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What’s My Real Motivation?

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I feel like i’m a pretty damned good writer, researcher, and thinker, for the most part. All of the impact i hope to make in the world will be through these mediums, other than music and language learning, which i’m pretty good with as well.

So why do i feel so stagnated? I’m traveling the world, i’ve got a decent formal education and a more than decent informal one, i have a pretty solid resume, and philosophically i haven’t felt lost in ages. So right now i should be embracing everything i hope to do in life: Writing essays, music, and studying languages (right now, Arabic) like nobody’s business. Instead, i’m just sitting here, wasting my time. Yes, i’m just getting over a bad illness. And yes, i’m in a rather restrictive country void of vegetation and any readily observable culture beyond the Qur’an (there’s plenty of culture if you go digging in the right places, but it’s harder to find when you’re here than say, China). But these aren’t viable excuses. Where’s my motivation?

Up to this point in my life i have little to show the world of my personal success. If i died, there would be some anecdotal stories of my impacting a few lives, but in terms of creative work, not much. Again, mere anecdotes. But impacting even a single life and having solid proof of it is a beautiful thing, and creating positively and with integrity should be cherished. I should be happy with this? Why am i not content with it?

What do i want? And Why?

I want knowledge and experience so that i can create art, ideas, concepts, books, and so on in order to make a huge difference in the world, because this has always been my obsession. At first it was almost pure ego when i was very young. At the age of 6 as one of our first assignments in 1st grade we had to write what we wanted to do when we grew up. Firefighter? Policeman? Doctor? Scientist? Nope. I wanted to be the ruler of the world. Then as i aged i convinced myself and others that it was about humanity. The desire for world domination became one of benevolence and then faded by the end of middle school. Taking its place was the very modest goal of “rockstar.” Until the age of 15, when i decided i also wanted to be a monk and become enlightened. The desire for monasticism remained in the back of my mind until around 20 or so, and may well come back one day. Obviously enlightenment grew to my chief aim. I realized that conquering the world was nothing compared to conquering the self. Even omnipotence with an untamed mind would be nothing.

But clearly this idea of grandeur and this goal of “greatness” has been ever-present throughout my life. I ask myself: Why? I have convinced myself and others that the motivation is one of compassion for humanity, but i don’t know how much is in fact my ego. A man with an ego that fears death and realizes that true immortality lies only in effective action which is memorable to the world. So the question shouldn’t be “where’s my motivation,” but rather: “what is my motivation?”.

At literally every stage of my life this has been a core motivation along with finding romantic love — which may, no doubt, stem from the very same fear given that procreation is the other assumed route to immortality. I have finally reached a freedom from the desire for love for now — i know i’m not yet the man i want to be for the woman i hope to have. So i think i must approach the world just the same. I’m not ready to create great things or leave indelible marks upon the world. I’m not ready to impact thousands or millions of lives for the better. I’m not yet such a man. So i can only focus on improving myself until such time as i am such a man. Death with integrity is indeed more valuable than an “immortal death” where one’s legacy outlives him.

And speaking of death, recently more urgently pressing on me has been the fear for my own well-being in the soon-to-be future. When i return to the States i will have no money, no guaranteed job anywhere, a bunch of uncertain plans for what to do next, a car that’s out of commission, no credit, and thus no particular means to do anything. But with about all of these things there is little i can do right now, and it’s impacting my vacation and my studies.

So first things first: I need to lose all my fear. All of it. Fear for my well-being in any sense. I will be just fine and i have to know it.

Second, i need to work on developing myself in all the areas that i care about: Body, Mind, Soul (or spiritual mind, rather, since like all Buddhists i don’t believe in the existence of a metaphysical soul outside of consciousness), Languages, Music, and Writing.
Body — i need to work out; my body is very weak, as its been complaining all year.
Mind (Task Positive Network) — study of all the subject areas which interest me as well as particular focus on these three areas of life goals:
Languages — Arabic for now, and beginning next month also Tagalog
Music — Writing and recording songs, but only as i feel i need to
Writing — every day if i can, but for my own development only
Spiritual mind (Default Mode Network) — Meditation, reading religious texts, and improvisation on guitar for mere enjoyment

Third, i need to just travel around, talk to people without fear, enjoy myself, and not concern myself too heavily with “failure” as if i could somehow “fail” at traveling. Without fear that i will die as soon as i return home, this will be much easier.

All in all, if i carry these out long enough i should purify my motivation, until it is transformed into pure bodhicitta.

-J. Ibrahim Abuhamada

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Motivation

1 Comment

The prime determiner of success is motivation. In learning a language, or any subject whatsoever, or a new skill or talent, it is motivation which determines success. Learning out of an externally imposed “duty” or obligation will bring little success. It may bring A’s, but not true understanding. If your passions lie in learning Chinese, but you are told to study French, of course you will fail. Or if your passions are in biology, but you are being forced to learn about the history of European art. Your understanding follows your passions, because with passion is proper motivation.

Motivation underlies all manner of success. Great creativity will not blossom from externally imposed necessity; it requires the motivation of creating! Morality and compassion require the sincere motivation of benefiting other sentient beings, not status, wealth, reward, or even acceptance or love from others. The motivation must be in the act of benefiting another sentient being.

If one’s goal is spiritual in nature, it is the motivation which determines the efficacy of the faith, the practice, the prayer. If your motivation is status or accomplishment, or accumulation of merit for the sake of accumulation, rather than for the sake of utilizing the gift of a human life and mind to its fullest capacity and benefiting all beings, then you will not get far. These individuals cling to their dogma and “correctness,” which is honestly irrelevant because all dogmas are correct in their own way, but anyway, they lose track of the motivation of their spirituality in the first place. That or they don’t embrace their true motivation. The highest aim of all spiritualities is the same motivation, but for such individuals, their own personal motivation is more akin to feeling like they have a community or even simply having something to occupy their time with. These motivations will not bring one enlightenment. Just as passing a test is not a sufficient motivation to learn a foreign language, or money and fame is not a sufficient motivation to create the most inspiring art. Make sure your motivation is in the right place and you’ve got it made.