What drives you? What is it that makes you get up early? Go to work? Eat well? Do you want a lot of money? Do you want to find love? Be successful? Live a long time? Why? What is your reason? Do you want to be happy? Do you want others to respect and revere you? Or do you just want to be better than other people? Maybe you want to provide a good life for your family, impress your parents, or show off to the world. Do you want to be remembered? Chances are, something in the last few sentences has hit a nerve with you. Most people want some or all of the things I’ve described. But if you really break it down, these aren’t the real reasons we do what we do.
Really stop and think about it. Are you driven to make money? How come? Money certainly doesn’t buy happiness, and most people who have too much of it end up working all their lives or become slaves to the things they buy. Plus studies have shown that happiness increases with salary up to around 80K / year, and after that it doesn’t increase any more. Sure you can buy a bigger house, a nicer car, a good vacation to a safe resort now and then. Your kids will go to the best schools and have all the things they want too. But what good is it? You’ll be spending all your free time working to maintain it. You certainly won’t have time to clean that house, so work harder to hire a maid. They will also help raise your kids since you won’t have time for them. And hey it’ll be great to have that vacation once a year for a couple weeks, but you’ll be so tired you’ll just head to a beach to lie down. Too tired for an adventure.
Maybe you’re driven to show off. Let’s be honest, we all want to be at the top, to have respect and admiration from everyone, to show all those people who said we couldn’t that we are now looking down on them, right? Well I can’t imagine that buys happiness either. It would only serve to make a person spiteful and isolated. If you are above those around you and proud of it, how long before they are driven away by your arrogance? Nobody wants to spend time with people who constantly show off.
How about the drive to be remembered? To make enough money and donate it to have your name slapped onto some building. A few decades after you die, your name will live on in the work done by this institution, but will anyone care about the person behind it? Maybe you are the one in a Billion who does great things, and is remembered for a few centuries, but even then time causes us all to fade from memory. A few thousand years from now, chances are you and I will be dust in the wind (shout out to the song). Maybe you won’t be remembered, but if you have a net positive impact on the world, isn’t that admirable?
Ah of course there is the true evolutionary response, to have kids and provide a great life for them. The world is becoming a safer place, it’s true, but with the current state of the environment and economic troubles across the world, how long before the bubble of a good life we have becomes a memory for our children and our grandchildren? There may not be a world for our descendants to enjoy the way we have, especially if we keep living for such trivial things as money and mansions and being remembered. So many of us have no care for what happens to our species in the long term, as long as we have a good life now, and especially since we are too busy arguing and fighting with each other. Hating each other for our differences. If only we could just appreciate and celebrate our ‘sames.’
But there is something at the root of all these things. The root of what truly drives us to do what we do. The one thing that causes us to work hard and do what we are told, have kids and buy a bigger house, show off and fit the mold. It’s because we all want to feel safe, and comfortable, because we are all afraid.
It all comes down to fear. We are afraid that we will be robbed and shot and killed. We are afraid that those we love will be taken away from us, that our great life that we’ve built will be taken from us if we don’t do as we’re told. We are afraid that everything we know and love can disappear in an instant, because it can. And so we work hard to protect ourselves and our families. To isolate ourselves from danger and what we perceive as evil. We buy bigger homes and put up fences, buy security systems, and train dogs.
This is what drives us. And it shouldn’t. We don’t have to be afraid of losing what we have. we shouldn’t fear death, but instead should celebrate the miracle of life. The sheer odds of us being here, in this life, right now, are infinitesimally small. Statistically speaking, nobody should be here, but here we are, with brains and thoughts and feelings and the ability to comprehend the universe around us. Understanding, appreciation, reverence. These are the things that should drive us.
You can choose to be driven to enjoy the time you have on this Earth. To experience the world as a citizen of no nation, and instead a citizen of a species. To explore the world and preserve the beauty of life for all life to enjoy. To protect our planet, because it belongs to no one person or species, but to all life that it hosts.
It’s not easy to break the mold we are trained to fit into. I struggle with it sometimes too. Find what drives you, and see it at a deeper level. Shift your focus, and strive to leave the world a better place then it was when you arrived. Make this Earth a place for all to enjoy, for as long as possible.