When you need to persevere and put in consistent effort to reach your dreams, where do you look for motivation? What drives you? Do you seek out validation? Are you fired up by proving people wrong? Including yourself?
To me, proving to others that we are capable of achieving something has always felt like a useless pursuit. Why bother trying to show people who didn’t believe in you in the first place how amazing you are? What makes their their opinions matter? Why would anyone want to organize their life around showing the “haters” that they were wrong?
But for some reason—up until recently—proving myself wrong has always been a valid motivator.
Today, I’d like to explore the “whys” behind our motivation and what drives us to achieve.
First, let’s take a deeper look at using “proving others wrong” as motivation
You may have seen this motivation play out on talent shows like America’s Got Talent. A performer gets on stage and shares that they’ve had a terrible experience with bullying, which inspired their act. Then, the judges say something like: “Show those bullies how great you are.”
In my opinion, this is the exact opposite of what anyone would want to do. Bullies, haters and non-supporters of our vision shouldn’t be given the spotlight—they should be ignored.
By showing them anything, you’re making their opinion of you more important than your opinion of you.
Moreover, you don’t need any crazy talent or 7 figures in the bank to show the world that you’re great. If that was true, then we’re basically saying that people who don’t have great talent or find success deserve to be bullied.
Nobody deserves to be put down or to be mistreated. Period. No proof of coolness or skill is required.
I’d imagine that there is a short boost of satisfaction to show somebody that they were wrong about you, but that’s all coming from our ego and a place of lack and insecurity. Any time we’re looking for confirmation from the outside world regarding anything, we can use it as an indicator to show us where we need to love ourselves more. Those are the parts of you that need more love and compassion from you—not the outside world.
Which leads me to peeling back another layer of the onion.
What if we’re on the quest to prove ourselves something? What if what’s driving you is your desire to show yourself you can do something?
I hadn’t pondered this question much until I had a conversation with a client a couple of weeks ago. We’ve been working on creating a more joyful and purposeful life. We’ve had several conversations around her values, her goals and her current beliefs about herself.
One big theme was achievement. She craved achieving big things and it was one of her strongest drivers. I asked several questions to try to understand the root of the motivation for achievement. It’s important as her coach to know what is driving her behaviour and how her values became what they are today. Was it a family value? Something she intrinsically felt drawn to? Or did achievement become a value to compensate for something?
After a very thought-provoking and insightful conversation, my client concluded that it was important for her to prove to herself that she is capable of achieving her goals. She assumed that after achieving these goals, she’d feel more confident in herself and be more fulfilled.
Because I was coaching someone else, it was easy for me to see how exhausting it must be to try to convince your own self that you’re capable. The question: “What would you do if you had nothing to prove to yourself?” rolled out with ease. I continued: “What would you be focusing on if you just believed that you are already capable? Could we skip the step of proving yourself?”
There was a significant amount of silence after this question. My client was really considering how much easier her life would be if she did what she wanted to do because she wanted to do it; because it was bringing her joy to do it; or because the driving motivations was the love for that particular interest. Not the collection of evidence she needed first so she can give herself permission to be fulfilled.
So it made me think about the ways I’ve been trying to prove to myself that I’m capable of achieving my hefty goals. I often think about what is that that I want and what is making me want it. Somehow proving to myself that I am able to do something big and significant was a good kind of motivation.
What about you? What drives you?
Spend a moment thinking about your biggest accomplishments. What were the driving motivators for you at the time?
My motivation has always been a mix of fulfilling my potential, using my gifts to make a difference and a dose of showing myself that I can do big things.
But when I remembered my conversation with my client, it really reminded me that a lot of my drive for achievement comes from wanting to make myself proud as well.
Does that mean there are two selves within me? One sitting there giving approval, feeling proud, and another one hustling to earn it? How crazy of an idea is that? I’d imagine it’s just as crazy as trying to show your bullies that you’re actually awesome!
So then—what is a healthy motivation to move us forward?
The first thoughts that pop into my head are the words of Seth Godin from This Is Marketing: “making things better.” Also, Sadghuro’s words from his recent interview with Lewis Howes for the School of Greatness Podcast who talked about the difference between chasing happiness and being an expression of joy instead. And lastly, one of my favorite thinkers- Edghkart Tolle who suggests in his book A New Earth to use joy and enthusiasm as clues that guide you on your journey.
So I’m leaving you here with these questions to ponder:
- What would you be doing if you had nothing to prove to anyone, including yourself?
- What drives you to be a better version of yourself? Are those drivers coming from a place of love or fear?
- What are the ways that your life could be an expression of joy?
- Could you build your life equation with your worthiness and capabilities being a constant instead of variables dependent on an external measure?
- Could you just focus on the variables of love and joy?
- What would be different in the way you experience life?
As usual, I’m available for your questions and comments. Shoot me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love hearing from you!
And if you want to explore those questions and how you can bring more meaning and purpose in your life and work, schedule your free coaching consultation at www.coachkalina.com/get-in-touch.