Sunday, April 10, 2011

Emotions as motivation

Have you ever noticed that the happier you are - the more content with life, the more satisfied - the less driven and active you become?  Or maybe it's just me?  I think that the people that make the biggest impact on the world are those who are discontent with the way things are.  I guess this speaks to the invaluable function of negative emotions -- they can be very motivating.  Think about it.  If you're unhappy with your current circumstances then you will probably take action in an effort to change things.  You might have a lot of good reasons for taking action and making changes but the most powerful of these is the desire to get rid of your negative feelings.  You want to make changes that move you to a place where you'll be happier and more fulfilled.

Obviously this is a good thing.  How many people are driven by the feeling that something is missing?  Throughout history, the great leaders of social change movements have been those on a quest to find that "something more."

But then what?  You see, that's where I'm "stuck."  For the most part I am content with my life right now.  It has by NO MEANS always been this way so it's definitely a pleasant place to be.  And yet I have no drive, no motivation to seek out that "something more," no idea what more I'd even want in my life right now. 

Then I think that maybe positive emotions serve a function just like negative emotions do.  Maybe my happiness IS motivating me; instead of motivating me to do something different maybe it's motivating me to keep doing exactly what I'm doing.  If that's the case, I can definitely handle that.


  1. What an interesting question... I think there may be two factors at work here, as seen in my current life as well.

    First, when content, there is always work to maintain that contentment; keep doing the work, writing, painting, etc. This may be a process of maintenance, as well as refinement, deepening, etc.

    Second, do we really need new projects, new directions, or is it just a desire of the mind? I think it could be both! I continuously ask myself to follow the joy. What do I enjoy doing? Then, I do that, one thing leads to another, and my life branches out again!

  2. I wonder the same thing quite a bit - I am currently in a weird place of being content in certain aspects, and not at all content in other areas and trying to figure out how to stay motivated to change the not-so-content areas while maintaining the content ones. It's a challenge!

    I think your last paragraph sums it up pretty good though. I think its okay to be content in the situation you are in, if that is the case - the motivation should be to be the best you can be at what you are doing rather than to change something.

    By the way, I am new to your blog and I find myself thinking about alot of the same things you do. Feel free to check mine out at



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