There’s More to Motivation Than Money: Think Bigger Than Yourself

There are those days where I don’t feel like doing very much.  Yesterday was one of those days and today started out that way. I did manage to go to the gym yesterday but after meeting with a couple of clients in the gallery, I was too pooped to do anything, and I didn’t.  H says it’s natural.  Sometimes it’s good just to hang out with H and Momo.

Today has started off the same way, and I hung around the house with H much later than I usually do.

When I fall off the wagon and lose my motivation to work, it’s not money that motivates me to get back to work. I try to think of something big, really big:  Why I work.  I don’t think of buying a new mercedes, or a new pair of shoes, or going on vacation. I don’t think of moving into a beautiful apartment.  That kind of motivation has never worked for me.

I think of a purpose that is beyond myself.  As a professor, I used to think it was a chance to influence young people as they start their career and encourage to think beyond their imaginations.  I tried to expand their imaginations as well.  Teaching was never about the money.  It shouldn’t be.

As a gallery owner,  I think about how I can place art in people’s homes that will make them happier.  The art will change their lives.  Perhaps I can help one of my artists go in a new direction or become financially sercure.

Perhaps I can write something today that will make people think in a different way. Maybe someone will make some positive changes in their life because of what I write.

These are the kinds of things that push me in new directions in my work.  It has never been about the money. And in spite of that, or perhaps  because of it, I have made money.

Not always. Not every day. And not millions or billions. But enough so that I can say, “I have everything I need.”

Try saying that:  ‘I have everything I need.”  It’s very liberating.  It gives you a lot of power to pursue different choices in your life.  Your own choices.

I consulted to the president of  hedge fund for about two years.  He had saved $17 million dollars by the time he was 35. But it wasn’t enough.  He told me that he’d slow down once he had $20 million in the bank.  He knew I made significantly less than him, and was shocked when I told him “that I had everything I needed.” For him, money was it.  He fired a group of his assistants on Christmas Day in order to increase his own pay.  His own father berated him for not giving any money to the hospital that saved his son’s life.

He wasn’t a bad guy, but he had lost sight of  his own purpose in life and focused only on the number.

His situation was a unique one, but I encounter less extreme examples every day.  One friend is 68, had a scary stroke, suffers from high blood pressure, and continues to teach a full schedule so she can buy a place on the Italian Riviera and enjoy life.  I can’t help but wonder if  the students she teaches are merely an instrument to her end.  I also worry that she may not live to enjoy her retirement.

And what about now?  What about buying a smaller place or renting a place?

When does the striving stop?  And who will stop it if you don’t?

There are other bonuses to thinking a of a bigger purpose.  You will always be making a contribution. You will always be learning. You will always be satisfied.  You can look at your clients in the eye and know that you are working with them with integrity.  Not to get something out of them, but to provide a service to them.

Yes, you might be frustrated and disappointed some days.  I have had those kind of days. A lot. But you’ll be rich in ways that go way beyond money.

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  1. Insightful and truthful, in my happiest of times I had no money.