Human beings are driven by self-interest.
If a task was inherently rewarding to us, we would do it effortlessly. This is a lot of why people argue to do what you “love.” It basically means you’ll be more inclined to do it consistently, and consistency is the only way to achieve lasting success.
If you aren’t aware of how an action or task could benefit you, you’re going to have almost no motivation to do it.
The problem is that we fail to identify our own motives, and motives generate motivation.
Even if you are living your ideal lifestyle, you are still going to have to do things you do not want to do on occasion.
Even if your job is what your most passionate about, you’re still going to have administrative work to take care of, you’re not always going to feel like performing perfectly every day. Nobody is immune from the work of being human, the washing and clothing, the cooking and cleaning.
But then there are more complex responsibilities we have, too.
Sometimes, one member of our friend group deeply irritates us, and we feel disinclined to make an effort to get along. Sometimes, we are required to spend time with our extended families despite not wanting to travel or make small talk for hours on end. Sometimes, we have to show up for other people when we ourselves are exhausted and can barely muster up the drive to take care of our own business.
Often, life improves most drastically when we are willing to go above and beyond in any area, but to do that requires a great deal of motivation, and attaining that is something not everyone knows how to do.
The trick is that you identify your own personal benefit no matter what situation you are in.
Maybe you dislike that one person in the friend group, but you love your friends, and so you agree that you’re willing to put up with one person you’re lukewarm about in order to spend time with people you really enjoy.
Maybe you really don’t like to travel, but know how much you want to connect with your family members, and that makes the trip worth it.
Maybe you don’t necessarily feel like showing up for a friend, but you know that you’ll want those friends to show up for you when it’s your birthday, or your event, or your premiere night.
It’s not that life is all about you, it’s that motivation is inherently our ability to extract our own benefit out of whatever we are doing, and if we can do that more efficiently, we can actually show up as better people all around.
Even if it is as simple as getting the motivation to clean your house or cook dinner, instead of thinking about how little you want to wipe the countertops, you can focus instead on how good it will feel to relax in a clean home, or eat a home-cooked meal, or save a few dollars each night on eating out.
Though we are typically told that the true measure of character is how selfless we are willing to be, the reality is that it’s not how human beings were built — and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The issue isn’t that you don’t feel like showing up for your friends so you just simply don’t. The issue is that you know you should, but don’t have the energy or care to make it less painstaking. You logically understand that you’re doing the right thing, but to get your emotions on board, you have to identify your own benefit, even if it’s small.
Your life has to be geared primarily toward your own interest, even when you’re serving other people.
If we didn’t think that a selfless act made us a “good person,” we probably won’t be as inclined to do it.
If we didn’t think that our friends would care whether or not we showed up on time to see them, we probably wouldn’t be as inclined to do it.
If we didn’t think it mattered whether or not we lived in a pig stye, we probably wouldn’t be as inclined to do it.
We can only live for other people’s needs for so long.
We can only spend so much time doing what others require.
We can only use so much of our energy to give selflessly to others.
At some point, we do need to move our own lives forward, and feel good about how we’re showing up each day.
We give that energy back to ourselves by identifying what we want and how our actions might help us in getting it.
In the end, human beings do very little that won’t serve them in some way. Instead of trying to fight this impulse, work with it. Use it to help you feel inclined to do what you know is best for your long-term wellbeing.