Scott H Young

The Key to Escaping Toxic Motivation


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Motivation can be split up between two different categories. The first is passionate motivation, this comes from craving to do something. The second is wealth motivation. Wealth motivation is craving to have something. The differences between the two may be subtle, but the impact is tremendous. One builds enthusiasm, while the other can be completely toxic.

The difference between these two drives is almost completely hidden. You can’t usually make a distinction from a written goal or mission statement. But the results are far apart. Passionately motivated people can easily overcome stress, pain and obstacles. Wealth motivated people are often frustrated, impatient and depressed at the slightest failure.

Wealth Motivation is Toxic

What is wealth motivation? It isn’t specifically being motivated by money. It simply means being motivated by outcomes over process. Wanting to be rich instead of being interested in earning money. Wanting a relationship instead of being interested in other people. Wanting a healthy body rather than being interested in healthy eating and exercise.

Wealth motivation isn’t, in itself, a bad thing. The problem is when it is used to disguise a lack of passionate motivation. When you aren’t intensely interested in the process, getting to the goal is going to be painful.

The best way to tell which type of motivation fuels you is to look at your goals and the pursuits required to reach them. Which draws you in more? Are you more interested in school or the degree? Are you more interested in running a business or being a successful businessperson?

Toxic Motivation Doesn’t Last

Wealth motivation might get you started, but it can’t finish the marathon. Every successful person I know got to where they are because they had at least some level of passionate motivation. Of the extremely successful people I know, passionate motivation is almost so high that it can often be hard to discern exactly what their external goals even are.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Would you keep doing it even if eventual success was impossible?
  • Would you keep doing it even if you couldn’t enjoy the rewards?
  • Would you keep doing it even if failure was almost guaranteed?

How to Replace Toxic Drive With Enthusiasm

Just let go. The toxicity of your drive happens because you clutch onto it. The result has become so important to you that your willing to put up with the frustration, poison and pain that you have to go through to reach it. The first step (although certainly not the last) is simply to let go of this old drive.

When I used to run in track, our coach would explain that if you run up a hill lactic acids can build in your legs. It’s important to jog out the muscles a short time so that they won’t build up and cause problems later. I think sometimes the only way to get rid of a toxic drive is simply to jog it out. Get detached for awhile so you can begin fresh.

Win-Win or No Deal

Once you’ve detached from your goal, the only way you can create a healthy drive is to force an ultimatum. Either commit to finding a way to be wildly interested in the process AND the goal, or walk away from that area until you do.

Here are some applications you might want to use:

  • Health – Don’t force yourself to get thin unless you can find an exercise, diet or health philosophy that you can become enthusiastic about.
  • Money – Don’t try to earn more money unless you can find a process for making money that fascinates you.
  • Work – Don’t do work that doesn’t make you passionate. If you can’t find passionate work do the bare minimum to survive and move up until you can find passionate work. Money can’t buy your soul.
  • Relationships – Don’t force yourself to date, meet people or attract without becoming interested in other people.

Enthusiasm Hurts!

Passionate motivation doesn’t mean that everything you do should be easy or painless. Many of the things I love involve a lot of pain, challenge or scare the hell out of me. The point isn’t to have a pain free, relaxing stroll but to be involved in a process you are fascinated by and care about.

I’m not interested in being rich. I live a comfortable lifestyle and I could live on a minimum wage salary. Being a millionaire doesn’t motivate me. But the process of owning a business, investing, selling products and earning money does. I’m interested in becoming a millionaire, not being one.

Being interested isn’t the same as expecting ease. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be interested if I thought it were easy. It is because I expect it to be challenging that creates the drive.

A Drive for the Game

When you play a game, you are driven out of the fun of the play. The spirit of the game is what makes it worth playing, even if your goal is to win. In life you can also have strict goals, deadlines and objective results. But if you aren’t playing for a love of the game, you might as well quit because you aren’t playing at all.


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3 Responses to “The Key to Escaping Toxic Motivation”

  1. Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett and numerous other successful people agree with you. Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist, puts it as well as any: “If you’re in a job you don’t like, almost anything can seem insurmountable. Conversely, if you are in a job you like, obstacles start to look small.”

  2. Doug Rosbury says:

    Excellent article. You brought up an issue I hadn’t even been aware of. My insight is , If you can’t enjoy and be passionate about what you are doing, It’s not worth doing because, in life, what matters is not the destination but the way to it. The trip should be the destination. Life is to be enjoyed. En-(joy)-ed. If you are obsessed with desire for an outcome, you will be unhappy because you (are)
    obsessed by it. According to the buddah, “Desire is the cause of all suffering”. Good shot dear friend. Thank you — Doug Rosbury
    p.s. To be obsesessed is to be possessed. (by what you desire)
    All things are already yours as an offspring of God. You don’t need to desire a thing but you only need to choose it . In this
    philosophy, desire is not necessary and you are freed from
    obssesion because your faith will produce the outcome that you have (CHOSEN). —Doug

  3. Doug Rosbury says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to express an idea that empowers.—
    —Doug Rosbury

Debate is fine, flaming is not. Pretend that this comment form is a discussion taking place in my house. That means I enjoy constructive criticism and polite suggestions. Personal attacks, insults and all-purpose nastiness will be removed especially if it is directed at other readers.

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