“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential.” – Barack Obama
Do you ever question what makes you tick? What motivates you? And why you do what you do?
Sure – there’s the type of motivation associated with a great pep-talk or an inspirational speech but I’m speaking of something more fundamental here. I’m referring to the why of the what – the reason for the action. The motive in the motivation.
When it comes to happiness and “Living On Purpose,” there are two main types of motivation to be aware of. In this section, we’re gonna talk about which type to watch out for – the one you’re gonna want to stay away from. It’s a little something I call – sound the horror music – dum, dum, dum…
The word “extrinsic” means to not be part of something’s nature. It’s a force that’s coming or operating from outside of ourselves. When we’re extrinsically motivated, we don’t dictate the meaning behind our actions, but instead, blindly accept that it is what we’re supposed to do.
I’ll give you a few examples:
• When I was working 60 hours a week to keep a job that made me feel miserable in the morning but look successful in the evening – EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION.
• When I was in high-school and spent $150 on Air Jordan sneakers so I would have the same “exclusive fresh kicks” that every other white-boy in Queens, NY was rocking – EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION.
• When I name-drop famous people that I’ve spent time with (out of context) in conversations to make myself seem more connected and cool – EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION.
• And even all the times in my life when I’ve been too chicken-shit to approach a beautiful woman who I’d love to build a healthy relationship with because I may look like a loser if she rejects me in public – EXTRINSIC MOTIVATION!
We don’t need to completely eliminate all extrinsic motivators, but it’s a good idea to identify which ones to stay away from and why. Ultimately, extrinsic rewards don’t last and we can’t build a sustainably happy existence when there’s no substance within what we’re striving for. They’re nice in small doses but only as dessert, not as our main meals.
It’s like thinking that you’d be able to sustain a healthy existence eating crème brûlée, strawberry cheesecake, and chocolate waffles for every one of your main meals. You’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell that it’ll work out well.
But instead, if you decided to use extrinsic motivation as “treats” on occasion… I see no harm in that.
Here are three main types of extrinsic motivators to watch out for:
Can you identify a time in your life when you were chasing these things?
Take a minute to think about it.
Let’s start with fame. Maybe you weren’t looking to be Miss America or Macho Man Randy Savage, but this nasty nuisance of looking for fame still reveals itself in other ways. For instance, tell me about the promotion you were working so hard to get. Was it because you’d be able to grow as a person, or was it because of the prestige that’s associated with your new title? Or maybe it was to get more money to buy new toys that would cause others’ jaws to drop? I’m not saying the promotion itself is evil, but just be aware of WHY you’re going for it.
Or how about the letters after your name, Miss PhD? Was that because you wanted to be credited with the prestige that comes with your elite title? Or was it because you sincerely cared about helping people and those letters came along for the ride?
Moving on… Wealth. There’s nothing wrong with money. In fact, I’m actually quite fond of money. But – and this is a real fatty – I’m not willing to sacrifice the quality of my life in order to obtain surpluses of money that don’t bring lasting happiness. Money itself is a tool that enables us to be in integrity with our values. If one of your values is eating the most pure and organic foods you can find, money will help with that.
Listen, I’ve seen just as many episodes of MTV Cribs as the next recovering consumerist. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to be ballin in a big-dawg mansion where chocolate squirts from the sink and the floors massage my feet as I walk. I could totally get used to that. But don’t be fooled into thinking that that type of lavish-living is gonna give you meaning in life. Purpose, happiness, and personal success aren’t sustainable by chasing things like that. Those things only have longevity when they’re the byproducts of a deeper purpose and a more meaningful mission.
Next, let’s look at beauty. Hey, I’m not complaining here. I love looking at a beautiful woman with a smoking body and a dolled-up dress on. I’m happy to spin her around and sweep her up off her feet and onto my Friday night calendar. But as corny as it sounds, real beauty comes from the inside and I could never spend a lifetime with someone who isn’t as equally (if not more) beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.
Hey, Victoria Secret models. I’ve got a little secret for ya. That sexy six pack of yours won’t last forever, and if you base your happiness on how many guys are checking out your body as you’re wearing booty shorts on the beach strip – when that six pack turns to six flaps, your surface shallow happiness will turn into emptiness. From personal experience, I’ve learned it’s smart to watch out for girls who base their identity solely on their beauty.
There’s nothing wrong with a 6 pack, or a chocolate squirting sink, or even a PhD – in fact, they can be absolutely amazing – but if we’re focusing solely on them in order to bring us happiness, I’m afraid we’re gonna find ourselves bent over in a very uncomfortable position one day.
Now that we know what not to focus on, let’s spend some time paying attention to what it is that will make us the most fulfilled. We can call these things INTRINSIC motivators.
YES YES YES YES YES.
Now we’re getting down to the cornucopia’s core. Let’s take some time and talk about the number-one type of motivator. This is the one worth pursuing. This is the one that’ll make all the difference in our lives. This is INTRINSIC motivation!
Intrinsic motivation is the shizznit! The word “intrinsic” means inherent or INSIDE your nature. It comes from within and isn’t affected by outer circumstances. Simply said, intrinsic motivation is something with significant personal meaning to you. It isn’t influenced and persuaded by other people, pop culture, or current trends.
We now know that extrinsic motivation usually comes from a place of lacking. It comes from the place of, “I don’t currently have enough.” Whether it’s money, status, power, love, or approval, beware of extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from the desire to engage in an activity because we find inherent value in doing so. In other words, the activity itself is rewarding – it’s not some laborious task we do in order to someday be happy. Hells no!
The most powerful purpose you can have is one that is intrinsically motivated. When people say things like “follow your passion,” what they really mean is do things you love doing because there’s intrinsic value in it!
When you start to base your motivations for life around things that are INTRINSICALLY rewarding, a big shift will happen. You’ll start to notice yourself feeling fulfilled.
Here are some specific examples of intrinsic motivation:
• When I left my job because I wasn’t fulfilled spending 60 hours a week sitting inside of a cubicle, eating crap carbs to temporarily eliminate my emotional instability – INTRINSIC MOTIVATION.
• When I decided that I was tired of having seductive one night stands with strange women and committed to getting into a healthy long-term relationship – INTRINSIC MOTIVATION.
• When I stopped eating meat because I wanted to boost my energy levels and stabilize my moods – INTRINSIC MOTIVATION.
• And when I spend 1000s of hours consciously working on my personal evolution to become a better man – INTRINSIC MOTIVATION!
Operating from a place of intrinsic motivation is very grounding. It takes your head out of your ass and puts it in a position to see things clearly. When you start to operate in this way, you’ll notice a newfound personal power come into your life because suddenly, you know what matters to you.
Speaking of what matters to you, we can classify most intrinsic motivation into these three categories:
1. Personal Growth
Can you identify a time, event, or period in your life when you did something that was INTRINSICALLY meaningful to you?
Take a minute to think about it.
Let’s take a look at each of the above.
Personal growth is something I’ve subscribed to long before I knew what a “Tony Robbins” was. It’s all about improving ourselves and continuously getting better throughout our life’s journey.
Science says that the universe is continuously expanding. I say, so are we! It’s our natural state to grow, to expand, to thrive, to flourish and to be beautiful. That’s amazing.
So if our natural state is continued growth, why is it that we get stuck in life, become stagnant, and feel like shit sandwiches sometimes?
Part of the reason is because we’re frightened and have scars from past experiences. Another part is that we lack imagination and faith in our ideal futures. But here’s where I think it all starts from…
I believe it’s because we’re born into sick societies that don’t give a rat’s-ass about us being healthy. The system is screwed up and it’s in “The Owners” of this country’s best interest to keep us below them. The system is designed to get you sick, keep you weak, and leave you powerless. They want you just healthy enough to keep the machines in motion, but not strong or smart enough to change anything. (The late great George Carlin goes off on this here).
But instead of complaining over a bunch of crazystuff we can’t control, let’s put our locus of control within ourselves and do something.
It’s crucial that we take control and consciously focus on expanding ourselves. We can’t leave this task up to anyone else. We’ve gotta create the conditions for ourselves to grow. And it doesn’t need to be in the sense of reading books and attending seminars.
Maybe it’s getting better at your jump-shot. Maybe it’s developing a new happiness habit. Or maybe it’s learning something which you always wanted to. The point is, always continue to grow!
After studying a ton of remarkable people, I’ve found that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Did you get that?
If you’re not growing, you’re dying!
I don’t mean to get too heavy here but it’s some deep shit. My suggestion is that you only stop growing when you’re ready to die. But onto a lighter note…
Next up, relationships. This is a cool one. There’s something powerful in having the ability to open yourself up and connect with people. “Why is it so cool?” you ask.
My take is that your relationship with others is extremely indicative of your relationship with yourself. The more love, generosity, compassion, trust, and kindness you can extend to others, the more you’ll be able to feel those things within yourself. It’s not the easiest thing to do because we’ve all got our own struggles.
But there’s something so divinely powerful in being able to cut through the crap and connect with someone on a soulful level. Whether it’s romantic or platonic, living life without connecting with people will eventually feel empty. Spend time focusing on connecting with people. Think about what you can GIVE to them and suddenly the heaviness of life is lifted up off of your shoulders.
And now let’s talk about contribution. This is the granddaddy pillar of a great existence. It’s one of the main reasons why I do what I do – to give!
One of the guys who introduced me to the idea of a personal evolution had the opportunity to ask one-time Google CEO, Eric Schmidt, a single question. It went something along the lines of this:
“How does Google retain all of the world’s top talent?”
And Schmidt’s answer was simple:
“The people at Google don’t work primarily for money; they work to create impact in other people’s lives!”
Question your motive the next time you do something. Does your motive involve growth, relationships and contribution? Or, are you doing what you are to be perceived as famous, wealthy, and beautiful?
Begin to make decisions based on the former and watch a flow of fulfillment start to form as the foundation of your happiness in life.
Jacob Sokol is committed to living an extraordinary life. On August 30, 2011, he released Living on Purpose – An Uncommon Guide to Finding, Living, and Rocking Your Life’s Purpose. You can save 25% off of Living On Purpose it you purchase it by Friday, September 2nd and use the discount code “ExperienceLife”.