How to harness true inner direction and ignore ego-driven goals

Ego driven goals

In a previous post, I mentioned how a person’s occupation can be a job, career, or calling. In summary, I said that a job is something you do for money, a career offers recognition and progress, and a calling involves a strong sense of purpose, it lights you up. Read more about the three types here:

Within these three roles, it’s important to understand the underlying motivation. Psychologists refer to intrinsic and extrinsic motivation about why we are driven towards such work.

  • Intrinsic motivation refers to the drive to do something for the pure enjoyment or satisfaction of the activity itself, as opposed to being motivated by external rewards such as money or recognition. It’s when you engage in an activity because you find it enjoyable, fulfilling, or personally challenging, and not because of any external pressure or incentives.
  • In contrast, extrinsic motivation refers to the drive to do something because of external factors such as rewards, punishments, or recognition. It’s when you engage in an activity because of the tangible or intangible benefits that come from it, such as money, grades, praise, or avoiding a negative consequence.

Why do I mention these two types of motivation? Because it is said that those in a job are extrinsically motivated, because they don’t enjoy the work itself, they are just looking for the output from the work, the money. On the opposite end of the scale, those pursuing a calling are primarily intrinsically motivated, doing the work for work’s sake. Then a career sits in the middle somewhere, people are somewhat driven by the things the job delivers, but also enjoy the work for its own sake.

In reality, most people’s work is a mixture of the two types of motivation. Someone with a job might really enjoy the sense of completion and satisfaction in the work, not just the outcomes. And the person with a calling might enjoy the rewards of their specialization – so it’s not an exact science.

But my point here is that if you want to follow a calling, if you want to change career and find something that really lights you up and tunes into what is fundamentally you – then it’s going to come from how you feel about it, the sense of satisfaction, the joy of it, not from any perks and benefits it brings. The answer comes from inside you.

Ego driven goals
Would you still want this goal if nobody knew you completed it?

Intrinsic motivation is often linked to following a calling because when someone is pursuing a calling, they are typically driven by a deep sense of purpose or passion for the work. This inner drive to do the work is often rooted in a sense of enjoyment, fulfillment, or personal fulfillment, which are all characteristics of intrinsic motivation. When someone is truly following a calling, they are often less concerned with external rewards or recognition and more focused on the inherent rewards of the work itself. As a result, they are often more persistent and engaged in their work, even when challenges arise. In this way, intrinsic motivation can play a key role in supporting individuals as they pursue their calling.

So how do you tap into this inner drive and identify the work you really want to do?

I would argue the ideal conditions involve:

  1. Listening to the signals
  2. Turning down your ego

More on my personal experience on listening to signals here:

Spotting Ego Driven Goals

An interesting Ted Talk from Caterina Kostoula discusses the concept of ego-driven goals and how to avoid them. Caterina discusses how our own goals might get in the way of our progress:

Caterina suggests asking three questions to establish if your goal is driven by ego:

  1. How does the goal make me feel? Does it fill me with excitement? Or am I doing it to impress someone else? If you feel shame from not having achieved it yet or fear that you won’t ever achieve it – it’s ego.
  2. Would you still want this goal if nobody knew you completed it? Are you doing it for yourself or for someone else’s validation? If it involves recognition of you completing the goal it’s probably ego.
  3. Does it include being “The best” at something? If it means suppressing someone else so you win it is probably an ego-driven goal.

Ego-driven goals are often motivated by the desire for personal recognition, power, or status. While these goals may provide a temporary high, they often result in negative consequences such as decreased creativity, increased stress, and strained relationships. Additionally, focusing solely on personal gain can cause people to disregard the needs of others and act in unethical ways. Ultimately, a life centered around ego-driven goals is likely to be unfulfilling and lack a sense of purpose or meaning. It is more beneficial to set goals that align with one’s values and have a positive impact on others.

For me personally, it’s not a perfectly lit, well-defined path, of what to do. Far from it.
It’s more like a feeling inside that you are heading in the right direction, or as Daniel Priestley refers to it “Directionally Correct”. I.e. I may not know the destination or complete journey but I know I’m pointing in the right direction.

So, in summary, to follow our true calling we need to tune into our instincts and quieten down the ego. I intend to explore this topic further, so please share any experiences or anecdotes that relate you your own journey. Thanks for reading.

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