Find Your Fuel

By D.J. Vanas
News From Indian Country January 2011

At the end of the day, what really drives you to do what you do on a daily basis? Motivation is not something given to us by others through a book, a movie or from a speech (although those things can definitely lead us to trigger our own). It is an internal fire that excites us, constantly reminding us of why we’re doing what we’re doing – and why it matters. This is a critical component in moving ourselves forward in our lives and careers yet so often the answers I hear back from this question are dismal – or outright depressing.

I hear answers related to fear, desperation or statements such as “I’m just trying to hang on.”  If this is the fuel you rely on, it’s akin to fueling up an F-16 fighter jet with… mud. Those of my friends who fly F-16s will tell you this is not only a poor way to hit peak performance, you can’t even get off the ground. Driving ourselves with negatives (fear, doubt, etc.) can work in the short term as any one who has been chased by bees or who has accomplished a deadline because their job depended on it can tell you.

Unfortunately it’s the worst way to motivate ourselves in the long run. It’s unsustainable because it depletes us over time, leading us to burnout.

Motivation. Inspiration. Drive. Where do you find yours? Many people find it in goals such as a promotion, retirement, the next vacation or getting an A in class. Though these are good, I humbly suggest going deeper. The deeper sources of fuel are found in our values – faith, family, the joy in serving others, etc. These are like internal nuclear power, sustaining us throughout our lives. When I hear people say they do their job to “serve my people” or “get everyone home safely” or “fulfill their faith” then I know those people are in good shape. You can also see that glint in their eyes and a grin as well, evidence of that internal fire.

When you get down to it and ask that vital question, “What really drives me?” you’ll quickly realize what really drives you is not the paycheck, fear of the boss or access to free coffee. Money is simply a resource, a tool. It definitely helps make life easier, but beyond supplying the basics (food, shelter, etc.) the studies show that money as a source of happiness has diminishing returns after that threshold is reached. Instead, it’s that deep, enduring stuff that really keeps us going – and growing.  With it, we are in alignment and without it, no amount of money or accomplishment will satisfy us.

When we get confused or stressed, we can forget the sources that drive us and go into reaction mode. Find (or re-find) your fuel and you’ll be powering yourself through the barriers and realize you’re not only more excited about where you’re headed, but you’ll be getting there much quicker too!