Motivation is a key ingredient for a fulfilling life. This story illustrates the power of finding healthy reasons for everything that you do.

People in a small town gathered every evening to make music together. There was a saxophonist, a violinist, and a drummer, mostly old people. They got together for the company and for the sheer joy of making music, even if they didn’t do it very well. They became best friends, and greatly enjoyed their evenings together. That is, until one day they decided to get a conductor, and this man had a lot of ambition. The new conductor told the group, “We have to have a concert, and we have to prepare a performance for the town.” Gradually he got rid of some of the musicians who didn’t play too well, hired some professional musicians, got the orchestra in shape, and they all got their names in the local newspaper. At first it felt wonderful, so they decided to move to the big city and play there. But some of the old people had tears in their eyes, and they said, “It was so wonderful in the old days when we did things badly but enjoyed them immensely.” Adapted from, Awareness, by Anthony DeMelloLetters from My Grandfather book

When it comes to happiness and fulfillment, WHY you are doing something is more important than WHAT you are doing. When the orchestra members intention was to make music for the sake of the music and to have fun together with their friends, they derived a lot of joy and satisfaction from it. When their intention shifted to being the best, becoming famous, and making money, the endeavor lost it’s fun and fulfillment. It wasn’t because of what they were doing; it was due to why they were doing it.

I remember a point in my life where I felt empty and unhappy despite being ‘successful’. I would give a great talk in front of hundreds of people or run a life-changing retreat for adults and for a short while the applause and acknowledgements filled me up. But the empty feeling came back increasingly quicker. A mentor at the time, Bill Riedler, wisely told me that I didn’t need to change what I was doing to become more happy and fulfilled, I just needed to switch why was doing it. I was doing too many things for approval, to be applauded, and to be better than others as a way to compensate for a childhood belief about not being good enough.

So, I changed my intention from gaining applause and approval to being of service, and it made all the difference in the world. Focusing on making a difference redirected my motivation to more fulfilling, non-materialistic values.

The amount of satisfaction you derive out of whatever you do is directly proportional to why you are doing it. If you have become motivated by not wanting to disappoint people, pleasing people, fame, becoming wealthy, or bolstering your image, it’s time to switch your intentions to healthier reasons.

 

This blog contains an excerpt from my newly published book, Letters From My Grandfather: Timeless Wisdom For a Life Worth Living. Before he dies, a Grandfather writes a series of 14 letters to his granddaughter Emma to be opened at important moments in her life: high school graduation, 18thbirthday, first day of college, 21stbirthday etc. up through her 25thbirthday. Each letter contains wisdom to guide her through the challenges common at that stage of life. This letter occurs on the start of Emma’s senior year in college.