Calibrating Your Motivational Compass

My grandfather used to say, “Any job worth doing is worth doing right.”  He also used to say, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”  How do you teach someone to give more of themselves than they ever thought possible and to make this attitude common place?  We all admire heightened physical ability, exceptional human performance and the above and beyond endeavors.  Yet we throw motivational quotes around like comedians do punch lines without ever really contemplating the depth or meaning.  How many times have we heard someone say “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?”  Yet how many of us have completed the physical journey, and stood on the moon?

The excuses of many are fodder on the ground that great people trample on their path to success.  How is it that some people so driven they can’t stop, but most people so unmotivated they can’t get started?

Now I know what you are saying, “I am motivated!”  Well if we sit down and really analyze the past year, 2 years, 5 years, of your life there is a good change, for the majority of folks, we will find some plenty of slack in the results.  The perception of our abilities have become so inflated, yet our ability perform critical self-analysis is inadequate.  The intent of what follows is to adjust your Motivational Compass and correct your perception of being a more engaged human.

Yes, life is about being engaged.  Present.  Purposeful.  It isn’t about getting stuck in a rut.  Have you ever hear of someone winning a bowling match by throwing straight gutter balls?

Doing the bare minimum does not qualify.  This includes: getting a job, getting a raise, getting married, having kids, going to Yoga last Wednesday night when you were really tired but your girlfriend wouldn’t stop texting you so you decided what the hell and you went anyway, cleaning your house, cleaning your car, going for a jog, not even working out 365 days consistently!  These are things that are expected.  You do not get an award for doing the bare minimum in life.   Oddly enough time’s they are a changin, but one thing remains the same…  we cannot escape responsibility.

Some examples of being an engaged badass include: starting a business, retiring after decades of service, entering your first triathlon, skydiving for your 80th birthday, taking a bullet (physically or metaphorically) for what you believe in, raising kids who become exceptional citizens (not underachievers), being hospitalized after fighting off an attacker only to learn he is in the Intensive Care Unit right down the hall from you, biking through Cambodia to provide a human service.

The vigor of life is best found in tasks that are challenging.  The mundane repetition of life, that which one does not find invigorating, does not cause one to live to one’s potential.   How often have you woke up feeling like you hate life, dread the day or feel anxious over an impending appointment?  Do you follow life’s prescribed plan?  Go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, own 2.3 cars, have 1.4 kids, work 40 years, take 2.7 vacations per year to the same destinations (all inclusive because God forbid you wing it!), die.  Sound familiar?

When we get to the end of our life we will want to look back with purpose and feel remembered for who we were.  We will not care how many hours we worked, nor will we be overly concerned with how much money we made.

Be Engaged

Olympic Gold Medalist Janet Evans was known as “mighty mite.”  She was small compared to most Olympic swimmers but she was powerful in the water.  A reporter once asked her, what goes through your mind when you’re in the water?  She said, (referencing her competition) “how dare they get in the water with me. Don’t they know what they’re in for?”  At 39 years old she is making a comeback onto the swimming scene in an effort to make the 2012 Olympics.  She’s a lifelong badass!

I use athletic examples because this is most near and dear to me, however, the athletic pursuit is irrelevant.  The purpose is in the journey.

Was I a good person?  Did I do good and was I able to help my fellow man?  Did I constantly challenge myself and those around me to be better at everything?  Will I leave behind a memory that is noteworthy?  Have I reached out to others, made strong interpersonal connections and are those people better for having known me?  Did I move forward, worry less about the future and be more present in life’s precious moments?  These are just a few of the many questions we should ask ourselves daily.

In cultivating a more engaging persona, here are some personal tips:

  1. Worry less about how clean your car is and more about how dirty your sneakers are.
  2. Don’t be a whiner.
  3. Get lost… on purpose.
  4. Challenge a fear.
  5. Question and challenge everything, but always keep an open mind.
  6. Frequently learn new things.
  7. Pay attention to the world around you.
  8.  Look for opportunities to teach others.
  9. Be a winner but embrace losing.  Learn from both.
  10. Honestly evaluate who you are.

As a disclaimer these are only useful if they are practiced daily.  How do you feel when someone cuts you off in traffic?  How do you feel when you let someone into your lane, they look at you, smile and wave?  There is a difference.  Practice the one that feels better.  You are the product of 4 billion years of successful year of evolution, act like it.

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