In Sydney, Australia, I sat down with my friend David to hear him out on a work-related issue. He was stressed as the company he was working with offered him a new position. That doesn’t sound very stressing, does it? However his current position was something he was very passionate about and allowed him to work directly with the team he had built.
David excelled with people through his great interpersonal skills, which is why he loved his current position. He was able to grow and place value on the people he worked with as a team. The higher managerial position would have offered him a nicer office and possibly more respect, but it took away the aspect he enjoyed the most: getting to directly work with people.
We discussed a while longer and went through his end goals and hopes for the years to come. It was helpful to pause and see whether this step would align with what he had on his heart for the future. When we looked at the factors that played into his motivation overall, he realized that all of them could be categorized into two categories: passion and anxiety. Any inclination towards taking the promotion was anxiety-driven; his actual goals had to do with what he believed in rather than other people’s opinions.
I thought that was a brilliant way to think about it! This process can be used in order to navigate life better, because it filters out the possibility of following anxiety-driven motives: every motive has a connection to either passion or anxiety!
Yes, all of our motives can be put under either passion or anxiety. We can be driven by a cause we’re passionate about, or by pressuring anxiety. The pressure might arise due to social reasons, or simply the need to survive. The social contributors can look like a desire for recognition through influence or wealth, for example. But a need for superficial recognition is rooted in an unanchored identity. A lack of purpose is most often the cause: without it life has no depth to it.
Time and time again I’ve come back to this reality: if not planted into a cause, our choices are dictated by anxiety. If our purpose goes no further than our own well-being, we have anxiety constantly lurking in the background - we’re always waiting for a certain standard to be met in order to be at peace. In this setting, peace is not the norm, anxiety is.
You might intuitively realize how an ‘anxiety as the norm’ -based life is not ideal.
Being motivated by anxiety means to be driven by negative, external factors: you let outside pressures direct your steps. Our minds simply don’t work optimally when we’re powered by negative emotions. For example, focusing on who you want to be instead of who you don't want to be is healthier for the mind. Let passion take the steering wheel, and your steps will be guided by your internal compass. You follow a cause that withstands the external voices that try to mislead you.
Cultivate a passion to build something far greater and your fuel - your propulsion force - comes from a source that’s life-empowering instead of energy-sapping.