Often in life, we take aim at things because we feel driven or feel pulled. Feelings, whether they be passion, obligation, guilt or fear are often the motivators behind many pursuits in life. I venture to say that most of us don’t really question the feelings which spur ambition and don’t honestly examine whether our goals are truly in our best interest. While some people seem to soar effortlessly towards a chosen target, all of us at one time or another find ourselves slogging towards a vague objective we keep telling ourselves is noble and worthwhile. But is it and how do we know if it is? Part of honesty and self-understanding is taking the time to examine our feelings and motivations behind our chosen objectives in life. Intention is required to accurately explore the drive or pull connected to the diet you continue to start and never complete, the career you pursue, the conventions you refuse to embrace, the tasks on your to-do list, the beliefs you hold, etc. From the most seemingly benign task to the decisions that most shape your values, these are all choices requiring effort and energy and the impetus behind the push often goes unchallenged.
To be completely honest with ourselves is not easy because it means we’ll undoubtedly observe limitations and flaws and discover we are off course to one degree or another in many cases. To follow the course of honesty means in part we accept our limitations, work to minimize our flaws and fine tune our direction. This way of walking through life requires humility, responsibility and tenacity which are no small things! For sake of illustration, let’s take the diet that so many continue to pick up again but repetitively fail to complete. There could be many things driving or pulling a person to diet. 1. Is the person buying into an unrealistic body type which leads them to be pulled by feelings grounded in an unrealistic goal? If so, this requires a stance of humility and acceptance which then frees them up on many levels. 2. Is the person dieting not being honest about what they are really willing to sacrifice (food they like, time needed for exercise, etc) but instead just gazing at the finish line as a form of fantasy and running off of feelings from imagination without examining the needed steps to attain completion? This is another case requiring humility and acceptance while seriously pondering what responsibility and sacrifice you REALLY must take on and can take on to be successful. And, it requires a willingness to explore the impediments that seem to continue getting in the way and being realistic in your assessment. 3. Is the motivation ultimately self-serving in a healthy manner or a vein one? In other words, is the individual approaching dieting to improve overall health, agility, energy, strength etc. or are they approaching it through a lens of vanity thereby objectifying their own body and attempting to manipulate actions through shame and criticism which ultimately destroy motivation? This change entails taking on an authentic responsibility of becoming healthier and letting go of destructive and critical thoughts attempting to force responsibility through messages at odds with real health.
While the above is only one small example of a person examining motives, drives and pulls, I hope you can see the benefit of scrutinizing all important pursuits in this manner. It will lead to more authenticity, humility, discipline and most of all success because the targets you move toward will be more congruent to overall health. This paves the way to create more meaning and purpose in life and your goals will be aligned with who you are, who you aren’t and who you can become. It’s an ongoing process of burning off the dead wood.
Sylvia Flanagan, LMFT is a dual licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in both California and Arkansas providing counseling and also offers relationship and individual coaching nationally.