Mysteries of Motivation

What motivates us? I suppose the answer depends on what we are doing. In general, I assume most people are motivated to do the basic things in life because of their family, friends or partners. Some of us are motivated to go to work because we love it; most of us go because we need the money.

Beyond the general, everyday life, what motivates us? The other day, I saw a story on the news about a girl who’s not even out of high school yet who has written a book and has a movie deal. Once upon a time, the ‘Amazon Warehouse’ was little more than a garage and now they compete with. Now, they are a major competitor of almost ever business. Amazon is the Wal-Mart of the internet. Where

Lately, I’ve wondered if the motivation that causes people to go above and beyond is different from the motivation that gets us out of bed every morning. I imagine it has to be different, because these motivations work against each other. For example, I am motivated to earn money so I can go out with my boyfriend without relying on him to pay for everything. In short, part of my motivation is to spend time with the people I love.

The motivation that drives me to write this blog and work on my novel is the exact opposite. These aren’t activities that make me money and they certainly don’t make life easier. On top of it all, they require me to sacrifice time I could be spending with friends or with my boyfriend.

Perhaps that’s the reason we stand in awe of people who manage to accomplish these huge dreams. The sacrificial motivation they needed to get there required them to sacrifice time with precious people. Working against every day motivation, they worked without pay, without guarantee of success and they succeeded.

I can’t help but be jealous of those people. How did they accomplish such a feat? Didn’t they have to buy groceries or do laundry? Did they simply get used to living in disarray. You need only to ask my parents to know I am no stranger to a messy room, but certainly there’s a limit.

Through a few Twitter conversations, I’ve found I’m not the only one with questions about sacrificial motivation. More specifically, I’m not the only one with a huge amount of interests bidding for my attention.

As I’ve moved into adulthood, I’ve made friends who demand my attention (and I love them all). Gone are the days where I hung out with these friends in a classroom five days a week. Gone  the weekends where I am left alone. I don’t know what they see, but I’m apparently in high demand. It’s fantastic to be wanted, but it means most  of my solo hobbies fall off my radar. In fact, for a long period of time, I didn’t engage in a single one of my hobbies.

When I finally decided to give this book writing thing a shot, I discovered my muses were lost. As I sought out inspiration, I found my muses were simple, greedy beings. They lived within my book shelf and video game consoles.

This photo, “La danza d’Apollo con le Muse – Guilo Romano – Stengel” is copyright (c) 2014 Lynn and made available under an Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license

My muses are nerds. As I rediscovered each one of them, I realized they were each an essential part of my writing process. My pen could not move without them.

This year has been an exercise in balance as much as motivation. I cannot do everything every day. For a while, this plagued me. Weeks went by between writing sessions. Months went by with no more than one book being read. I made myself sick with exhaustion trying to fit it all in. This week has been particularly tiring, and yet I feel like I’m finally finding my balance.

Perhaps there is a day in my future where, having mastered sacrificial motivation, I will be the one making other dreamer jealous.

Do you think there is a difference between typical motivation and the kind of motivation that requires sacrifice?

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27 thoughts on “Mysteries of Motivation”

  1. I think the difference comes when we find a cause or goal that is much bigger and important than our usual day to day stuff. I worked hard all of 2012 for OFA and the re-election of BO. Many motivations needed to take a back seat that year.
    We each need to find those special things that are more important than our own personal lives. They are unique and special for each person. You are finding yours. More will come.

    1. I feel a bit guilty placing book writing above all else. It certainly does drive me to choose writing over spending time with people, and those closest to me happily support me. Perhaps that is enough. This drive is already growing. I look forward to my writing taking on a life of it’s own.

  2. everything requires some kind of or a degree of sacrifice. For as soon as you do one it will leave less time for anything else. It is about what a person finds more important..

    I need a little Anime. and watch at least one show that is 30 minutes a day. talk about muses.
    I read blogs and the paper.I am the worst when reading a book.I play games they are my resort to empty the can of explosives.
    i watch my shows. and I write when i can and feel like it.

    what ever i do at one time means i can’s do anything else. but if i am smiling and happy with the result than i am living the day without regret. No matter what others might say

    And that alone asks for sacrifice.

    1. I feel you man. The names of my muses are Book, Video Games, Graphic Novels, Anime, Blogs and Social Issues. That’s a lot to keep up with. I need them all. Even though it makes for a crazy, frustrating life where I never feel like I’m getting everything done, I’m blissfully happy being in the middle of it all.

  3. Interesting post.
    Reminds me of Elon musk quote along the lines – I don’t care about motivation, if these things are important enough you will do it.

  4. I know these two potters… (Well, I know more’n two, but these two in particular help me make a point here. 😛 )

    One of them is in a good relationship with a leather worker. Some days they spend together, other days they spend in their respective studios and workshops. They’ve figured out a balance that works for them and they’re both content.

    The other potter I know has very few friends and family members. She’s single, and will likely continue to be for the rest of her life. Now, some might “what a shame that is,” but that’s because they’re projecting their own values on onto her, which is rather unfair. The truth is, she’s just as happy and content as her friend. She has her own life and she has made a conscious decision to devote herself completely to her work. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    You don’t have to feel discontented when you’re with friends, or working by yourself. And I don’t think other people should be envied for having different priorities; people just differ, and either lifestyle has its benefits. The key is truly understanding yourself, and being comfortable with what your values and priorities are.

    1. I’ve been working very hard at understanding myself. I think I’ve come very far, but I still have a long way to go. I’m just now starting to define a good balance. Lucky for me, my boyfriend completely understands. He’s one of my biggest supporters.

  5. Don’t worry. As you get older you will notice that your pool of friends with gradually shrink to the point that finding time to do what you truly enjoy will not be an issue. I have found that now that I am turning thirty, the free time is drastically more easily to come by compared to three to four years ago. I Hope you continue to do well.

    1. Aw, but I love all my friends. I don’t think I ever do without them. I’ve never had very many friends. I’m good with a few close people. If I were to really place the blame on someone, it would be my boyfriend. Lucky for me, he supports all my dreams. He has no problem with me taking time for myself to write. Too often, though, I’d much rather be with him.

      1. My problem with friends stemmed from the fact that we all knew we would be heading separate ways sooner or later. We all keep in contact from time to time but as the years pass, it becomes less frequent. I’ll never be able to make those kinds of friendships again due to the nature of our work so it makes it difficult to make new friends at times. Im content though so that all that matters. Well that and my wife puts up with my crap lol. Glad your doing well. I look forward to reading more of your work.

  6. Motivation – To get out of the bed in the mornings is something we do on survival instinct alone. We get up to go and get something to eat, to go and socialise and more. Some people struggle with this part, not for laziness but out of the constraints of their health (Physical and mental).

    Then, there are those who do. Those who write, those who draw, gather, share. No matter what they do, they do something and they do it because they want to do it. Nah, they need to do it.

    I think that’s the difference. Some people need to do more, some people don’t need to do more. Life’s an adventure – Take it for what it is and run with it – However it is you may run! 😀

    1. I think it does come from need. Is the need to survive different from the need to create, though? Our do those of us who create do so out of that same survival instinct?

  7. I’ve struggled with the balance of time, but since writing is so important to me I have created an everyday space only for writing. I’ve discovered that telling myself to write at least one page a day has usually turned into five to ten pages a day…sometimes more depending on how I feel or if I have the time. If we keep moving forward we will get there, even if it’s just small steps. 🙂

    1. This is true for me too. Priority is more the case than motivation. My problem until recently was that I felt too drawn in to “help out” other people who “needed” me. Then I found out that actually people mostly like to feel that they are motivated people who are able to help themselves and I was able to cut back on many things taking up my time.

      The one thing that is different from this is a relationship. It’s easier to write as a single person, I find, as a relationship is a commitment that doesn’t take kindly to being cut back on. This is something of a dilemma :-((

      1. I feel you. I could easily write every day if not for my relationship. It’s actually one of the things I look forward to when we move in with each other. Then, I’ll be able to have him there with me. I’m sure it still won’t be as easy as it would be if I were single, but it’d be easier than it is now.

    2. Writing everyday outside of this blog has not happened yet. I’ve found that if I put too much pressure on my self the words don’t flow as well. I’m sure I’ll get there though. So far, I’m happy being able to focus on writing a handful of times a week. I’ve gotten better, and I hope to soon be at a point where I can write every day.

  8. Wow, great post TK. So much to ponder, I don’t know if there is a difference between the two different types of motivations but I do think that the motivation that requires sacrifice seems like it is worth it; but until I get to the final goal….I guess I can’t know for sure. But in the movies it sure looks like it is worth it 🙂

    1. I forget who it was here, but someone said that sacrificial motivation comes when we encounter something bigger than ourselves. That’s probably the thing that drives us beyond everyday life.

  9. Hi TK. Wonderfully thought provoking post. Personally I don’t think there is a difference in these motivations. I think it’s about just what people think is a priority to them. What drives them. Keeping an orderly house, making enough money to eat well and have romantic relationships, there is nothing that makes these things no more practical than writing a novel or a blog, doing a painting, creating, etc. Wealth does not have to be described in monetary terms, there is a wealth of self as well, and many of the things we do build a personal foundation instead of a monetary one or a social one. A person who I enjoy spending time with is somebody for whom I don’t make money as something that stands in the way of our spending time together. Money is and should be always considered a tool. A wonderful person may have little money at all, and if I have extra what value is it in my pocket when I can use to spend some time going out with a friend for dinner? Of course time in of itself is a finite resource and spending time on one thing means you have less for others, but again it is no sacrifice if you simply see one activity as more important than another. Nevertheless balance is important and many artists greater work seem to be borne out of bursts of creativity and inspiration rather than tirelessly working away at something every day such that they wish they were doing something else. I think inspiration is important and often that comes from engaging in the world. But I don’t know that money is ever a requirement given all the artists and writers who were dirt poor. I am sure many of them would argue that it would have been impractical for them to do anything else that took them away from what they wanted to say in the world. Had they strove for financial security and invested in other activities, turning away from what was burning inside them, they probably knew the regret they would feel years later. Motivations vary from person to person and sometimes we all get swept away in one direction a little too much….sometimes for better or for worse. I think if your goal in life is happiness you recognize quickly that there is no sure path to that goal except following your passions, hoping that it will lead somewhere good, but knowing that even if it doesn’t you’ll have enjoyed the journey. 🙂

    1. Everything you say here is very true. I used to freak myself out, knowing of great authors who were poor and/or homeless when they first wrote their great works. Then, I remember there are also authors who worked a normal job for decades before giving it all up for writing. Every artist takes a different path. I’ll take the one that feels right to me. Still, I wish I could engage in all my favorite activities every day. Even with the three day weekend, I still haven’t gotten the chance to play video games. Maybe that seems like a sad goal, but it’s something I enjoy (and something that is less important than all my other hobbies, unfortunately).

      Perhaps you’re right and the word I should be using is priority. Whatever is the most important to us is what we will invest our time in. It just seems like a lot of people choose to invest their time in things that don’t really make them happy or do a lot of dreaming and not a lot of doing. What do those people lack that true creators don’t?

  10. Thought-provoking post! I agree with [some] comments above that there isn’t necessarily a difference in motivation, but what is motivating us. I feel as though perspective and goals are the key here–if your goal is to live a rich and fulfilled life, you will do what makes you happiest, and if that’s spending time with friends or reading or travelling the world, then fulfilling those wishes will bring contentedness. But if what makes you happy is to make a difference, or push your abilities to innovate, or create something to share with the world, then you will make time for those activities and will probably achieve those goals. Our lives are what we make of them, and what we /want/ to make of them. Our futures are for each of us to determine individually, and therein lies our motivation.

    1. Very true. I still wonder, though. I think a lot of people have some of the goals you describe but never try to achieve them. What’s the difference between someone who wants to create but never tries and someone who wants to create and succeeds?

        1. I suppose… but there’s a lot of sad people out there. I guess, the way I see it, a lot of people follow the path society says will lead to happiness (make lots of money and buy lots of things) only to find out too late that path won’t make them happy. Whereas, other people reject that idea of happiness and throw themselves into work that, while it might not make them lots of money, brings them true happiness. Maybe the answer is that everyone is doing what they think will make them happy, but too many don’t understand what will and won’t bring them happiness.

  11. I enjoyed visiting your blog and this post acurately describes my life of the last ten years. So bravo for finding your balance so quickly. I will be following your blog. Cheers

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