I really don’t think I could have rowed the Atlantic Ocean if it had been all about me. Whatever I was trying to prove, to myself or anybody else, wouldn’t have been enough to keep me going through some of the toughest days. I needed something else. I needed to have some greater goal, some higher purpose.
When you’re aiming to achieve something really challenging, particularly if it takes a while to accomplish, there will inevitably be days when motivation is flagging. You’ll wonder why this ever seemed like a good idea. You’ll debate whether it’s worth it. You’ll consider giving up.
The quantity of reasons why matters. The more the merrier. Some will work on some days. Others will work on other days.
But even more, the QUALITY of the reasons matters. They need to connect to your deepest values. They need to connect to something more durable than your present endeavours. Ideally, they connect with something eternal, and true, and magnificent.
And what those reasons/values are, depends on you. It could be family, or spirituality, or sustainability, or justice, or knowledge, or alleviation of suffering. When you look back at the momentous achievements in history, they have all been inspired by the quest to serve some higher purpose.
[Mind you, so have some of the worst atrocities, so just because a higher purpose may be a prerequisite for great deeds, it doesn’t inevitably follow that having a higher purpose will make your deeds great, let alone good.]
For me, that higher purpose was my deep concern for the environment, and my desire to raise awareness of how we are damaging the Earth’s ecology to the detriment of future generations and other species. This was about 50% of my reason for rowing across oceans.
The other 50% was to find out what I was capable of, to get outside my comfort zone, to test my limits.
Three were days when my quest to test myself wouldn’t have been sufficient reason to carry on, and I needed to connect with my environment mission. And other days when I was feeling pretty annoyed with the ocean, which seemed to be particularly unappreciative of my efforts on Nature’s behalf, and I had to tap back into my personal growth goals.
So whatever I’m attempting to accomplish now, I like to get clear about what my reasons are, and what values I’m serving. It’s a good sanity check to make sure the thing is worth my time and energy. And it’s also a powerful resource to draw on when I hit a roadbump, to remind myself why this work matters to me, and in whatever small way, to the world.