Think about it. When were you most motivated to make something happen? When did you see something that you needed to change? When were you most willing to give everything you had, without knowing what would result?
Was it when you had spent some time looking within yourself trying to kindle passion for something, or was it when you stumbled across something in the world that ignited something within you?
For me it has always been the later and research shows I am not alone.
This does not mean there is no value to “interior” work. In fact, we need to spend a lot of time in introspection to see who we are, what gifts/talent/abilities we have, and where we get energy and fulfillment.
Like digging up coal for a power plant, interior work digs up the resources we need to fuel our passion. But the root of passion is somewhere outside ourselves.
That “good work” comes from outside ourselves, however. Our purpose in life is to live beyond ourselves, and our constant search for happiness or personal fulfillment will never lead us there. As humans we are designed to be engaged in work which will benefit the collective. Since the world has become such an integrated place, that collective includes all of us.
This doesn’t mean you can’t be motivated to do exemplary work without seeing how it connects to a bigger purpose.
It does mean however, that when you connect your ability to do exemplary work to a bigger purpose, your motivation will be of an entirely different sort. Having something you are working on that draws passion out of you, will always be more fulfilling that trying to tap into something that drives you from within.
Criticism is easy.
Being cynical is simple.
It is easy to look at what someone else is trying to do, and pick it apart piece by piece. There are always reasons why it won’t work, and sometimes we seem to get a perverse kind of pleasure pointing that out. Armchair quarterbacks will always be there shaking their heads at someone who is trying.
It is hard not to become one of them. It is hard to respond to every offer with, “Yes, and…!” It is hard to see problems as obstacles to be overcome, rather than dead ends.
As a public speaker I am constantly tempted to focus on the negative. It is really easy to come up with specific negative examples, but not so easy to come up with good positive examples.
The best motivation however, comes not from constantly pointing out what is wrong.
The best motivation comes from highlighting what is right.
It comes from noticing when and where someone is being successful with the resources at hand, even though others aren’t. It comes from expecting, and pointing out the good things that happen around us all the time.
Next time you are tempted to point out all the problems with someone else’s idea. Stop. Take a step back and help them try it.
After all, the person who says something is impossible, should not interrupt the person who is doing it.
When I was younger someone showed me a graph about the power of compound interest on your savings. If you’ve never seen this, here is an example.
The biggest import of this graph? Start early!
But what happens if you didn’t start early? If you’re like me, you weren’t able to put money away that early. Maybe you needed to pay off student loans. Maybe you had a mortgage you needed to pay off (which makes total sense if your mortgage interest is higher than the interest you make on your savings).
Maybe you just wanted to have fun. Whatever the reason, you didn’t start early. You have missed out on some of the opportunity of starting early. There is nothing you can do about that now.
Maybe this is another in a long list of missed opportunities. Missed moments to move your life forward. Another time you missed taking the road you should take. This may be true, but there is no point dwelling on them. You need to learn from them.
You didn’t start in the past, but you can start now.
It is true that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, but the second best time is now.