I’ve spent most of the past 12 years reassessing and realigning.
In essence, I’ve been trying to better understand myself and what I want out of life: what I think is important, how I want to spend my time, who I want to spend my time with, how I want to feel, what I want to be capable of.
I’ve also been considering how to apply this knowledge so my reality, over time, better aligns with those ideals.
This is an iterative process, and not one that can be completed. I don’t expect to wake up one day and realize, oh wow, I’m done! Everything is perfect. Now I can rest.
The journey—not some theoretical, perfect-me destination—is the point.
If I ever feel I’ve mastered this process and it’s no longer necessary, that will likely mean I’ve stagnated as a person. If I’m growing I’m changing, and if I’m changing, my needs and priorities and perspectives and everything else are changing, too.
I’ll need to keep interrogating and reinterrogating the outcomes of my iterative tweaks and irregular revolutions if I want to maintain an accurate sense of myself, and if I want my lifestyle to harmonize with my needs, mindset, and aspirations.
Thus, the journey continues.
Over the past handful of years in particular, I’ve come to appreciate that not all needs and wants are created equal.
Some of my ambitions are intrinsically motivated, while others are extrinsic in origin.
Intrinsic motivations tend to materialize from vital beliefs or fundamental components of our character.
Extrinsic motivations are more likely to have been gleaned from outside sources.
When I was younger, I wanted to become a successful entrepreneur and make a lot of money. There were multiple catalysts for this desire, but most of them were external: the challenge of such an undertaking appealed to core elements of who I am, but the parallel pursuits of monetary success and social recognition were borrowed from outside entities.
Making things, learning everything about everything, sharing my enthusiasm and what I’ve learned with others, and doing my best to leave other people and the world better than I found them—these are red threads woven throughout my desires and enthusiasms; they’re structurally entwined with my character and sense of self.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with extrinsic motivations or values, but it’s prudent to know the difference, as we’re more susceptible to manipulation and the pursuit of hollow objectives if we can be convinced specific outcomes, metrics of success, or agglomerations of ambitions are superior to others.
We may well-meaningly ignore deeply held beliefs or dreams because they don’t seem to line up with what society is telling us we should care about and prioritize.
In addition to determining what we want, then, it may be prudent to ask who planted the seeds upon which our dreams are based, what might grow if we earnestly and enthusiastically cultivate them, and whether what blooms will actually fulfill us in the way we may otherwise unquestioningly assume.