A few days ago I wrote about 23 practical things you can do to make your life more fulfilling. There I wrote that the more your needs at the higher levels are met, the more fulfilling your life will be. Now I want to revisit the idea from a different angle, and that is from our motivation in doing something. I believe our motivation in doing something has a lot to do with how fulfilling our life would be.
Here is a question you should ask yourself regarding something you do in life:
What is my motivation in doing it?
Or, in case that there are some motivations at work:
What is my main motivation in doing it?
The answer here should be in the form of a level in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which – from lowest to highest – are: physical, security, belonging, esteem, learning, aesthetic, self-actualization, and transcendence.
Take your career for example. What is your main motivation there? Not the ideal motivation; but the real motivation. Is it to meet your physical need, esteem need, or another needs? Take some time to think about this question before coming up with an answer; it’s not the kind of question that you should answer in hurry.
This question acts as a single-item checklist on how fulfilling your life potentially is. The higher the level of your motivation, the more potentially fulfilling your life is. For example, in your professional life:
- If your main motivation is esteem, then your professional life will be more fulfilling than if your motivation is physical.
- If your main motivation is learning, then it will be more fulfilling than if your motivation is esteem.
- If your main motivation is self-actualization, then it will be more fulfilling than if your motivation is esteem.
- If your main motivation is transcendence, then it will be more fulfilling than if your motivation is self-actualization.
Unfortunately, many people stop at the esteem level (that is, achieving status or recognition for themselves) as their main motivation. Some manage to go up to the learning level, but only a few make it to the self-actualization or transcendence level.
So an effective way to make your life more fulfilling is this:
Upgrade your motivation
Upgrade your motivation, and you will upgrade your life. This, of course, is easier said than done. Here are some tips on how to do it:
- Ask yourself what is your motivation in some important areas in your life (e.g. career, relationship). Be honest with your answer.
- If your answer is in the lower levels of the hierarchy (physical to esteem), try to imagine how you would do it with higher levels of motivation (learning to transcendence). Take time to see yourself doing it with a different – higher level – motivation. How do you feel? How will you see things? How will you see other people?
- Make a mission statement to remind you of the new motivation you would like to have. For example: My mission in career is making a difference in people’s life (transcendence level).
- Be honest with your mission statement. Make sure that you really mean it.
- Write the mission statement in a place you can easily see.
- Regularly talk to yourself, “I do it because I want to (insert the new motivation here).”
- It will take time to refine your motivation, so stick with it. Keep seeing things differently. Constantly remind yourself of why the new motivation is important.