Why Do You Keep Doing What You Do?

We always have a reason or motivation: for waking up in the morning, for starting up a business, for working in a certain field or simply for continuing to do what we normally do. For our career in general, for money or, maybe even more importantly, for changing the world. The reason why we do something can determine how far we can get — the more important the motivation is to us, the more successful, I think, we can be.

Let’s imagine that, in a small town, a child leaves home to go to school. He’s hunched by the backpack that’s twice his back size, and through his rushed steps, we can almost make out his thoughts: he might be picturing himself as a doctor, as an astronaut, as a professor or as a boxing champion. Maybe he’s even picturing himself as a millionaire, whatever he might be — as long as he’s a millionaire. This child has a dream because he has a motivation, a thought that he may not be acknowledging yet. He has a cause.

Now let’s imagine the child reaching maturity: the student, the doctor, the programmer, the advertiser, the boxing champion, the Olympic. The child that grew up to be anything, the child we used to be. No matter whether he likes it or not, he has a good reason to keep doing what he does, and he acknowledges this or not. And here is the challenge of the adult: to figure out why he does the things he does, and most of all, why he continues to do so. Or, in some cases, why he stopped doing what he used to do.

This little engine called motivation, always based on an elementary emotion, is fundamental to keep us doing what we do. The reason is, I believe, essential and always more important, at least in the hardest of times, than what we do per se.

We have the example of the marathon, a sporting endurance trial, so named after the legend of Philippides, the Greek soldier who ran all the way to Athens to announce the victory of the battle at Marathon. And then we have the example of J.K. Rowling, who — before selling millions of books in the entire world, was a social worker, she had just divorced and no publishing house wanted to publish her manuscript. She couldn’t afford printing several copies of the same manuscript to send them to publishing houses, but she was so determined, that she typed on her typewriter each copy that she sent to the book publishers. Imagine a divorced mother who couldn’t afford to feed her baby, and the determination she used to set everything around her in motion.

But, maybe even more importantly, we have to make our own example. When we lose our jobs, what really matters is not losing the motivation to keep going. The same thing if we fail. The child who’s been through at least 12 years of school doesn’t want us to give up, he wants us to carry on, just like the child who, before becoming a world champion in boxing, took more KOs than he could ever imagine. And he kept going each time, he kept holding on until he became Muhammad Ali. Because his motivation was a million times stronger than the strength and the speed of his fists.

In each parent’s wallet, on their desk or on the wall, there is a picture of their child. Maybe its not there by accident, but to remind them of why they keep doing what they do and what makes them get up every morning. Then, there’s the same child who wanted to make his parents proud, the child who wanted to change his part of the world, the one passionate about maths or computers. It’s the child who was told he wasn’t good at drawing, who was refused and humiliated sometimes. He is the pupil who had a dream and tries to make it happen upon reaching adulthood. We are both that parent, but also that child.

Let’s stop for a moment from the madness we live through each day and let’s take a look at the real reason we keep doing what we do. The more important the motivation is to us, from any point of view, the further we can go in the journey we planned ahead. Because, look, it happens that we fall down defeated, but if we rise up – we rise up victorious. Our motivation, beyond the things we do each day, is the victorious one.

Laurențiu Ion

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