Why are you doing what you’re doing?
What is the core motivation behind your decision to invest time in certain activities and not others?
A few days ago, I found myself reading an article discussing the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Needless to say, the article prompted me into reflection. It got me thinking about the choices I have made in my life and how they have contributed to where I sit today.
Extrinsic Motivation: Motivation arsing from the desire to earn a particular reward, validation or to avoid potentially adverse consequences of not completing the given activity. Focus is on the external.
Intrinsic Motivation: Motivation arising from a genuine and authentic desire to complete an activity for its inherent enjoyment to you. It’s about personal fulfillment. It’s about what lights you up and gets you excited. It’s about passion. It’s about feeling connected to your truth. It’s about your unique message. It’s about self-love and knowing that you’re worth it. Focus is on the internal.
For years, I admit, I was someone who was extrinsically motivated. I did things with the purpose of receiving validation from others. I lived with the idea that my worth was tied up in other people’s recognition of my value. I desperately craved approval and external assurance that I was “good enough.” I molded myself to fit their idea of who I should be. It didn’t feel good, but the risk of not receiving their approval was far too anxiety-provoking, and so I became comfortable with continual self-betrayal. At that time, compromising who I was for the potential “fix” of external approval was a small price to pay.
That was, until I had a conversation with one of the people I craved approval from the most. It was an intensely painful conversation, but a life-changing one. I am forever grateful to this person for giving me the hard-hitting truths that he did, because I know that if he hadn’t done this, I would still be that person chasing that elusive carrot. (And this carrot by the way, can come cloaked in many different masks- money, grades, awards, weight, promotions… etc.)
That conversation was my ticket to personal liberation and fierce self-love. It allowed me the space to realize that what I was chasing all of these years wasn’t actually there to begin with. I had been relinquishing my power, and doing myself a grand disservice. Was a disempowered life really the one that I wanted to live? Is that what I wanted my life to be a testament to? Not so much.
It got me thinking about this:
What would actually happen if I stopped doing things for the approval of others and just for myself?
Would there be some push back? Probably. There always is when you start asserting yourself and taking a stand for your worth.
Would I be happier? Most definitely.
Would I feel liberated? Absolutely.
Today, I do things because I am intrinsically motivated to do them. I do things because they make me happy and feel fulfilled. It was a difficult shift to make, I admit, but the more I began listening to the call of my true desires, the easier it became to listen to and trust that voice. Trust that you know what is best for you. Trust that the only person you need approval from is yourself. Trust that the more dedicated you are to satisfying the internal yearning that drives you, the more you will be able to give.
Committing your time to the things that make you shine is the most radical act of self-love there is.
Operating from a space of intrinsic motivation allows us to make conscious and purposeful choices… choices that arise from a feeling of abundance rather than lack. Our focus thus becomes much more centered on what we can give rather than what we can get. It becomes about service and a genuine desire to share what we have to offer (and we ALL have something to offer). Our selflessness becomes infused with a new level of authenticity, because we are no longer concerned about outcome. It’s no longer about how it’s received, because we are no longer yearning to fill an internal void.
Talk about freedom.