If you think of motivation on a spectrum, I would put "Self Improvement" on one side (this is health, happiness, wellbeing, joy etc.) and Achievement (Material success, external validation etc.) on the other side.
[Self Improvement] <--—> [Achievement]
Self Improvement = Happiness, Wellbeing, Joy, Play, Calm-mind, spirituality, relationships...
Achievement = Building a business, making money, winning a competition, creating a product, etc..
Sometimes, of course, they overlap, such as having wellbeing or good health can help you achieve.
Sometimes, they overlap directly, like if you're an athlete – where health and achievement coincide.
But the insight is that they don't have to overlap at all.
And to fool yourself about the overlap is to misunderstand this.
You can be extremely unhappy and extremely "successful" with achievement.
And, you can live in an ashram, be extremely happy, and have no external "achievement" by traditional standards.
So happiness doesn't really have a correlation to material success.
And material success doesn't really have a strong correlation to personal growth and meaning.
We can often feel this tension – between wanting to be relaxed, find ourselves, and wanting to achieve, winning status games, and competition.
The trick is to know that both types of motivation are skills you can develop.
And then you can focus on them each individually, in their own context.
You can learn the skill of finance. And you can learn the skill of developing a calm mind.
If you're stuck in achievement-based games, thinking that the next sale or the extra dollar is going to make you happier, you're making the wrong connection.
And if you're meditating your way to being the CEO of a major company making millions of dollars, you're also not correlating the reality of what action is needed to get there.
When we can separate out which skill we need to focus on, it becomes much more clear how to get what we want.
My motivation is to be great at both Self-Improvement and Achievement.
And that starts with seeing where they are distinct.
Most people tend to optimize for one or the other while leaving the other behind.
Which are you optimizing for, and how?
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