Motivating ourselves, success and doing.

So many of us don’t do all the things we feel we should. Dreams deferred, out of control todo lists, promises to learn this, do that, frustration at our inactivity, looked back upon years later with a sense of regret and wasted opportunity.

The being/doing balance is a tough one for us as humans to negotiate.

The first thing to realise is that we are human beings, not human doings, and our worth is intrinsic, not dependant on what we achieve.

Let me repeat that.

Our worth is not dependant on what we achieve.

So if our worth is not dependant on what we achieve, why do anything? Why not sit back, martini in hand, and enjoy the sunsets every day?

Because we do not to achieve worth, but because we are vibrant, alive, humans, playing in this mortal plane. A small child, whether they are making a sandcastle or being read a story, has no concerns about worth. They are simply doing what they do best, playing, enjoying themselves.

We can do the same. But there are many things that stop us, often tied in with our sense of self-worth.

Fear of Failure

We don’t do, because we fear the effects of attempting, and failing, on our worthiness. Fear of criticism, fear of failure, all inhibit us from acting. The inaction paradoxically usually brings us more criticism, from others and ourselves, but at the time it paralyses us from taking any steps. We have internalised the criticism, wherever it came from – childhood, family, friends. We fear being imperfect. We tell ourselves we will not succeed all the time. So we fear our glorious, imperfect humanity, and there’s no good reason for holding on to that belief.

Listen to the voices of self-criticism, and let them go, replacing them with voices of acceptance. If you deal with children, it’s even more important to still the words of criticism, and replace them with words of balanced praise.

Fear of success

We don’t do because we fear the effects of attempting, and succeeding. This may seem strange, but there are many disincentives to success. We can associate success with loss of relationship with co-workers, friends, family. Success is unfortunately also associated with hierarchy, so what begins as an egalitarian spirit can get in the way because we don’t want to be different, don’t want to stand out. This one is especially common in work situations where someone could promoted above their peers. Unfortunately most work situations are hierarchical, and the roles are unnatural, so the fears are real. Being successful means you may no longer relate in the same old comfortable way to your friends, co-workers, family.

Fear of success can also be a fear of delayed failure, as we move to a new level, with new responsibilities, and new fears.

But this view of success is usually an imposed, outside view.

What is success?

Being aware of, and using techniques to remove the effects of these two points aren’t enough though. We need to develop our awareness to interrogate the nature of success, and to do away with it as a motivating factor. Our very definition of success is usually twisted.

What is success? Money? A good job? A family and children? Or are these ideas from others, fears, that we blindly accept. We are afraid to broaden our horizons, to drop our comfortable limitations. What is success? What should we be doing? Do whatever makes you come alive. Do what you love. Cleansing ourselves of our fears, we are naturally alive, empathetic beings. We help others. We play. The world needs more people helping each other, enjoying themselves, unafraid of consequences, unconstrained by false duty, by others limitations. Having money, a ‘good’ job or a family and children may still arise, but they are consequences of our love in action, not goals.

The words should, must and have to are the enemies of action. How can we do if we don’t enjoy what we’re doing? Fear is never enough of a motivating factor – it all comes undone eventually. Eventually the slaves rebel, and refuse to work for someone else.

Listen for these words, and gently let them go.

But how can we possibly enjoy everything we do? We need to fill in tax forms, have our teeth drilled, and various other unpleasant tasks? Didn’t the Buddha say “birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair are suffering; union with what is displeasing is suffering; separation from what is pleasing is suffering; not to get what one wants is suffering”? It seems a dismal state of affairs.

The nature of suffering is a much broader topic, and relates to the role of ego and attachment, but we can for now answer the above by looking at it from a different perspective. What do we choose to do?

Do we prefer being arrested by the taxman or filling out the tax form? Do we prefer weeks of pain and damage to all our teeth, or a couple of unpleasant hours in the dentist’s chair? We have the power to choose. Sometimes, in our imperfect world, the choices are limited, and none of the options particularly blissful. But no matter how much authority others seem to have over us, we can still choose.

We are free to do what we love. The chains of limitation and constriction are not permanent. We are free to choose. And action, doing, comes naturally from that state.

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