Beyond Passion – What REALLY motivates?


The discussion about passion on the Employee Engagement Network I belong to got me thinking.

What motivates people to accomplish anything? In my own life, I drove myself to achieve some status as a competitive bodybuilder because it was a way I could focus my energies into a creative and healthy endeavor, rather than destroy myself through drink or drugs due to the incredible pain I was experiencing at the time.

It’s been said that people are moved to action for two (and only two) reasons:

1. The fear of pain
2. The anticipation of pleasure

There are no other reasons. Or, are there?

Right now, my husband Clovice and I are involved in starting a new company. Its focus is to provide sustainable small temporary housing solutions (read: a green FEMA trailer replacement) “Why are we doing this?” I keep asking myself. I mean, “Why are we REALLY doing this? What is the core, the essence, the driving force behind us taking everything we have and are, and plunging it into this venture?”

Of course, I can only answer for myself, so I explored the following possibilities:

Is it because….

1. …It would be a really cool thing to be able to provide disaster relief housing to people in need? Nice, but not really.
2. ….if this thing takes off, we’re going to be fabulously wealthy? I’ve always been happy with enough, so, no.
3. ….if we don’t get this thing a bit higher off the ground, we’re going to crash and burn? No. I’ve been there before in my life and survived.
4. ….of the fame and recognition we’d receive from the success? Both Clovice and I are Myers Briggs “I’s” so it’s highly unlikely.

When I came up with all the reasons I could think of – all which ultimately had a pain or pleasure component associated with them – I honestly could say it is none of these that drive me (and I might even say “Us” at the risk of speaking for Clovice) to do this. It’s hard to put a word or a concept to it because it is beyond pleasure or pain. It is something we just HAVE to do. I can’t find a word to describe it.

It’s probably the same reason Maxx, my nephew, just signed up with the Marines. Ever since he was a kid in diapers, he would turn his stuffed animals into pretend guns because his mom wouldn’t let him have weapons as toys. The military is in his blood. He just HAS to do it.

This “HAVE to do” is beyond passion, beyond emotion, beyond any feeling.

The closest picture I can paint for you is that it’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle. You’ve tried hundreds of piece you swear should have fit in a particular spot, and you even leave one of those pieces in that space for awhile thinking it belongs there. Then, all of a sudden you have a piece in your hand you KNOW is the correct one – you remove the impostor and replace it with the one you are holding. Voilà! Eureka! Alleluia! It exudes rightness, correctness, truth and beauty.

We HAVE to bring our company into the world – Maxx HAS to be a Marine – because the doing in itself creates this deep Knowing of rightness at the depths of our beings. You may have well asked us the question, “Why do you breathe?” The answer is almost the same. There is no emotion attached to it. IT just has to be done.

So, I ask you:

Is there a word we could give to this state, this “IT”? Is IT the ultimate power behind any inspired goal, vision, action, whatever? Do we have to have IT to achieve true success – in the workplace, at home, wherever? If our managers and company executives have IT, would they inspire success from the top down? How can everyone find IT? Can you go your whole life without having IT and still experience real joy and happiness in life and at work?

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