivating). It gives unwavering meaning to your decisions. And when you do things for a reason, you feel assured even if things don’t turn out the way you expect.
I for one, have known for a long time that my biggest motivation is Integrity. In fact, becoming vegan made me realize just how important it is for me to live according to my sense of right and wrong. “Doing the right thing” can be more personal, too–if someone believes in me or supports me, I’m driven by the desire to “do right by them” and not let them down. I have other motivations too, like the desire to create or express myself. On the other hand, I have very little desire to conquer challenges (I never have just “done something to see if I could do it”). This doesn’t mean challenges don’t come my way–they often do–but I don’t derive innate satisfaction from tackling them, more like a huge sigh of relief.
Here are somethings you might consider as you figure out your own motivation:
– Curiosity: The need to learn something new. Are you most alive when you learn a new fact, language, or take up a new hobby?
– Creativity: The need to express. Do you need to create, paint, write, sing, dance, build, to be happy?
– Achievement: The need to conquer challenges. Knowing you can do something is the biggest high.
– Love: the need for friendship, popularity, love, a sense of belonging
– Power: the need for social standing, power, and influence.
– Family: protecting and nurturing one’s own family
– Stability: the need to be secure, stable, and comfortable
– Independence: the need for individuality
– Collection: the need to create a collection, whether it’s art, knowledge, clothing, etc
– Idealism: the need for social justice
Perhaps you were immediately struck by one or few of the things on this list–or maybe you didn’t see anything here that jumped out. Whatever it is you decide, your motivation is as unique and valuable as the rest of yourself. Live in line with your motivation, not against it. For instance, if you work your stressful job to protect and raise your family, but it is causing you to drift away from them, it might be worth considering a better work-life balance. A creative may not make a great librarian, curator, or a vintage store owner–roles perfect for a born collector. For me, my motivation became a part of my job, but whether or not your motivation directly relates to your career, finding ways to recognize and honor it will help you live a more fulfilling life.
Also in Balance: Is It Time for an Adventure In Your Life?
Photo: Patrick Goosens via Flickr