Ever take a good hard look at what's behind your curtain of motivation? To question it, to explore it, and discover its source?
When we do and do it with honesty and curiosity, we might discover we're living life on stage.
Living life on stage is being motivated to do things for the approval and acceptance of others. To please. All in an effort to affirm the self. Living life on stage isn't motivated to do great things, but to avoid the perceived shame of not being great in the eyes of others, and in turn, the eye of yourself.
I admit it, a good portion of my life was lived "on-stage." As a student, as an athlete, even the bulk of my professional career... most of these roles were performance-motivated. Passing a test, throwing a touchdown, crossing a finish line, achieving in the workplace. Most of it was motivated by a desire to avoid something–letting someone down, feeling a certain way, seeking safety and security. A protection zone.
When we're motivated by performance, often times we avoid getting better, from studying more, from practicing more, from engaging in experiences because our association with that specific situation is viewed as threatening versus an opportunity.
OR... we go all in, above and beyond, and burn ourselves to a crisp trying to achieve a goal we believe we're expected to achieve, or should achieve, or have to achieve to be accepted, or worthy, or credible.
Sure, we may get the job done, the race won, but there's no joy attached to it––only relief.
This type of motivation is known as introjected extrinsic motivation. It can lead to burnout, a diminished sense of self, and is the main act of a life on-stage.
Pass that test, not for the joy of learning, but to avoid feeling inadequate and shameful. Cross the finish for the joy of challenging yourself, not avoid comparison and criticism. Be a star at the company to share your gifts with others, not for acceptance or to avoid getting fired. All of the latter scenarios are performance-motivated. All bullshit. All exhausting and devoid of meaning and purpose.
That's life on stage. That's motivation by performance versus motivation by purpose.
Let's use public speaking as an example. I used to be terrified of public speaking. I felt exposed, I expected judgment, I feared pending failure and the shame that came with it. Did anyone in the audience do or say anything to trigger this experience? No. This was me with an onstage mindset. An avoidance mindset. A performance mindset. More concerned with screwing up, with what people will think about me (not my content, about ME), only seeking not to screw up to protect my sense of self.
Take this same public speaking scenario and imagine if your motivation shifted to purpose? To engage that public speaking opportunity as just that--an opportunity to share with others, with the intention to help them human, better, through the information you're sharing with them. That's living life off-stage, sans ego, motivated to thrive, not simply survive.
When our motivations come from a place of darkness, our ability to experience the light is dramatically dimmed. Even in positions where we've provided a ton of value, meaningful experiences, and lifelong memories, if our motivation is performance-based, our capacity to generate joy in the work we're doing is severely diminished.
I've thought about this often and wonder what ELSE I could have created earlier in my career if I wasn't so focused on the performance.
Once I gained the awareness of my "performance mindset," accepted where it came from and took appropriate action with it, things changed. I changed. It took a ton of mesearching to get there, but the outcome is the epitome of empowerment.
The awareness between performance and purpose oftentimes spotlights a limiting belief or insecurity that's kept you in performance. Accepting that this belief or insecurity is oftentimes conditioned, meaning, not something you, personally, instilled within yourself, gives you a choice. A choice to focus your intention and attention on life off-stage, on purpose.
The most meaningful standing ovations are the ones we give ourselves.
When we shift our focus towards motivating with purpose, we speak, lead, manage, coach, work and play in a way free of judgment, free of comparison, and free of any make-believe catastrophic consequence that's motivated us previously with fear, protection, and scarcity. It motivates us to do, because we want to, not because we should. It motivates us to do, to move towards something, not away from it.
Exiting the stage and being motivated by purpose is powerful because we're better in every single domain of life when we're not on stage. We more closely connect with and access the elements of human thriving:
We experience GENUINE positive emotions when we're purpose-driven.
We're fully engaged and find flow when motivated by purpose.
We're no more connected to our relationships than when they're built on purpose.
Finding meaning happens when we shift from avoiding to approaching life.
And generating Achievement: Not egoic, identity-based achievement, but achievement rooted in the satisfaction of using our innate gifts to better the world.
When we exit stage left, the opportunity to thrive "offstage" is fantastically enormous. Why? We've increased our emotional leadership. We understand our motivations with greater clarity and accuracy. We can now show up to the various stages of life on purpose, not as a performance.
And when we do that, we human, better.