Hello everybody, welcome to episode 214 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. Today's question is from a listener who sometimes find self-motivation to be an impossible thing to achieve.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
Now folks, our question for today is an important one! Our asker is looking for motivation and inspiration to live a better life, but you’ll see in her question that she goes the extra mile to touch upon her past and how that may be influencing her struggle or holding her back in ways that others might not be held back quite the same. Let’s hear what she has to say and try offering some guidance without theorizing too much. Here’s her question…
QUESTION: “At the moment the biggest thing I'm struggling with is the motivation and inspiration to make more of my life. Being from a single parent, working class childhood and never having been to university, it can feel impossible to make anything of myself sometimes.”
When Finding Motivation is Impossible
Awesome question, asker! Thanks for sending this one in and thanks for adding that bit about your past – definitely helps put things into context a little bit more for me and allows me to get a better idea of what’s lying underneath the struggle to find that motivation and inspiration.
Now, I’m not saying you’re using your past as an excuse, because even without going into a ton of detail, you’ve described an upbringing that can definitely make it challenging for you to carve out a different life for yourself as an adult. While it’s great that you’re aware of this, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way forward. You’re still letting your past define you way too much, and even if you’re aware of that problem, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.
I know it’s hard not to do this. Maybe things were said to you about how you won’t amount to anything, maybe you were discouraged from trying to do too much and told that it would just end in disappointment, maybe it’s felt like everything was always limited, maybe there’s even shame surrounding the possibility of somehow accomplishing more than your family and leaving them behind in some way. I don’t mean to reach too much, but these are often truths of people who grow up with less advantages than their peers, and there are many others.
Changing Childhood Narratives
But you’re an adult now. You no longer need those defense mechanisms from your childhood, and you’re independent enough to formulate your own beliefs separate from what you might’ve believed or been told in the past.
For as much as your past conditioning has held you back, it’s ultimately your responsibility to change the narrative and be realistic about the fact that many people have gone on to make great lives for themselves from upbringings even worse than yours. And I wholeheartedly believe that you have more power than you realize to change and challenge these beliefs enough to build a life that you want for yourself, otherwise you wouldn’t have submitted this question.
If there’s anything I’m concerned about, it’s when you said “make more of my life”. Maybe I’m reaching again and maybe I’m misinterpreting, but what I want to caution you about is to not fall into the trap of having an unhealthy view of what a good life looks like. Unfortunately, this is a trap that many people fall into.
I know you already understand what I’m about to say, but it’s very easy to confuse what we don’t have for what’s important to have. This isn’t always the case of course, but for someone who hasn’t grown up with much money or status, that can mean that the pursuit to “make something of themselves” will be a pursuit of money and status.
Define Success On Your Own Terms
I believe there was a study conducted by Wharton Business School maybe 10-15 years ago that suggested that those who grew up with less money were likely to spend a more significant portion of their earnings on items that promote visible success like jewelry, cars and televisions than those who grew up with more.
But I really don’t remember much of it beyond that; it was something I read a while ago and my perception of it might be skewed.
Maybe this isn’t you, but it’s still something I encourage you to be very cautious of. Define meaning on your own terms and make sure your drive to create a better life is based on non-material things.
You may have the itch to wonder what it’s like to have nice things and a fancier lifestyle, and I believe the curiosity and willingness to change that you’ve displayed alone are great attributes that could help you to gain that fancier lifestyle if you tried, but that doesn’t mean you have to.
Don’t get so wrapped up in “making more of your life”. Focus more on creating more of your life: sharing love, being generous, being kind and inspiring others. This is going to generate good relationships, good pride, and a sense that you’re living the right way.
It’s when you’re doing this deliberately, turning your focus away from other types of successes, that I think motivation is always more likely to come.
Surround Yourself with Motivation and Success
And more importantly, your version or idea of success stands a better chance at being crafted by you, the wise adult rather than you, the child that wishes they had more. Pressuring yourself to be motivated and inspired is always a losing battle. It’s more likely to come naturally when you’re putting your focus on more ethereal living and your efforts are geared towards how you’re treating yourself and others.
It also comes when you start trying things for the fun of it, taking action on that what you enjoy or are curious about. It’s important for you to try to have patience with these types of things and not bow out too soon if you feel like they’re not quick enough routes to motivation and success. This isn’t transactional and they shouldn’t be used for that anyway.
Start by emphasizing these things and allowing motivation to be a possible byproduct. And meanwhile, look around your life to make sure you’re surrounding yourself with healthy ideas of both motivation and success.
If people you associate with, accounts you follow, purchases you make (one’s bank statement is a very sharp indicator of personal values), etc. encourage beliefs that you can’t do more with your life or that material belongings are the way to go, get rid of them. If you’re going to start generating your own ideas separate from your childhood conditioning, it will be important to make sure your present environment supports the lifestyle that you presently want to live.
Thanks once more to the asker for trusting us with this and thanks to all of you for being here today. Definitely a question that encourages us all to consider the layers underneath our troubles.
What are we struggling with? What might be contributing to that struggle at a deeper level, and thus is more important to address? What solutions that we deployed in our past no longer serve us, but have come to feel like second nature nonetheless?
These are all very powerful questions we should all be asking ourselves when facing certain challenges in an effort to not just take those challenges at face value. Very appreciative of the asker for sparking such a discussion.
Time to wrap up though, everyone, we are at the end. I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I did and, hey, I hope you’ll come on back on Friday for one more before the weekend. It’s been a pleasure as always. I’ll talk to you soon.