Why do we make the decisions that we make? What motivates us? I’m a firm believer that people’s passions are just as varied and unique as people themselves. But when I think about my own motives for why I do what I do, they can really be boiled down to three simple reasons.
One of my former bosses always wanted to know why. It was his favorite question. One day, he shared with me that he believed kids are motivated by three factors: love, fear, or greed. He said if I remembered that, I’d always be able to understand my students. Even if I couldn’t relate to their situation, even if I disagreed with what they had done, I could at least hold onto that thread of understanding. And they don’t just explain the actions of students, but love, fear, and greed can also be helpful tools for understanding each other.
Love, Fear, and Greed
There are lots of ways to love: friendship, family bonds, loyalty, romantic love. I don’t question the impact that these have in my life. But there are other kinds of love, too. People fall in love with ideas, romanticizing notions or crafting belief systems, and develop hobbies and passions that fuel them. Then, there’s love of self. Pride in a job well done, confidence and courage to speak up and live a more authentic life.
Fear can be of people, places, ideas, but where I see fear crop up the most is when its paired with the idea of the unknown or absence of something. Most reactionary decisions are rooted in fear. Whether it is the more primal fight or flight response or desire to avoid a particular situation, fear is real and should not be dismissed.
Greed comes from surplus. It is an excess of love and it is an abundance of fear. It is easy to dismiss greed as a character flaw found in financial con artists and supervillains. But anyone can fall victim to greed. Love something too much, allow it too much of your time or other resources, and suddenly you’ve been consumed. The same holds for fear: work against fear long enough and you’re desperate to never leave your comfort zone.
Changing My Why
Much of my life has been driven by love. Whether it is family and friends or a passion for my work, that love is what pulls me out of bed in the morning before my alarm clock. But if I look at my actions and my words for the past few months, love is not the only motive. In fact, I realize that I have allowed fear and maybe even greed to overtake love as the driving factor behind what I do.
Despite writing about scaling back repeatedly, I have increased my side hustle dramatically in the past view months. In addition to tutoring, I substitute teach as often as my morning sickness allows and run a professional development class with one of my best teacher friends. Yes, I am still deeply passionate and excited about these things, but I would be lying if I didn’t also admit that I care more about dollars than I ever have. That love of security and stability has given way to greed.
While I no longer fear investing, I am probably more scared of money now that I ever have been. When some freelancing work started to dry up, I was crushed for many reasons. It was a blow to my love of writing and my confidence. Beyond that, though, it was further proof that nothing is a sure thing. Couple that feeling of uncertainty with an unpaid leave and a reduced salary for the remainder of the following school year, and you have a look at the terror that keeps me up at night. You know, in addition to the little tap dancer in my belly who always seems to have a foot on my bladder.
But I don’t want to let fear and greed drive me. I know that they will always play a role in my life, but one of the ugliest truths I have ever had to confront about myself is the fact that I have agreed to let them take center stage. I don’t know what the permanent fix to this is–or if there is such a thing–but I think starting small is what has always worked for me. Remembering to give thanks. Taking time to breathe. And doing something that I haven’t done in a long time. Telling myself that it will all be okay.
So Tell Me…Do you believe my former boss? How do you see love, fear, and greed around you?