No one is going to pay you to do what you love. Well, I guess another way to say this, is once you start getting paid to do what you love, you will likely stop loving it quite as much.
As humans, we have two motivational forces: intrinsic and extrinsic, in other words internal and external motivating factors. Usually, the things we do that make us most genuinely happy and the things that we do because they make us most genuinely happy. This is what is referred to as intrinsic motivation: the things we do which make us feel good on the inside. The things we really enjoy. The things we do just because we enjoy them. Activities we chose through which we are rewarded intrinsically are usually include things like our hobbies, recreational and leisure activities, volunteer work, or supporting a friend or family member in need. Things like that. Extrinsically motivated activities are those activities we chose to do because we will get some kind of concrete reward. Something on the outside will be given to us for our efforts. Things like a pay cheque or a letter grade or a horay horah. Usually the word work is involved when we talk about extrinsically motivated activities. Now that being said, it’s not to say extrinsic motivators are bad, evil, or awful. In fact they are necessary and good for us, however they are not quite a likely to generate genuine and authentic happiness deep within – even for those of us who really do like our jobs… a lot.
So, back to my opening statement, what this means is often when we start becoming extrinsically rewarded (with money or letter grades) our motivation tends to shift from doing something solely because we love and derive pleasure from it, to doing it to earn our keep. The shift may be more subtle in some situations than others, but I will bet you that if you love nothing more than to spend your Sunday afternoons engulfed in a literary classic and because of this decide to go to school to earn your PhD in English Literature, it won’t be long before you feel overwhelmed with the books you are required to read and the long essays you are required to write in order to earn that A grade.
Now some of you may be of the lucky few who love their work so much that they would do it for free – and I think that’s amazing. What a gift. For the rest of us, it’s really important to find things outside of work that we really enjoy, and chose to do just because they really, truly bring us enjoyment. And that’s it.
I find it so interesting, and perhaps even somewhat amusing how different topics seem to come into my life in thematic form. What I mean is; I sometimes find I will hap upon information or situations that fall in line with a certain theme-of-the-day, week, or month. This week the theme seems to be Rejection so I have decided I must be meant to write about it.
I began reading an article last night about rejection which talked about how rejection can not only deeply impact the psyche but also suggested that some types of rejection experienced by some people can also impact their actual neurobiology. Then today, I just happen to stumble upon an article in Psychology Today talking about handling difficult people – The Rejection Sensitive Person being one such type. Coincidence?
The Psychology Today article talks about how people with these characteristics are becoming more and more common in our culture. Many of us have had people like this in our lives – the person who seems to take what we say as a personal offense or criticism even when that was not our intention at all; the person who seems to get hurt and upset by seemingly benign interactions and may ask regularly if we are mad at them or have something against them; or the person who seems to always interpret any kind of exclusion as a personal affront. I would also venture to say that many of us have also been this type of person at some point or another in our lives.
In essence, what perpetuates this hypersensitivity to rejection is an actual very real and very intense fear of it. And because fear is often at the root of anger and aggressive behaviour, those fears of being rejected often lead to an angry reaction by way of passive or overtly aggressive behaviours toward the perceived perpetrator. Then, because the angry or aggressive response usually results in a distancing reaction from the other, the prophesy is thus fulfilled and the rejection-sensitive person is left feeling like a worthless reject. Ouch.
It’s a doozy of a cycle, and usually not one that fixes itself and definitely not one that goes away overnight. I think the only thing more challenging than having a rejection-sensitive person in our lives is being that rejection-sensitive person. I say this not to condone the behaviour, or to shirk responsibility but just to bring some awareness, sensitivity, and cause for compassion and understanding from time to time.
I think because I make it a pretty major priority to eat relatively healthy and get a decent amount of sleep, I tend not to get sick very often. BUT when I do, and when it’s bad, let me tell you, it is a whole lot of no fun. I hate feeling awful – funny I say that because I’m wondering if anyone actually does enjoy feeling awful?? Anyway, as awful as it is to feel awful, without fail whenever I feel this way I find myself thinking: “Oh boy I can’t wait to feel good again. I forgot, or maybe took for granted, how good it is to feel like my normal self. And as soon as I’m feeling better I’m going to get off my behind and get going on that intention that has been sitting idly as such for WAY too long.”
There’s something about being sick or out of commission in some way, shape, or form that can be a useful reminder of how good it feels to feel good. Sometimes we need a swift kick reminder of how much worse we could be feeling and how we could actually be in a state of not having the choice to do whatever it is we’ve been intending or wanting to do. It’s almost like an existential clarification of what is actually important to us in our lives, and it allows us to ask ourselves: “If I am physically and psychologically able to do what I’ve been wanting to do for awhile, then what, oh what I am letting get in my way?”
As difficult as it may be to wrap our minds around, most situations, circumstance, and experiences we encounter in life are pretty much neutral in nature, and cease only to be based on the meaning, value, and perspective with which we chose to interpret them. Now I’m sure we’ve all had some well meaning person tell us to just look on the bright side and as most of know, this is not usually so helpful – especially when we’re right smack in the middle of an emotional upheaval.
Sometimes in life things suck. And that’s okay. The goal is not to avoid ever feeling sad, bad, mad, disappointed, or upset. Feeling feelings, even the ‘negative’ ones are part of being human. The goal is though to not let those feelings take over and become our M.O. all day, everyday. In my research on happiness, I came across a different way of interpreting the less-than-ideal – after, of course, we’ve taken a moment to stomp our feet and maybe boo hoo for a moment or two… or twenty. The strategy I’m talking about here is after having a little time to feel miserable, we take step back and ask ourselves: “What is perfect about this problem?” in other words, “despite the frustration, difficulty, and inconvenience of this situation, what am I going to choose to get out of it?” Now, my goal is not to placate, underestimate, or downplay some of the very difficult challenges that many of us face, but I am saying we can often find a way to use at least a part of our troubles to our advantage… and believe-you-me some situations definitely require more of a creative effort than others.