Have Clear Motivations
February 06, 2015
Filed In: Philosophy
There are a lot of things that I'd like to do. Almost every day, I get a new idea for some project or goal that I'd like to work on. It might be an area of my life or schedule that I want to improve, such as incorporating more reading time for Benedict. It might be a new book idea or some new app. All of these ideas are inspiring in the moment and really quite appealing. I'm often tempted to change direction or course and to charge at this new idea. After a few hours or a few days, most of the ideas subside and I'm left with the ones that really mean something to me.
Too often we set plans based on emotion. We don't know why we're doing something, only that we're getting something out of it. It might be a feeling of fulfillment, a feeling of purpose, or actually seeing a positive result from our action. The problem with emotions is that they aren't sustainable.
New Years resolutions, marriages, self-improvement plans and other things of this nature, when fueled solely by emotion, often flicker out before the end result is achieved. There's a clear difference between emotion and passion. Emotion is fickle and can change based on little more than one's mood. Passion comes from somewhere deep inside. Passion is the driver that doesn't know that there's a brake pedal. Emotion is the driver going 25 in 65. Emotion is cautious because even it knows its state is fragile.
When you embark on any major project, on any major goal, or even as you live out your vocation, there's one distinct feature that, if you possess it, will catapult you into the world of success. You must have clear motivations.
If you don't understand deeply why you're doing something, you won't have the energy to push through the difficult times. If you don't understand deeply why you married your wife, in 5 years when things are very difficult, looking for an exit might be unduly tempting. If you don't understand deeply why you decided to lose 20 lbs, every time you're faced with dessert, you'll grow weaker until you finally cave and go back to your old ways.
Determining your motivations is more easily said than done. Like the layers of an onion, you usually need to go a few layers deeper. Let's look at an example. Let's say that Timmy is getting ready to propose to his girlfriend of two years. Wisely, he's taking the time to ensure that this is the right decision for both him and for his girlfriend. So, he sits down and tries to determine what his motivations for proposing will be. Here's what he writes down.
Layer 1: I love her.
Layer 2: We get along well.
Layer 3: We have many of the same interests.
Layer 4: She encourages me to be a better person.
Layer 5: My friends and family think we make a good match.
Layer 6: She understands me better than anyone I've met before.
Layer 7: I feel a great sense of peace when considering that she might be my vocation.
Layer 8: I want our love to extend beyond us and into our children and their children's children.
As you can see, Timmy worked from a very low level emotional reaction (Layer 1) all the way down to the definition of marriage (Layer 8). As he explored his motivations deeper, he came up with 8 excellent, progressively better motivations for proposing. I'd say that if his girlfriend has similar motivations, they're going to have a very solid foundation for their marital relationship.
Writing down and saving your motivations will be helpful when times get difficult. When you no longer feel like running, or writing, or learning a new skill, you can quickly refer to that list and recapture that sense of excitement. Another great idea is to share your motivations with your wife. Not only will a 2nd set of eyes help you determine if you're on the right track, she can be your cheerleader. Just the other day Alison paid me a very nice compliment that encouraged me to stay focused during the day with my writing.
Success and failure are ultimately up to us. If we have clear motivations and passion for what we're doing, there's nothing that we can't accomplish.