Why Do We Do What We Do?

I’ve been having a great conversation with my friend, Andrea, from the Just One More Book podcast.  It started out as a conversation about ways to help support your podcast, and her feeling that projects with passion as the sole or main motivator were important.

This got me thinking.  I recently posted an entry at GNM Parents about the intrusion of more and more advertising into every aspect of our daily lives, and how I was finding this was making me angry and annoyed.

So what are “pure motivations and what does it matter?  Are we all so used to being sold at every moment of the day that iit’s hard to believe anyone wold do anything “just because”?  I hope not.

Motivation is such a tricky thing- what really motivates us to do anything?  And especially moms, where our motivation is often taking care of others, adding value to their lives, and so little of it is really for ourselves?  Yet, we enjoy what we are doing, and really, in the end, does it matter very much if there are side benefits for us?  Darwin would say that even in altruism, there is still an element of survival of the fittest- we sacrifice self-interest for that of others we want to survive and do better, even if there is an immediate, and potentially high cost to ourselves-  this is really the core of parenting.  Finding something more important than just you.

Why am I sitting here this morning, doing laundry, making cookies (scoop and bake- gotta love Costco and Nestle Tollhouse cookies in the tub) for the kids I am tutoring at the middle school this afternoon, while working on my podcast?

I could buy cookies, or not bring these kids anything at all.  But I want them to know I care about them, and I care that they learn something, even if they don’t always care themselves.  It’s a small way to show them they matter, and I think we all need this feeling.. It’s like that quote from Mother Teresa (without trying to get all preachy and religious, since this isn’t my thing anyway-) that says we can’t all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.   The love and the feeling with which you do what you do matters most of all.

I want to care about what I do everyday, regardless of the benefits.  In a lot of ways, I could care less about the monetary stuff- that is ultimately just the way some people keep score in this game of life, and measure what they feel success is.

I feel success is doing something well.  Putting your heart into something.  Like knitting a shawl for my sister in law for her trip to Egypt- I could buy one, but taking the time to make one while waiting for kids to do sports, etc. is giving my time, effort, creativity, etc. a home and hopefully a place in her life… and this you can’t measure in dollars and cents.

And I find my life is empty if I don’t care about what I do.  It’s really that simple.

So the take home message for today is to try to put something of yourself into everything you do- otherwise, it really is just going through the motions, and if that’s all you are doing, why are you bothering at all?

Sure, there are bills to pay and things we don’t love, and I can’t always tell myself that the laundry is really contributing to the overall good of my life,.  But I am trying to take small pleasures out of the feel of the hot towels coming out of the dryer, and getting the kids a bit more organized- it’s smaller amounts of myself invested than I put into teaching or other aspects of my life, but every little bit counts.

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