I got an interesting reply from my friend K to my earlier post about Commitment Devices. Over at Facebook, he commented that ‘commitment devices’ are a need only for people who are trying to force themselves to be committed to something they don’t really want to do. His point was that when someone really wants to do something, then they don’t need an external commitment device because they are motivated from the inside and it is enough to keep them on track for their goals. His rebuttal comes down to this – If you don’t love something enough to be motivated by it, no external factor can offer it for you.
This is interesting to me especially because I have always believed that we get to choose what we want to become. To me, loving something is a choice that is deliberately made, at least at the early stages of your mission. Very few us get the right type of upbringing, education and guidance in our formative years to understand the idea of life long missions. We pick the ones that are given to us and follow the path of least resistance – a.k.a following the herd – and we accept, mistakenly, that our skills and boundaries are limited and very narrow. For people like us, like Morpheus said, there are only two options;
Blue Pill: Accept what you are doing now as your only option and stick with it.
Red Pill: Find what makes you happy and make it your life’s mission.
If you pick Blue pill you stay as you are and live out as most of the people do – normal and average. If you take the Red pill you get a chance to make real and important contribution to the world and have an awesome time doing it. But, the key aspect of Red pill is the training. In the movie Matrix, Neo learns all his awesome skills – defying bullets, jumping across gaping voids etc – and it takes him the entire movie to learn them. Actually, he does not really learn the new stuff, but he unlearns the limiting beliefs from the simulated world. The simulated world taught him, over his lifetime, that bullets are fatally fast and jumping across far buildings will end in him splattered into a mushy pulp on the ground. He had to unlearn all that stuff because those limiting beliefs are at the very core what he believes to be his identity and defining characteristic. Many of us are like Neo starting out. We have to find and overcome our limiting beliefs about ourselves which in most cases are related discipline, confidence and character. And here is where some external motivation can help.
Movies glorify a lone hero who overcomes the odds with his innate talent but, in real life, we are much more susceptible to weaknesses like procrastination and self-loathing which destroy our confidence which in turn leads to more self-doubt and its a vicious cycle. If you have not enjoyed much success in your life, or if you have ever felt stuck in a rut for an extended period, you know what I am talking about. In order to be able to dig yourself out of this self-belief hole, you need successes; a string of them. For that to happen, each one of us, needs motivation, especially when things are not going so well. Here is where a commitment device proves its worth. It can keep us focused on our goal, keep us motivated when we feel distracted or just lazy and best of all, it helps us realize that we are not as weak as we thought we were. These external motivators can help us reach our initial set of victories, just like Neo was motivated by Morpheus’ imminent death. Once these small success add up, our confidence raises and we can build momentum to create more successes. Even when we have a consistent set of wins, I think, a dependable motivator can help in keeping us on track and helping us get up when we get hit by the rare but definite misstep.
I used to think that our beliefs and motivations come to us, but now I am convinced that they are our choice. Sure, a few lucky ones discover their passion very early and work on them at young ages and go on to be great while making them look almost effortless. But for the rest of us this is too deliberate. We got side tracked long time ago, but now we get to pick if we want the blue pill or the red pill. We get to pick what motivates us and its up to us to choose if we want to focus our energy on getting good at it. Funny thing is once you start focusing on something, with the right motivators, they can become life long missions. And missions are addictive and life changing.
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I am on a blog-a-day-for-a-year crusade. Keep me motivated with your comments. Or tell me how to read body language.