Chapter 3 – Part 1: What Drives Your Life
What Directs Your Life? What controls your life? What are the things that influence your decisions?
All our lives are controlled or influenced by something. It’s what motivates us when we make decisions. If we are to live a life of purpose, we must come to terms with those things that influence us. This is not easy work. In fact, this can be the hardest work you’ve ever done on a personal level. But, it is extremely necessary if you are to grow into the person you are meant to be.
The Purpose Driven Life Book identifies five common emotions/values that motivate each of us. Each one of these has both positive and negative aspects. It is up to us to do as the old song says,
“You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, hold onto the affirmative and don’t mess with Mr. in between.”
That is a song my dad and mom and so many others sang during the Great Depression. It’s a little ditty that has come to mean an awful lot to me.
So what are the five emotions/values that impact us?
- Guilt can be a prime motivator that adversely affects our decisions but it can also help us to remain humble. Guilt may occur as a result of poorly made decisions, hurting someone intentionally or even unintentionally, making fun of someone who is less fortunate, not living up to the standards set by a person of influence in your life, or not living up to your own standards. Guilt can also occur when you survive a traumatic incident when others don’t, survivor’s guilt. Like so many other emotions guilt can guide us to be better people but it can also drive us into a very negative lifestyle. But guilt also has a place I believe God gave us the emotion so that we can stop our bad behavior and as they do in Alcoholics Anonymous and so many other twelve-step programs start to make amends. My guilt has led me into a life of service. But before I came to that point guilt almost destroyed me.
- Resentment Or Anger. My dad was a wonderful man he had a great sense of humor, he loved to play practical jokes and he was a good Christian man who loved the Lord. But, he was filled with resentment and anger over perceived slights. He could forgive but he could never forget. Dad also had a little problem with alcohol and when the alcohol took over all of his anger and resentment came out. Not physically but verbally. He hated it. He hated that he just could not forgive and forget. I also have that problem I too ruminate on perceived slights and insults. I too hate that part of me. But as with guilt, anger and resentment can be turned into the positive emotion of empathy. Empathy allows us to feel what others are feeling because we’d experience those same feelings. That’s why in twelve-step programs it is peers who do the counseling. That’s why victims of abuse often turn into peer counselors. Empathy allows us to feel because we have felt.
- Fear. Fear is a prime motivator. Some people have a fear of success or conversely fear of failure. Some people fear going outside. Others have a fear of heights. Others may have a fear of being around people they don’t know. Some have a fear of being alone. Whatever it is we fear it can stop us in our tracks from growth. Fear makes us stay home makes us sit on the couch with our nose stuck in a book or watching TV. Fear stops us from being the person we are intended to be. But a good healthy fear stops us from doing really stupid things like walking in front of a moving train. Or jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, though some of my airborne friends take issue with that. A good healthy fear is very beneficial but a fear that stops us from growing can end up destroying us. We must learn to master our fear if we are to grow.
- Materialism. Some of us spend our lives gathering stuff and things. We are like the ocean never full. We never have enough we want more and when we get more we want still more. But, materialism can also be of tremendous benefit and give us a life full of meaning and unbridled joy. If we are good at earning a living we can have our nice homes etc. and we can also use our funds to bring joy to others. The look on the face of the young mother when her rent arrears is been paid. The thankful face of a little boy or girl getting a Christmas present. A young veteran being given a good used car so he can get back and forth to work and support his family. And so many other acts of kindness can make our life a joy to live. One of my very good friends Mark Lawrence put it this way, “it’s so much more fun to hang with givers than takers.”
- The Need for Approval. I never thought that I was good enough growing up or even as a young adult and truth be told I don’t feel good enough now for all the blessings that I’ve had in my life. Like guilt, resentment and anger, fear and materialism the need for approval can have a very detrimental effect on how we live our lives. The need for approval of someone can lead us into depression, anger and resentment. It can also give us great feelings of inferiority of never being good enough. But again the need for approval can help us to live full and complete lives. I realized long ago there was only one person that I needed approval from and that is my Lord and Savior. In the end I think we think we seek approval from ourselves. That is why knowing what drives you and knowing what makes you tick is so important to your growth.
In the end each of these motivators/values can have a yin-yang affect on us. It is up to each of us to learn what motivates us. What are the things that drives our lives? Once we’ve identified the why we make some decisions it is at that point we can start to work on turning it from a negative into a positive.
Sgt. Allen Lynch
Allen Lynch is a former United States Army soldier and a recipient of the United States military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in the Vietnam War.
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