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The Right Reasons

Creative Commons via tvtropes.org

Recently, I have been reflecting a lot on my motivations for engaging in certain areas of my life. The basic question comes down to this:

  • Why do we do the things that we do?

Sometimes we start certain projects, initiatives or relationships because we are passionate about the goal, outcome or what we hope to achieve. And, over time, that passion can be easily overtaken by feelings of obligation. What we used to “enjoy” doing becomes a habit or other things simply become more important.

Now, you may be wondering if I’m describing the “shiny object distraction” theory. You know, the theory that says the grass will always be greener on the other side or the fact that whatever you are playing with now will soon be overshadowed by a cooler, shinier, brighter object to play with.

In fact, I am not trying to sell you on the new toy, but rather the idea of examining your motivations behind the daily choices that you make to engage or not engage in what you do. When you feel tired, unmotivated or non-committal, it’s time to step back and assess the “why” behind the “what.”

For me personally, the following triggers are key indicators that I’m involved in something that I should reevaluate:

  • Feeling unable to contribute or being unsure of where I fit in,
  • Disagreement on long-term goals or outcomes of a situation or project,
  • Lack of relationships or empathy among participants, or
  • Feeling that I’m acting more out of obligation than desire.

Now, these aren’t the reasons for why we act, but rather give insight as to when we should ask ourselves the “why” question and perhaps reconsider whether there is another path or way to hearken back to our original motivation and inspiration.

The application for this thought is far-reaching across many different scenarios from your career choice to your volunteer opportunities. Consider the difference between an inspired employee and those just punching the clock. The same consideration can be seen online, too, for agencies who care about their presence in social media and those who are just programming a few tweets or completing an obligatory post.

One of my favorite movies is the Dead Poets Society with the following exchange between Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams) and his students:

[Keating stands on his desk]
John Keating: Why do I stand up here? Anybody?
Dalton: To feel taller!
John Keating: No!
[Dings a bell with his foot]
John Keating: Thank you for playing Mr. Dalton. I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.

Is your vision stuck, are you growing habitual or are you walking through the motions of a certain relationship without inspiration? If so, take a moment to ask yourself what inspired you early on in the project and if you can rediscover that original love. Something got your attention when you first committed. Evaluate your motivations, write them down on a sticky note so that you can remember when times grow tough and be sure that you’re choosing what you do for all the right reasons.

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Love “Dead Poets Society”! Of course, the best scene is my response to your post (bolded a couple of phrases for emphasis):

John Keating: They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – – Carpe – – hear it? – – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.