I wish I’d known why choosing the best “why” for a goal made such a difference. I could have saved years of chasing an improbable intention.
Not knowing, I quit my job. Why did I do that? In a fit of frenzy, I knew it was time to paint again, and I wanted to paint full time.
So why was I having such a hard time painting? It’s not as if the paintings I was doing were bad. They were good, but they don’t have a heart.
This was not how I had always painted. Twenty years earlier, when I decided, “I am an artist”, I loved the challenge of expressing what I was feeling. I was excited to see what would emerge from a fertile mind. And through an open heart, I touched many people’s hearts.
I was having fun. Work felt like play.
I didn’t have to worry about making money from my art. I was in a flow of creating better and better pieces and getting acknowledgment I was a very talented artist.
Money flowed into my already abundant life. Everything I dreamed for my life as an artist came to fruition. I won first place prizes in prestigious art competitions. I took part in group shows all over the country, and the coup de grâce (drum roll, please), I had a one-woman art show in a gallery in New York.
This time was different. I needed to make money from my art but it seemed as if everything I tried was conspiring to fail. Why couldn’t I replicate the success I had before? What was I doing wrong?
This was my quandary several years ago. Perplexed how to solve this dilemma, I finally stumbled upon the answer. The problem I was having had everything to do with “why” I was doing what I wanted to do.
Before, when I became a successful artist, I was painting because that’s what I loved to do. Now I was painting to make money. I thought I had to create something a majority of people would want.
My “why” was to make a living off the sales of my paintings.
It wasn’t until many years later, after experiencing meager sales of my paintings, when I was finally free to do whatever I wanted, I let go of worry and finally asked myself, “Why do I really want to paint?”
My answer hinged on a memory of how much I loved the challenge when I first painted. I wanted to experience growth. “Why do I want to grow?”, I asked myself, “I want to feel immersed in new insights”, I answered.
I continued this line of questioning until I got to the seventh question. By then I had tapped into my spiritual needs. I discovered that the pull to paint was because, sometimes, while I painted, I felt Source Energy leading me. I felt expanded. Limitless. More than I could have imagined I could be.
I also remembered how good it felt to share what I had learned with other people, how grateful I was to be doing something that could help people to believe in themselves.
This “why” inspired me to paint more boldly, to follow my intuition more and resulted in some of the best work I have done.
You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching. William W. Purkey
According to Sebastian Klein, co-founder of Blinklist, a Berlin-based startup that feeds curious minds key insights from non-fiction books, “Find your mission, or ‘why’ and allow the ‘what’ and ‘how’ to flow from there.”
In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink references an experiment in which psychologists asked university students about their aims in life. Some named extrinsic profit targets, like wealth, while others specified more intrinsic goals, such as personal development or helping others. Years later, the students with profit goals were no closer to contentment, but those with intrinsic goals were happier.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Steve Jobs
I’ve found that to be true. Since following a goal of something more meaningful, I’ve been happier and more productive.
In a 2003 study from the University of Rochester, researchers asked 147 recent college grads to report their aspirations in life and their happiness or unhappiness. The intrinsic aspirations included close relationships, community involvement, personal growth.
Extrinsic aspirations included money, fame, and having an appealing image.
The results: The folks who realized their intrinsic goals had high levels of happiness, but the people who attained their extrinsic goals didn’t have an improvement in their subjective well-being. The authors theorize that they might feel momentarily satisfied after reaching such a goal, but it doesn’t last.
As Nils Salzgeber says in “Are You Pursuing the WRONG Goals? (Intrinsic VS. Extrinsic Goals)” on the blog, NJlifehacks, “Intrinsic goals will actually lead to MORE money, fame, power, validation, and approval than extrinsic goals. It’s true. People who pursue intrinsic goals–people who just do stuff because they enjoy it and because it fulfills them–become more extrinsically successful than the people who are actually trying to become extrinsically successful”.
Some of the most “successful” people in the world were motivated intrinsically, Think Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. They all did what they did because they loved doing it.
If the only reward for an intrinsic goal turns out to be happiness, I would opt for that. That’s because if succeeding and being rich doesn’t bring happiness for any length of time, why go after that?
“Happiness is where we find it, but very rarely where we seek it.” J. Petit Senn