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Are You Fueled By What You Do?

So many people do what they do in life as a means to getting something else that they want. They do things in a relationship to get something they want from the other person. They do a specific job to get something they want that pertains to lifestyle. They act in a certain way as a means to getting what they want within society. And rather than this being a recipe for success, it is a recipe for misery. It is so important to make sure that the things you do in life, aren’t just a means to an end. And that you are in fact fed by the very doing of them. Especially in a relationship.  

To illustrate this point, let’s look at an example. Diedrich pours a lot of energy into two things. The first is perfecting his golf game for competitions and the second is caretaking his girlfriend. When it comes to golf, he trains every day to be the best at all phases of the game. He puts almost all his money into it. He makes sure to attend every event where he is bumping arms with the people who operate and compete in the pro circuit. When it comes to his girlfriend, he makes sure to send her text messages throughout the day. He asks her questions about herself; he brings her thoughtful little gifts from wherever he goes. He gives her foot massages and watches chick flicks with her, cuddled up on the couch. But when it comes to golf, it slowly becomes obvious to him that no matter how high he places in golf competitions and no matter how much status he accrues within the golf world, his father (who only ever showed investment in him when it came to golf) will never approve of him enough for Diedrich to feel truly wanted and valued and loved. On top of this, Diedrich realizes that nothing he does in the world of sports will cause his father to favor him equally to or more than his older brother. As a result, Diedrich starts putting less and less energy into golf. He seems to mysteriously keep pulling muscles as well. And he seems to always have an excuse for skipping tournaments. 

When his girlfriend takes a nursing job and sets a boundary about how available she can be during the day to answer to his text messages, Diedrich gets angry and shames her for thinking that he should make his life about her, if she is unwilling to make her life about him. Diedrich realizes that he isn’t going to get the level of investment and availability he wanted from his girlfriend. And just like that, the caretaking behavior stops. He doesn’t bring her gifts. He goes to the kitchen when she is visiting his place and makes himself food, but not her. He doesn’t initiate physical affection. And the text messaging during the day stops. 

What Diedrich is unaware of is that playing competitive golf is not something that he intrinsically likes doing. The doing of it does not give him anything. It does not give him energy. He is in an extrinsic relationship with it. He does it so that he gets his father’s approval. And he also is not fed energy by caretaking his girlfriend. It is something that he does so that he gets her investment and availability. This is why the minute he doesn’t get those things he wants; he drops what he was doing to get them. 

Diedrich’s life is not a feel-good life because he does not get anything out of the doing of what he is doing. Rather, he is always extending effort (often times doing things he doesn’t intrinsically enjoy) for the extrinsic reward he is after. He is living on the paltry motivation of the idea of his positive expectations being fulfilled. And his life is painfully transactional. Rather than there being energy exchange in his relationships, he gives what he gives only to get something else. He gives what he gives, not because he likes to give it and experiences getting other things as well for giving it, but purely because he expects a certain thing in return. 

When a person has a childhood where they are taught that they will only be given what they need in exchange for doing what they don’t intrinsically want to do, they learn that this is the way to get what they need, be it in a career or a relationship or anything else for that matter. This childhood experience creates the belief that you will never get what you want, by virtue of being your authentic self. And this can go much further if a person was taught in their childhood that they will only be given what they need in exchange for doing what is painful to them. When this is the case, they learn that the way to get what they need, is to do things that cause them pain. They often also expect the same thing in return from others in relationships. And see things like the other person doing what they don’t intrinsically love doing or are even harmed by doing, as proof that they are loved by that person. To understand this pattern, you can watch my video titled: The ‘Suffer So I Can Feel Loved’ Relationship Dynamic. 

Let’s look at a different example, Greg puts a lot of time and energy into basketball. He does so, because he loves doing it. His father has never been to watch a single game. This doesn’t stop Greg from trying to gain his father’s approval by bringing his achievements to his father’s attention. When his father does not react, it doesn’t cause Greg to start getting injuries and stop playing ball and find excuses to sit out games. He is intrinsically fed by the playing of basketball. He loves the doing of it. There are so many things that playing basketball gives him directly, and can’t not give him. The physical exercise makes him feel regulated. The feeling of being part of a team that depends on him, makes him feel a sense of contribution. He loves how focused his mind has to be in order to spot the right strategy on the court. He loves the feeling of challenging and testing himself with competition. He loves the feeling of loud rap music booming through his system, feeding him with confidence and making him feel really cool. It is awesome when he also gets things like trophies and respect from other people and money as a result of playing basketball. But even if you took away all those things that he may get as a result of playing basketball, he would still play basketball.

Just like Diedrich, Greg has a girlfriend he spends time caretaking. Recently, Greg’s girlfriend has been dealing with the loss of her mother to cancer. In this grieving process, she has been more distant, has had no interest in sex and it seems like nothing Greg does, makes her feel happy. But Greg does not caretake his girlfriend as a “so that”. So, he keeps ordering her food to eat and rubbing her back and talking her through her feelings and texting her throughout the day, if they are apart. He is intrinsically fed by the caretaking of her. He loves the doing of it. There are many things that the caretaking gives him directly. The fact that his girlfriend lets herself be taken care of by him, makes him feel received and wanted. He feels a sense of pride when he knows that he is doing everything in his capacity to ensure that his girlfriend is in a good state. Being able to improve or add to the wellbeing of someone else makes him feel powerful and like he can have control over the state of the relationship. He feels good about himself because he knows that by adding to her wellbeing, he has value as a person. And he loves the soothing, calming feeling in his body when he is giving physical affection to someone. Greg really likes it when his girlfriend wants to have sex with him and acts happy and is super present and intimate with him. But even when she doesn’t do that with him, he doesn’t drop his caretaking behavior towards her because he is intrinsically motivated to do it and is fed by the doing of it.                

Doing something is only sustainable if you are intrinsically motivated to do that thing… If the doing of it, in and of itself, gives something to you or feeds you energy in some way. If the things you do in life are a “so that” for something else, you have a recipe for an effortful, disappointing and drastically undernourished life experience. To learn more about this, you can watch my video titled: If You Want To Be Happy, Don’t Do This!  

If the things you do in life are a “so that” for something else, there is a feeling of emptiness and wrongness that you have learned to bulldoze through. What you have to do to get what you want, is not something that you want to do. And so, the vast majority of your time is spent going against yourself, including your own innate nature. There is always an element of giving up yourself and your best interests so as to get something that you want or need, which makes it a codependent behavior. You will not feel valued or loved because of this. It is an inherently self-opposing behavior. It makes anything you do, as well as your life in general, unfulfilling. It is also manipulation because you are constantly trying to get someone to do something or give you something in a dishonest and roundabout way. No person can thrive swimming upstream in this way. And no person can thrive when they try to live on the gas fumes of hope that they will get what they expect to get in return for whatever it is that they are doing. So, ask yourself: “Am I fed by what I am doing? Or is there an expectation of return in it?”. Am I fed by what I am doing? Or do I simply tell myself that I am, because of the promise of the extrinsic reward I expect to get as a result of doing it?




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