the poor man at his gate
Picture Credit: Dan Colcer .
“Motivation is a major problem and one of the factors for people failing to meet their goals in life. So what do you do to get motivated?”I saw this question, with ensuing discussion, in an internet forum that I know quite well.
Other participants didn't find it at all strange. They each had their own recipes. One listens to a little voice behind her left eyebrow. It’s her Mum’s voice, and it tells her to get started and persevere. Another is an “inveterate list maker which helps enormously . . .”. Another, referring to a speaker who advocates setting yourself MASSIVE GOALS (her capitals), has been training in sports massage and is now aiming at a role in the 2012 Olympics.
Why do people find it necessary to punish themselves? Why set yourself a goal at all, let alone one which does not intrinsically motivate you?
Why pursue goals, rather than happiness? “Ah,” comes the response. “You’ll be happy when you have achieved them!”
Firstly that’s not true. Secondly, do you value happiness so little as to postpone it so long? Thirdly, are you so foolish as to imagine that there is no other way to happiness than through achievements?
Commonplace ideas gain credibility merely through popularity, merely through repetition. This is nothing new. In previous centuries, other ideas held sway, for example “Don’t have ideas above your station in life.” Or,
The rich man in his castle(from All things bright and beautiful, by Mrs Alexander, 1848. This verse is now censored out from hymn books.) Such ideas were hard to resist, because they were reflected in the way society was organised.
the poor man at his gate
God made them high or lowly
and ordered their estate
Can we really free ourselves from goals and motivation? Suppose my goal is to be a best-selling author, or perhaps a posthumously famous author. If I don’t actually enjoy each day’s writing, what am I doing but punishing myself? Let us not be confused by the example of many tortured artists who had a love-hate relationship with their craft and had to force themselves. The love was much greater than the hate. It was vocation. They were called and if they had ignored that call they might as well have been dead.
“Don’t you motivate yourself? How do you stir yourself into necessary action?” I hear you ask.
Well, it’s through sensitivity alone. The world impinges upon me and arouses in me some nagging emotion, that will not be silenced until I do something. So I find out what action I have to do to stop the emotion (which is my own authentic voice, not the internalised voice of my mother, wife or guru). Happiness now is my spur, nothing else. My compassion comes from the bad feeling I get if I harden my heart. It has little to do with principles, though like everyone I have those too.
I’m against goals altogether. Let’s do today right, in all its details, according to our sensitivity and conscience, rather than suppress our feelings to follow some abstraction.