Anyone who has read Simon Sinek knows the vital importance of your “why” for motivation. To sum it up using a Nietzsche quote, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”
But “whys” aren’t always glamorous, sometimes the process towards your dream is slow, arduous, and tasking. Even with a good “why” you aren’t impervious to the feeling of futility that can occur when we get weighted done with tasks and details that distract from your main purpose. If you’re unable to offload monotonous tasks, how should you find motivation past the slump?
Marcus Aurelius, a stoic of ancient Rome offers a tool for these hard times: to recognize that work is intrinsic to human nature. To him, nothing is beneath us and entitlement to leisure doesn’t exist. He says,
At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: ‘I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?’
Although the words will never appear in his text, Aurelius has the Roman mind for “grinding” and building “momentum”.
— But it’s nicer in here …
So you were born to feel ‘nice’? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, birds, ants spiders, and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?
Even for those who don’t have a “why”, the most basic “why” for man is to fulfill their natural duty of doing work, and this should be enough according to Aurelius. In this mode of living, one is in alignment with their nature, and out of this alignment, there’s potential for an even greater purpose to spring out.
— But we have to sleep sometime …
Agreed. But nature set a limit on that — as it did on eating and drinking. And you’re over the limit. You’ve had more than enough of that. But not of working. There you’re still below your quota.
The best “whys” are the ones where we lose ourselves to the process. However, sometimes we create a false dichotomy between work and being, forgetting that the nature of man is to work. When we remember this, it becomes easier to swallow the monotony that coincides with labor and move forward.
You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you. People who love what they do wear themselves down doing it, they even forget to wash or eat. Do you have less respect for your own nature than the engraver does for engraving, the dancer for the dance, the miser for money, or the social climber for status? When they’re really possessed by what they do, they’d rather stop eating and sleeping than give up practicing their arts.
The stoicism of Aurelius offers solace as we work through the day, as read in his book Meditations. Oh, and there’s another good book that can offer help through the rudimentary grind of work as well…
Our new ebook 25 Things Business Owners Who Want More Time For The Things They Love Should Automate offers practical means to make a majority of task work obsolete, helping you get back to your “why” and the heart of your work. This isn’t just for anyone; It’s not an instant fix. You have to implement the steps in the book to see change, but the results are worth it and your time will be freed up. This means you can spend more time at the beach with the sun on your face, enjoy family time with real presence, or work on those higher level tasks; whatever is important to you.