what motivates you in life or at work?

What Motivates You In Life Or At Work?

I’m asking the question “What motivates you”, but I think what I’m really getting at is, “why am I doing what I’m doing?”

Or, another way to phrase it is, “why do I want what I want”.

We often pursue goals with the idea that we have to accomplish something or that we will be fulfilled by completing the next thing on our life to-do list. It goes without saying as well that much of what we accomplish is tied to our self-worth.

But when was the last time we stopped and asked ourselves if we really want what we are aiming for? 

  • When did you last question why you’re working so hard, and for what? 
  • Have you ever wondered when it will end? 
  • Are you in pursuit of your goals because you want to or think you have to?
  • Is it truly fulfilling or are you fulfilling society’s expectations of what you should be doing?

I’m seeing more and more examples of this in my life, in the lives of the people I’m friends with and those I’m related to. 

Some Related Stories

A friend recently told me she was worried about not being able to move up in her job from per diem shifts to full time and what that might mean for the future if she couldn’t make that transition (per diem means you only work as needed, with a requirement of working an average of 1 day per week).

My brother recently started asking questions about what really made him happy and what he actually wants to do with his life. He, like so many during the pandemic, experienced severe burnout and realized that he was completely disillusioned about what his future should look like. 

I myself have wondered what’s next and felt inadequate for not having any other career goals to pursue. Add to that I’m single and my goals there also seem to elude me. 

But Why Do We Do This?

This idea that we must be in pursuit of something tangible at all times is kind of insane though isn’t it? How can we always be on the go and still have time for the things that actually do matter to us? The things that bring us real joy and satisfaction like family, time with good friends, and a focus on health, mental and physical, deserve much more of our time and attention.

What We Should Do Instead

I always say that life is short. I’ll add that we need to use our time in ways that actually matter to us, and not in ways that satisfy what society says we have to do. Alternatively, when it comes to careers, we need to pursue goals that are our own, and not what think we need to or have to do.

  • If you don’t want to pursue a career goal that you know you have no interest in or isn’t right for you, then be ok letting it go. 
  • If you don’t want to get married and just focus on yourself and your personal growth, then don’t get married
  • If you would rather drive a used car and spend your money traveling or collecting fancy handbags, then go for it. 

Back to my friend that I mentioned, I asked her these very questions of why she’s worried about not working full-time. Her response is what I expect from all physicians: we are taught that a full-time position is the best thing, and the only way to be fulfilled. However, deep down we also know that’s not true.

For my brother, he’s managed to channel his questions into answers and is pursuing exactly what interests him. The beauty of it is that by cutting out what he hated, he has SO MUCH TIME now for what he loves.

As for me, I’m a work in progress. But I’ve managed to create a life that is balanced and works for me. I complete my work requirements, and I’m not afraid to take time off and go on vacation – a lot. I’ve done this for myself and still wonder if I’ve got it wrong. What keeps me going is knowing that I would hate any alternative.

What Motivates You?

We all have different factors that drive us. I think what ultimately sets us down a path that isn’t right for us, is comparing our journey to that of others. Going back to my friend, most people in healthcare do pursue a full-time job, and for most people, they have to or want to. For some, though, it’s not something desired yet there is pressure to pursue the same end goal.

For anyone in this position, re-route your focus away from what’s expected, and don’t be afraid to be different. Ask yourself the questions I mentioned earlier. Is what you’re stressing about actually what you want? If you’re unable to achieve what you’re working towards, maybe ask yourself if there’s a reason for it. Maybe the universe has other plans for you.

We’re lucky that we live in an age where people are recreating what success and life mean, for them. You can do the same. I guarantee that anyone judging for it is actually jealous of how brave you are.

Final Thoughts

Your goals do not need to line up with your neighbors. More importantly, they do not need to live up to society. You need to live up to yourself, your wants, desires, and thoughts. 

If you find yourself pursuing certain goals that you’re unsure of, then be sure to check in with yourself and make sure it’s what you actually want. Of course, on the road to any kind of success we will sometimes have to do things that we hate; however, you actually should desire the endgame you’re working for.

So in the pursuit of the answers to questions like “ am I happy” don’t forget to also ask “what am I doing with my life and why”.

I think the answers will help you sort things out.

Image courtesy of unsplash

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