Why do we do what we do? — End of the Day for February 12, 2014

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Why do we do what we do?

Why do I write my columns, make my videos, share my links and engage in social media? For me, doing all of these things has a certain intrinsic reward. My mind and my emotions are rewarded for this behavior with good feelings, excellent conversations, and expanded opportunities. The very act of doing any of these things results in rewards regardless of how others might react or respond. That is not to say, though, that extrinsic rewards are also greatly appreciated. I like being thanked. I like being praised. I like be rewarded financially for what I do. It is a rare person who doesn’t enjoy extrinsic rewards and, in the case, of money, extrinsic rewards can be the fuel that allow us to support ourselves and our families.

The trouble arises, though, when we come to believe that only the extrinsic rewards matter. I struggle with this myself constantly. There are a lot of things that I enjoy doing and also many things that I think NEED doing in the world. This has led me to create a couple of organizations, write my blogs, do my videos and more. CareerCamp grew out of my desire to help people “Build the Career They Deserve.” I will often take action, help people, and even spend money in hopes of doing something good for both myself and the world.

That said, there are times when the bank account gets low, as does my energy level and I wonder “Why do I do what I do?” Sometimes I even say it out loud to Rosanne or anyone who will listen. Intrinsic rewards are great, but trying to maintain your own attitude and energy on them alone can be quite challenging. I have come to understand over the years that I am pretty good at a number of things, but making money is not one of them. Where others feel greatly rewarded and motivated by their weekly income alone, I am only motivated by what that money might allow me to do. I am not greatly motivated by bonuses or monetary rewards if they don’t, in some way, help me (and those around me) to live a better life. This makes it even harder for me to make money, as my salary is often several layers removed from my wants, needs and desired.

"Big Money"

There are times, too, that my intrinsic motivation can grow weak and even desert me entirely. This can happen when I am overly tired, sick or facing high levels of stress in other parts of my life. On those days I can find myself wallowing a bit, wondering why my work is rewarded — why I am not better known — why I can’t have a bigger effect on the world. Sure, it usually passes, but those times are some of the most unpleasant in my daily life. They point up the serious balancing act I try to perform between intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and motivation each day.

As with many things in our lives, balance is a constant action, not a steady state. You are always correcting your balance — moving first one way and then the others. Even worse, the more extreme our actions, the more difficult it becomes to regain and maintain our balance. We have all seen this in someone learning to walk the balance beam, slack line or tightrope. Small controlled movements help their balance, while the wild swing of an arm or leg often send them into the net below.

So, I try to adjust, to move, to lean each and every day, carefully trying to maintain my balance. Maybe this is one reason I started End of the Day. Over the last month I think it has helped me to organize my thoughts, mull them over and allow me to make a few small corrections each day. In this somewhat crazy life I lead, I will take any help I can get. If writing for a few minutes each day and help make the next day better, then why not do it? The intrinsic rewards of writing End of the Day are high, even if the extrinsic rewards are few and far between. So, even in this endeavor I am following my long established way of living.

Previously on End of the Day:

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