Something I am always curious about when analyzing people I admire:
What is their personal motivations to do x, y, z?
And of course this ultimately comes to the question:
What motivates YOU to do anything in life?
And it is my belief that the deeper we understand our own motivations, the more zeal we can add to our passions in life, and also figuring out what we DON’T want to do or pursue in our lives (knowing what NOT to do with your life is probably 1000x more important than what you want to DO in your life).
There are no such things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ motivations; only authentic or inauthentic to you.
This is the tricky thing:
In modern society, we are taught that certain motivations are ‘bad’ (morally evil, like pursuing fame, wealth, power), and certain motivations are ‘good’ (pursuing selflessness, altruism, helping society, etc).
But if we think ‘beyond good and evil’ (Nietzsche), then comes the realization:
All motivations are good motivations, as long as it propels you forward!
Furthermore, it is our goal to deeper understand our personal motivations (know thyself).
What motivates me?
I cannot speak for you, but let me try to speak for myself.
I am motivated by a lot of different things, and these motivations are always changing. However at the root of it, I think it comes down to personal curiosity, the joy of discovering new truths and knowledge, the joy of sharing this with others, and the excitement and zen strength I get from the bliss of creation!
What also pushes me forward? I think ‘anti-motivations’ work well. For example:
- I hate boredom: Because I am easily bored, I pursue more difficult challenges, more interesting challenges, to keep pushing myself (to keep myself entertained).
- I have deep self-pride: I like feeling superior, and feeling supreme. This comes to my physical strength, my mental strength, how I live my life, or how I think. Ever since I was a kid, I prided myself how strong I was compared to my friends. So part of it is a comparison thing (I want to feel stronger than others, or at least my friends), but I also want to like the way I look in the mirror and feel about myself. Thus my self-pride is certainly a mix of comparing myself to others (feeling superior to others), but also doing it for myself. But at the end of the day, I think my self-pride is FIRST motivated by impressing myself (I am the judge) and SECONDLY by comparing myself with others.
- I have an insatiable hunger for more: “I’m never satisfied can’t knock my hustle” (JAY Z). The difficult part of my life is when I received all the traditional accolades of success (world travel, fame, money, influence, publications, etc), and I thought to myself — “Is that it? What’s next?” The difficult part when I need to begin creating NEW GOALS and NEW VALUES for myself — benchmarks which don’t quite exist yet in the modern world.
I think for myself, what has held me back in my personal self-growth and development was feeling that everything I did had to somehow had some sort of ‘utilitarian’/altruistic purpose (helping others). But this is what I discovered:
It is impossible to know what will have positive utility to others and what will ‘help’ others.
Furthermore, comes the philosophical question:
Why help other people?
Is altruism or the desire to help others what really drives you?
If you are motivated by ‘selfish’ purposes, I think this is natural and good. And to be clear: selfish doesn’t mean evil.
If anything, to be ‘selfish’ is probably the most selfless thing you can do.
Why? This is my theory:
The more selfish you are, and the more you optimize your life to best benefit yourself, the consequence is that you will better help others.
For example, because I have this insane insatiable desire to discover new knowledge and share it, I optimize my life to my own creative production, and let everything else fall to the wayside.
Furthermore, I thrive most creatively when I am in a ‘zen zone‘, and it take me several days of being disconnected from the internet and communications before I can truly focus. Thus I have forced myself to feel 0 ounces of guilt by ignoring the outside world, and focusing 1000x of my efforts on my own inside world.
How to discover what motivates you
- Creative isolation: My best creative growth and evolution occurred when I went into crazy zen-zone monk mode while living in Vietnam for about a year. I was no longer being affected by the outside world. Instead, I let my mind go fallow and that emptiness allowed me to let my own spontaneous ideas and thinking flourish! I think your own authentic voice is always within you, but because we are being so bombarded with outside and external stimuli, our (quiet) inner-voice is being overshadowed. Thus, the goal is to reduce the noise in your life to let the little bit of “signal” (your inner voice) come out. And also for you to be able to listen!
- Your philosophy: Re-think, challenge your own personal morals and ethics. Reformat your mind, and re-challenge everything you’ve been taught by your parents, teachers, school, religion, etc. I believe this slavery we have to our (old) morals and ethics is what prevents us from thriving and evolving to the next level. There is no such thing as evil intentions, because evil doesn’t exist (evil is all a subjective valuation).
Don’t motivate yourself to do things which is against your own gut.
Much of our striving to become more ‘motivated’ is to to achieve certain benchmarks of success which others superimpose upon ourselves.
Imagine the times you are sitting at home (or at work) and you cannot ‘motivate’ yourself to do stuff. But that stuff you “should” motivate yourself to do is probably not important. To motivate yourself to do ‘productive’ activity for the sake of it is bad. The type of productivity we want is ‘authentic productivity‘ — productivity which YOU have deemed is worthy for yourself.
Never stop pursuing what is authentic and essential to you!