In his book Drive
, author Dan Pink writes: “we know that the richest experiences in our lives aren’t when we’re clamoring for validation from others, but when we’re listening to our own voice – doing something that matters, doing it well, and doing it in the service of a cause larger than ourselves.”
But in the rush of daily life, it can be hard to zoom out and gain such a broad perspective about what truly motivates you.
Pink offers 2 exercises to help:
1. Ask a big question
He tells a story about Clare Boothe Luce, one of the first women to serve in the U.S. Congress. In 1962, she gave President John F. Kennedy the following advice: “A great man is a sentence.”
Abraham Lincoln’s sentence was: “He preserved the union and freed the slaves.” Franklin D. Roosevelt’s was: He lifted us out of the Great Depression and helped us win a world war.”
Luce worried that Kennedy’s attention was too scattered, and that he risked not having a clear purpose.
As Pink points out, you don’t have to be a political leader to learn from this story. Here are some other possible purposes:
- “She taught two generations of children how to read.”
- “He cared for every person who walked into his office, regardless of whether that person could pay.”
- “She invented a device that made people’s lives easier.”
- “He raised four kids who became happy and healthy adults.”
What’s your sentence?
2. Ask a small question
Pink acknowledges that the big question referenced above is necessary, but not sufficient. That’s because real achievement is gradual: “you spend a lot more time grinding through tough tasks than you do basking in applause.”
To help ensure that your motivation will endure, he recommends that before you go to sleep each night, you ask: Was I little better today than yesterday?
Did you do more? Did you learn something new?
You don’t have to be flawless each day. Instead, you’re looking for small measures of improvement: “Reminding yourself that you don’t need to be a master by day three is the best way of ensuring that you will be one by day three thousand.”