Early in my entrepreneurial journey, I believed success could only be achieved through motivation created by a profound dissatisfaction for the way things are.
In my mind, dissatisfaction was necessary to motivate success. No matter how hard I worked or what I accomplished, I lived in a constant state of frustration that I wasn’t ‘there’ already.
At the time, I belonged to a global organization of entrepreneurs where it seemed everyone seemed to be affected by the same condition.
To accelerate my learning, and hopefully my success, I sought out mentors much farther along on their journey. These were typically CEOs of bigger companies with more employees and bigger bottom lines and far greater wealth than mine.
Surprisingly, I found the same beliefs existed there. The game was bigger but the frustrations were the same.
“Why aren’t I there yet?”
“I should be farther along.”
“I am behind.”
When I challenged these highly successful people to explain their frustrations, they shared that they too believed a mindset of dissatisfaction was required for their continued success.
I refer to this phenomenon as the Myth of Dissatisfaction.
The Myth of Dissatisfaction is not limited to the business world.
My 15-year-old son ran away from home three times last month.
His stated reason was simple: He wanted to be happy and was certain our home was the cause of his unhappiness. He was convinced he could only find happiness somewhere else.
When he left home, I didn’t try to stop him or look for him. I didn’t even call the police to file a missing persons report.
Life on the street quickly showed him that happiness is elusive regardless of our location.
He is back home now and I believe his experiences have helped him along his journey towards manhood. He is still finding his way but accepts that happiness is not about where you are or where you are going.
The Big Lie
All around me I see friends struggle in careers and with relationships. These motivated and intelligent and resourceful individuals have spent most of their adult lives applying intention and effort to find something better.
There is a myth in our culture I call The Big Lie.
The Big Lie is the assertion that Acceptance of exactly where you are in this moment dooms you to remain there.
We think about Acceptance as a lack of motivation. We associate Acceptance with complacency.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Acceptance is the knowledge that wherever you are in this moment is exactly where you are supposed to be. Whatever situation you find yourself in is exactly the situation you are supposed to be in.
When I am in a state of non-Acceptance of exactly where I am at this moment I rail against the injustice of where I am. I refer to this as living Out-of-Acceptance.
When I am Out-of-Acceptance, I ask useless questions like “Why aren’t I farther along?” I blame others for my situation by saying “I don’t deserve to be here.” I blame myself by saying “I am better than this.”
What Limits Motivation?
Only two forms of motivation exist. We act out of the desire to move away fromsomething or the desire to move towards something.
Being Out-of-Acceptance motivates us by the prospect of moving away fromsomething.
To be clear, the motivation to move away from is not a bad thing. It is, however, an approach that limits us.
Much can be accomplished and I know many successful people whose motivation stems from their flight from poverty or abusive parents or dangerous surroundings.
As I stated previously, moving away from can be a powerful force but it ultimately limits us.
Motivation that comes from the intent to move away from something defines everything we do or achieve in terms of that condition we most want to disassociate ourselves from.
Stated simply, no matter how far away we go, we are always tied to what we are running from.
The motivation of moving away from is like a bungee cord forever connecting me to the point of departure. In order to maintain motivation, I must stay connected with what I am running from lest I forget about it and lose that motivation.
If I am strong and persist I can move far away to a seemingly better place. However, the farther I move, the more effort required to keep moving.
Similarly, I am forced to expend energy just to keep the ground I have gained lest the force of this bungee drags me backwards.
At some point, the bungee can stretch no more.
Perhaps I can break it if I am strong enough. More likely, I will spend the rest of my days struggling to gain just a little more ground, or worse, remain exactly where I am.
Have you ever wondered why successful people seem unhappy and dissatisfied? Why do those with power and wealth feel it’s never enough?
Think about this: When success has been created by the strength and the will to struggle to move away from something, how can we ever say we have arrived and cease our struggling?
The Power of Moving Towards
Being in a state of Acceptance (being In Acceptance) does not in itself create motivation.
Being In Acceptance of where we are at this moment can result in our choosing to remain just as we are.
Some use the word complacency to describe the act of choosing to remain just as we are. The word complacency itself violates the spirit of Acceptance because it suggests a lack of motivation to change.
True Acceptance is free from moral or value judgments. True Acceptance requires viewing where we are at this moment as neither right nor wrong… neither good nor bad.
The power of living In Acceptance comes from the fact that Acceptance is the only place from which we can create the possibility of moving towards rather than moving away from something.
Motivation from moving towards is more powerful than motivation from moving away from because it has no limits.
When we are In Acceptance and our motivation stems from moving towards; no bungee cord ties us to our point of origin. Being In Acceptance removes all upward limits and, more importantly, allows us to maintain whatever we achieve without additional effort.
The Practice of Acceptance.
The logical question at this point is “What should I be moving towards?”
The answer, of course is your Purpose.
My next post will focus on discovering and moving towards your purpose. If you’d like a head start, you can watch this interview I recently recorded with my coach. Its called: What Does it Mean to Live on Purpose?
In the meantime, I want to encourage you to simply practice Acceptance. That is, seek to accept whatever situation you are in exactly as it is.
I promise you will never forget how to live Out-of-Acceptance and can always go back to that if this approach doesn’t serve you.
When something happens in the next week that would otherwise make you angry or upset, say to yourself: “Regardless of how I feel, this I exactly where I am supposed to be at this moment.”
This is the practice of Acceptance.
As you practice Acceptance, see if you can sense the negative emotions you feel diminish or dissolve completely.
As you practice Acceptance, see if you notice how new possibilities or solutions present themselves in the space once filled by doubt and regret and blame and shame.
Finally, accept that the practice of Acceptance is just that… a practice. The goal is not to eliminate bad situations or negative emotions from your life. That would be unrealistic.
Acceptance is like any other skill that improves over time as we practice our mastery of it.