Sunday #18: April 29, 2012 – What Motivates Some People to Push Themselves?

Once again, I am writing this week’s blog rather late in the day. Almost 11 p.m. to be exact. Much as I was two weeks ago, I find myself uninspired on subject matter. I was tempted to write about the results of the Alberta election earlier this week, but nearly every conceivable angle has been taken on that already, so it seems a waste of time.

The truth is, at this moment, I’d rather go to bed. I’ve had a hard, tiring week. Even though my university classes are finished and the last of my homework is finally done, I had a lot of “catch up” this week, doing all the things I have been putting off for the last two months to get school stuff done. This week, the physical and mental stress of my seven-days-a-week, full-steam-ahead life these last two months finally got the better of me. Once the stress and strain was removed, I felt physically unwell, so I loafed around a lot this week when I wasn’t playing catch up.

After a tough week, tonight was a lovely evening. Roland and I had dinner with our families to celebrate our birthdays (later this week). We had a great meal (thanks, Mom) and lovely cakes (thanks, Susen) plus great company and lovely gifts (thanks, everyone). I also had a few glasses of wine, so I am content and sleepy. All I want to do is crawl into my comfy bed in my comfy pyjamas and get a good night’s sleep. I could choose to do that—and not many people would even notice. With my relatively small following on this blog, less than a dozen people would really be aware I’d skipped a week. It would be so easy to let this slip and just slip into bed instead.

Yet I cannot allow myself to do it. I am driven to carry on, to write a blog few people will see and maybe even fewer people will appreciate. Here I sit, with my eyes dry and my vision blurring even with my new (stronger) reading glasses. So I have to ask myself this question…

Why? Why are you sitting at your desk, a little tipsy and a lot drowsy, writing when you’d rather go to sleep?

And the answer is…. I don’t know. All I know is that I have always been this way. I have always been driven to push myself to meet my goals, to keep going even when perhaps I shouldn’t. I have always needed to meet my own expectations, even when others thought they were crazy or a waste of time. As a former teacher, I know that not everyone acts this way, that not everyone is internally driven. So I wonder what motivates some people to push themselves so hard—and I wonder why that inner drive is so hard to quiet, even when people might wish they could?

I understand motivation theory quite well. I understand that motivation is a combination of autonomy, mastery and purpose (as identified by Daniel Pink in his book Drive), but those elements alone don’t seem to draw the whole picture. My inner drive seems second nature to me, but where did it originate? I wish I knew, because then I might have better control over it. I might be better able to tell myself that sometimes it’s OK to set that instinct aside for a short time. I might better be able to tell myself that it’s OK not to always work so hard.

I am sure I would be physically better off if I could do that. I suspect that I would be mentally better off too if I could do that.

Yet, I can’t. God knows I have tried. Mostly all I’ve succeeded at is realizing that I can’t step away from my expectations of myself. Again, my question is “why?”

Does anybody out there have an answer? If so, please share it with me. In the meantime, I will finally crawl into my cozy bed.


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