Motivation is your driving factor for actions and goals, derived from the word motive. It’s the big ‘why’ that influences the decisions that you make; whether it’s the daily short-term decisions, or the long-term vital choices in life like a career or spouse choice. Different people are motivated by different things, whether it’s; money, pleasure, social status, or; intimate relationships, spirituality, charity. Everyone has a ‘why’, the difference is, some are aware of theirs and the rest subconsciously controlled by theirs. The motivation to which you anchor your life is of utmost importance. Motivation is what determines your relative resilience especially in tough times, whether you’ll persist with your goals when the tides get rough, or you’ll throw in the towel when the going gets tough. It also determines how you perceive failure; whether you’ll be disheartened by the pitfalls, or see the lessons in them and appreciate the experiences. Motivation determines how fulfilled you’ll feel when you hit your goal; whether you’ll stand up tall to a battle well fought, or realize that you violated your inner most authentic beliefs and values in pursuit of something superficial. Why you do what you do might even be more important than what you do and this is how.
Motivation determines your sense of self-worth. Deep in most people is an underlying feeling of inadequacy, one that just can’t be recited away using mantras and affirmations in the mirror. We have all at one point asked ourselves those big life questions; “I’m I good enough?” It’s because of this that most people get addicted to self-improvement and self-help; an underlying feeling of inadequacy. The paradox however is that the more you try to do to feel good enough, the more distorted your self-image becomes. When you finally study hard and get that scholarship, suddenly you start feeling like your social life is lacking, and when you sort that, suddenly your weight becomes the problem, then next time it’s your finances. You are simply trying to feed an insatiable ego that craves validation. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with improving oneself, it’s when you do it out of a place of poor self-image that it becomes a problem. You may take every self-help tip out there, but if your need to improve is fueled by an underlying feeling of inadequacy, to the point that you feel in need to earn your place in society – to try and be ‘enough’ – then it becomes a path filled with nothing but self-condemnation and hatred.
Your motivation determines the relative satisfaction you’ll feel after attainment of your goals. If you strive to make money as an effort to up-lift the loved ones around you, you’ll find happiness after making enough money to help your friend start that business, or to afford your elderly parent the treatment they need or educate your little sibling. If you’re motivated to make money because you want validation and you think it will give you a sense of self-worth, money is never enough, because there’s always someone out there who has more than you. If you want to make friends because you’re genuinely interested in people, you’ll cherish the few but intimate conversations, you’ll feel glad with the small but meaningful social circle you have, if you want to make friends because of a fear of loneliness, you’ll come off as desperate and needy in relationships and you’ll quantify happiness by the number of friends you have, you’ll feel insecure about having few friends and in-turn devalue the ones you have.
Motivation is what determines your relative strength in getting through the huddles and possible calamities of life. An entrepreneur who started a company because they’re motivated by creativity and genuinely started something that can add value to society will withstand the hardships that come along with entrepreneurship; the occasional falls, the closed doors, bad deals and the occasional bankruptcy. The one that starts a company to try and prove themselves to his peers will be broken in times of hardships and bankruptcy, running broke or asking for help would be tormenting to their ego because they would want to save face. The person who chooses a career path because they are passionate about it will withstand the seventy-hour work week better than the one who chose the career path to live up to the expectations of their parents. Don’t buy into the idea that just because a motivation is powerful it’s worth it, and that the ends justifies the means; if you labor to make something of yourself just to prove your ‘haters’ wrong, you may reach the end of the line, then realize that burning yourself up because of someone else’s opinion is not as worth it and may only be gratifying in the short term at best.
That said, I’m not here to tell anyone the right motivations, I myself might not know. Those are deeply personal questions that can only be answered by yourself, but it starts with deep introspection and self-awareness. This will require that you’re completely honest with yourself. It starts with assessing the core values by which you live, and if you don’t have any, you better get some. Why? Values are what streamline and anchor your life, they’re what you base on to make both small decisions and pivotal decisions in life. If authenticity is a value to you, you won’t try and fake your personality so as to fit in, if integrity is your value, you won’t soil another person’s name in their absence. The best motivations are the ones aligned with your core values.
However, you shouldn’t wait to discover the ultimate “why” before you can start striving for your dreams, you don’t have to wait for some divine calling before you start chasing your goals, start small. You can always change along the way. Because change is the only constant, because people grow so must we allow motivations to change; a young boy or girl’s soul motivation is to make their parents proud of them, it’s when they grow up to teenagers that the motivation changes to trying build a personality for themselves, then the older the grow, the more they begin to realize motivations above self-interest. Suddenly they have retired parents, and little siblings to take care of. Further along the way, they become parents themselves and have little kids to take care of, kids who they cherish and put even above their own self-interest “You’re not mature until there’s someone more important than you” Unknown. Life is a perpetual endeavor of self-actualization, one that begins when we’re born and ends when we’re dead.
Before asking yourself why something means a lot to you and why you can’t live without it, first ask yourself what your motivation is. That’s how you unearth underlying issues about your-self that need to be addressed. Perhaps self-improvement is so important to you because you have a poor self-image and feel you have to earn love or prove your-self. Perhaps you feel you can’t live without that person because you feel you’re lucky to have them and don’t deserve any better. Asking “why” also helps you discern important things in your life from clutter. That’s how you prioritize your life to what’s most important to you and gives your life meaning. In all your endeavors, first ask yourself “why”.