This week, I want to talk about how to develop internal motivation.
You Do Things For External Reasons
Why do you do what you do? Most people live their lives externally: they define their actions, thoughts, and ideas by their culture, family, and society. Internal desires do not drive these people. They pursue specific activities for the country, for family, for the state, and the church.
Very rarely do most people act in self-interest. They chose a job their family will be proud of or adopt the beliefs of their country without question. Or, they worship at their childhood church, and their politics align with the views of their friends and community. Unfortunately, most people do not think for themselves.
When people do pursue actions in self-interest, they are not pursuing virtue. For example, they do not seek patience despite a family history of anger or practice frugality despite their country’s irresponsible spending. Instead, people pursue irrational and destructive habits in the name of self-interest. They consume drugs, porn, food, and other items to help feel like “themselves” and at peace. However, their consumption reveals their weaknesses as they hurry back to the comforts of conformity.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Externally Focused
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl
So, why do you do what you do? Do you believe what you believe to appease others? Do you date the people you date because of what your family implicitly demands of you? Or, do you vote the way you vote because your community would mock you if you stepped out of line?
Instead, define your actions by internal reason, purpose, and virtue. Your efforts should point to what you value and align with what is virtuous. However, the irrational, lazy limitations of your church, culture, family, society, or nation-state should not determine your actions. Why? Because the instability of the masses and the power-hungry serve as the foundation of external motivation. For example, if your morality comes from your belief in the righteousness of your country, then you will lose your ethics if you lose your patriotism. However, an internal system of standards, values, and virtues will stand on firmer ground and can withstand your disillusions with a politician or your disbelief in a nation-state.
External motivation forces you to worship subjective things, such as the state, instead of engaging with objective truths, such as virtue. Therefore, your beliefs, ideas, and actions must come from your system of values. Furthermore, adherence to rigorous actions, virtue, and sustainability will test your values. Such a system is harder to undermine when pointed towards rational, objective truths and bulwarked by productive, meaningful action.
External Reality Should Motivate Us
Now, I want to be clear you live in an objective reality. You cannot create your own reality. Therefore, external factors should help refine and define your internal motivations and personal values.
Firstly, society should influence your actions. Be aware of your culture, what it’s doing, and respond as virtuously as you can. The irrationality of the masses doesn’t change fundamental virtues. However, you should avoid adopting the greediness, short-sightedness, and brutality of the mob. Furthermore, you should protect yourself against the pitfalls of society, so you avoid becoming another victim of the culture’s collective insanity.
Secondly, material reality influences us. Obviously, you cannot fly. But you also need to eat well, sleep, and exercise. Therefore, never have personal values such as “eat whatever I want.” Your principles should be motivated by what is optimum for your health and wellbeing. For example, you may not like the gym, but exercising improves your health and extends your life. Extending your life allows you to devote more time to your life goal. Therefore, you should be internally motivated to exercise as little as you need to maintain your best health.
Lastly, your responsibilities influence you. You have duties to others, such as virtuous people. For example, you may work to feed and care for your family at a job you may not particularly like. However, you value your family and are internally-motivated to see them safe and comfortable. Furthermore, you can better manage your time and habits to free yourself to pursue personal goals.
Why Should You Be Internally-Motivated?
- Your values are yours and harder to influence – People switch ideals, beliefs, and values as quickly as they change emotions. However, you formulate your values and ideas through observation, authentic engagement, and the eager consumption of critical ideas. Through this process, you’ll become more confident in who you are, what you value, and what you do.
- You aren’t dependent on external forces for your moral ideals or personal values – You don’t have to consult a church to ensure everything you do from eating meat to drinking are pre-approved. You don’t have to make excuses when your nation-state is being evil or immoral. Nor do you have to justify the idiot actions of your family. Having internal motivation and values means you won’t depend on corrupt systems to define your life or justify your actions.
- You are more valuable in dialogue – Because your values and motivations are internally driven, you will bring a unique perspective to a conversation. You won’t parrot the talking points of whatever organization or identity group you’re a part of.
The more internally-motivated you are, the less you have to depend on the irrationality of the external world.
How To Become Internally-Motivated
Objectively, you need to take care of your health. Morally, you should be loyal to those who are virtuous. Realistically, you should protect yourself from the irrationality of collectivist forces. However, your life goals should be picked by what you want and what you value. The people you love should be chosen for their virtues, not for their likeness to the people in your community. Your politics and philosophy should be defined by personal experience, objective truth, and goodness, not by what is expedient or traditional for the nation-state and its voters. Therefore, you need to learn how to become internally-motivated.
Below I detail four ways to become more internally-motivated to help you live fully on your terms.
Internally-Motivated: Focus on what is objectively right, moral, and virtuous
“If you’re up for it, kid, the world could use more heroes.”
Becoming internally-motivated requires fighting through comfort, pain, and distractions. Therefore, to create your system of values you need to focus on what is objectively right, moral, and virtuous instead of what is easy and comfortable.
Understand the 13 virtues. Practice these virtues by setting clear goals to be more frugal or patient. Additionally, ask yourself if a specific action is virtuous. Is it virtuous when you become frustrated in traffic? Is it virtuous when you become distracted while doing your work? Or, is it virtuous when you betray your budget and waste your money? Listen to your gut, and you’ll know whether something is right or wrong, even if you cannot fully explain why at the moment.
Of course, there are nuances such as life-threatening or desperate lifeboat scenarios. But you will rarely experience such difficult times. Focus on what is objective, right, and virtuous, and you will be able to develop internal values and motivations beyond the instability of your culture.
Accept the brokenness of society
Most people are too broken, lost, and scared to offer anything of spiritual or moral wisdom. This reality is why I argue you need to be internally focused. The world outside of you provides very little help in keeping you motivated towards what is moral.
However, why are the masses such a terrible bedrock to rest our motivations and values? Because culture is not about teaching you what is right. Culture is about teaching you how to fall in line. Individualism is not about enslavement to anything, let alone the powerful and the masses. Thus, if you wish to be an individual, you have to shed the comforting non-answers of culture.
Lastly, I want to reiterate you should never accept lies and manipulations from anyone, regardless of their power or relationship to you. Greed does not become moral because people vote for it. Neither does belittlement become “love” because your family does it instead of a stranger. Therefore, if you see corruption within particular institutions, acknowledge the crime instead of making excuses. You can only become more virtuous if you are honest with everyone and everything you encounter.
Rid yourself of all unchosen identities
“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – J.K. Rowling
You are not defined by what you do not choose. You do not decide your family origin, what nation-state you were borne in, your skin color, your gender, and other options. Therefore, these unchosen realities should not limit you, nor should you place much value in them.
As long as you place unchosen identities above what is virtuous, you will always be a slave to the ways society defines you. If you view yourself as “black” or “white” or “Ethiopian” before “patient” or “persistent,” then society will always have control over who you are and the stories you tell about yourself.
Your enslavement to these identities will prevent you from becoming internally-motivated and driven. Instead of asking yourself, “how can I become more virtuous” or “How can I better fulfill my needs?” You will instead ask, “How can I act more black?” or “How can I act more feminine?” Your eyes will be looking outward towards the roles everyone else has defined for you.
Don’t embrace what is unchosen. Don’t take pride in what you haven’t earned. Look towards what you earn, what is virtuous, and what will elevate you towards your ideal self.
Internal Motivation Means Embracing Chosen Identities
“That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call ‘free will’ is your mind’s freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and your character.” – Ayn Rand
What and who do you want to be? Very few people think critically about their lives, wants, and opinions. However, becoming internally-motivated means creating the identity which best defines you.
Firstly, understand your goals and what you want to accomplish. Define yourself by your work and your determination to excel at it. Furthermore, define yourself by your virtuous character traits, not by your vices. It is a fool who builds his identity around what he consumes and feels addicted to.
Lastly, always ask yourself questions to better define who you are, what you believe, and what you want:
- What do you love to do?
- What are you skilled at?
- Who and what are you responsible for?
- What do you believe?
Build your identity on what you chose, love, and value. Never build your character on what you cannot control or what others force on you.
“Because I Want To”: Become Internally-Motivated
Are you internally-motivated? Do you have a personal system defined by your desires, your love of virtue, and your commitment to your responsibilities? Or are you always looking towards the elites, the masses, and institutions for answers to your life’s burning questions?
There is great power in looking at your actions and understanding you did what you did because you wanted to. Imagine if you helped others because you want to, not because you’re afraid of hell. Or, you learned a new skill because you want to, not to impress some vapid lover. Or, you believed in the future because you’re working hard to improve things, not because the government told you everything would be alright.
Become a proactive participant in your life. Define what matters and work towards the achievement of your idealized self. Become an individual.
- What motivates you? Are you motivated by fear or a deeper sense of purpose?
- What are your life goals? Why do you want to do with your life? Do you believe your goals are accomplishable?
- Who influences your opinion the most? The masses? The church? Or, the state? Why do you think these forces influence you so much?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.