Over the years I have spent a lot of time and effort attempting to motivate myself to do things by constantly reminding myself of all the great reasons why I want to accomplish these tasks.
It is a common self-development teaching. To “focus on the why” a person lists all of the great benefits they will get from achieving a goal, and use that for inspiration for them to do the work necessary to achieve it. It sounds very reasonable and can work for many people.
However in the more than 30 years I’ve spent studying, practicing, and teaching self-development I have seen it fail for people more often than it has worked. Why it didn’t work, and who it didn’t work for haunted me for more than a decade, and after a lot of painful life lessons I have come to the following conclusions which have helped many people, and if you were drawn to this article then they may help you too.
I would like to start by saying that we are all unique individuals. We all have a unique combination of genuine desires within us that we want to bring into the world, and we feel the happiest and most fulfilled when we are working towards them. They fill us with passion and consume our minds in the most positive way possible.
Our natural inner desires are beautiful. They are our inner inspiration, and pursuing them and fulfilling them leads people to a happy, successful, and fulfilling life that is uniquely theirs. Every one of us is unique, and the type of life that will make us happy and fulfilled is just as unique.
Unfortunately we grow up in a world where we are constantly inundated with messaging that tells us what we should want. This messaging is everywhere—on TV, in movies, in songs, in books, magazines, and on billboards. It is everywhere. We are soaked in it, and we cannot stop if from being absorbed into our being.
Although, most of these things we are told we should want really do seem like things we should want––but they often don’t actually line up with our own unique inner desires. Sometimes they do, but more often than not they don’t. Some people want to live in a mansion while others are extremely happy in a yurt.
Some people genuinely want to be billionaires, but not many actually do. Some people want perfect beach bodies, but not everyone does. Some people want to build businesses, or save the planet, but most people actually don’t have those inner drives within them.
Whenever I see someone pursuing their own inner desires they are passionate, driven, and happy. They look forward to each day and are eager to work on their pursuits. They get a lot done because they are inspired, and the work they are doing energizes them.
Whenever I see someone pursuing goals that are not in line with their inner desires, they just seem like they are working hard. They are frustrated, angry, and tired. When they get up in the morning they have a list of things that they have to do, instead of a list of things they get to do. It seems like they are working hard all week just so they can enjoy a break on the weekend.
Which life would you rather live?
The reason that I have seen “focusing on the why” fail for so many people is because they are trying to motivate themselves to accomplish something that is not in line with their inner desires. They can still get the tasks done, but it is akin to pushing a rock up a waterfall. It’s hard, and when you get to the top you probably won’t be fulfilled by either your journey or your destination.
In contrast to that, when we are pursuing our inner desires we don’t need a ‘why’. We do not need to motivate ourselves, and we certainly do not need to justify ourselves to anyone. The only ‘why’ we require is that it makes us happy and fulfilled.
That’s it. That’s all we need.
We can make up all manner of justifications and logical reasoning why we like to do something, but if we keep digging down to the root of it we will find that the real reason is just because we like it. That is justification enough. We do not need to explain ourselves any further––to anyone.
So how do we get from a life of pursuing the goals of others, and move to a life of pursing our dreams?
That is a process, and here are my top tips:
1) Take pride in individuality.
It’s not just ok to not want everything that society says you should, it is natural! Take pride of those things that you want that are different than the norm. Do you like being a little curvy? Wonderful! Do you enjoy writing poetry? Spectacular! Do you want to create your own business? How joyous! Celebrate your uniqueness. When you do you are being more genuine to yourself, and to everyone around you.
2) Don’t justify what you enjoy.
If you enjoy something, then you enjoy it. You do not need to justify this to anyone. You do not need to explain why. You do not need to list the benefits. You do not need to defend your choice. If you like it, then you like it. That is all you need to stand upon.
3) Pursue your passions now.
I truly believe that you can have great success doing almost anything, and the more passionate you are about it, and the more you enjoy it, the more successful you will be. If you do just a little research on whatever you are passionate about I bet you will find many people who are having great success in their lives just by doing that.
Now, I know that most people are working in a job that they need in order to pay the bills. That is fine. Start from wherever you are. Keep that job. Start pursuing your passion when you aren’t working. I know you’re busy, but when you find something that you truly love then other activities like watching TV simply won’t be as appealing to you. It’s a natural process that doesn’t take a lot of effort.
4) If you’re not sure then experiment.
In the beginning many people aren’t sure what their true inner desires are. That’s ok too! Your life passions don’t have to be the first things that pop out of your head, and in fact they usually aren’t.
We are so immersed in messaging that tells us what we should want that very few people have the time to stop and contemplate what it is they actually want. In today’s hectic world it is simply much more acceptable to float along with the tide instead of examining a map and plotting our own course. If this is your case then you are not alone, in fact you are in the majority.
It’s ok to experiment. This is a learning process. Start by trying things you think may inspire you. More often than not the first things we try are things that we have been told should inspire us, and it takes some trial and error to find what we truly find fulfilling.
If you try something and it’s off the mark then that’s perfect! You’ve learned more about yourself. Simply drop that and move onto your next idea. It would take you long to hone in on the activities and environments that truly and naturally motivate you.
5) Delegate and outsource.
There are of course things in our lives that need to be done, and that we may not enjoy doing. There are daily chores and general life maintenance that simply needs to occur before things deteriorate. Some of these things aren’t really hard for us to do, and don’t take a lot of time. I find they make for nice breaks.
Some other tasks however can take a lot of our time and may be things that we are extremely resistant to doing. When this is the case we can simply get someone else to do them for us. We can either delegate them to someone if we have that option, or pay someone a minimal amount of money to do them for us. The relief we receive from releasing the stress of the tasks, and the additional time we can spend pursuing our passions are both well worth the money. Both of these will lead to a much happier life.
Author: Tom Reilly
Assistant Editor: Tammy Novak / Editor: Renée Picard
Image Credit: Greg Raines/Unsplash