Why do we do the things we do? What motivates us?
Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication method recommends finding an element of play in all we do. To find the fun, it helps to have a clear idea of why we are doing a particular activity. Sometimes we feel resistance to situations or people or commitments we’ve undertaken. We can discover the source of our resistance if we look carefully, and move from “I should” or “I have to” to “I choose to”.
It’s never true that there is no choice; we always have a choice. Even as parents, we learn to balance our own needs with those of our children. Likewise with all our other relationships. We do have to pay taxes, but we can get help with the task, and we can choose whether we resent parting with our money or take joy in sharing what we’ve got.
We can decide to discontinue an activity. Singing in a volunteer choir that is enjoyable less than half the time is a signal to exit that commitment. Working at a job that we have to drag ourselves to every day is not required. Finishing a degree when we are certain we don’t want to work in the relevant field would conflict with our own needs.
Life is full of uncertainty, and one way to cope is to keep track of our feelings and needs as they change. The better we understand ourselves, the more skilfully we can choose our activities (and words).
As a wise friend once advised me, “Review your activities and see if there are any that no longer serve.” If there’s a regular activity on your calendar that you feel relieved when it’s canceled (or you wish it would be canceled), consider just stopping. If there’s something you’re drawn to but feel nervous about starting, brainstorm with a friend ways you might try it out.
For myself, in retirement, I felt the need to develop my compassion, and I’d long been interested in hospice volunteering. I found an excellent organization locally and have been volunteering there in various capacities for seven years or so. That organization is now in dire straights because of a change in government funding. It’s not clear what will happen, but I may need to search out another channel to continue developing my heart. Deepening my compassion is a felt need for me. Your needs may be very different, but we all would do well to be guided not by passing fancies, but by our deepest human needs.