Your inner drive is hard to find because it is not found but actively created.
Before I go any further, I must clarify that I don’t believe that everyone is a special snowflake. Or that we all have huge callings. That is manifestly untrue, but my question still remains. For those who suffer from the absence of an inner drive – where does it come from? No matter how big or small it is, whether it is a little hobby or a global ambition – how does it come to be?
Some people seem to be born with an inner drive, while others languish restlessly, adopting prefabricated life roles that rarely fit them because they are not meant to fit. And for the second type of people, the question is very real:
“How to find something that motivates me? How to find something that comes from within? How to do something more than just reacting to demands and threats of a life I only adopted because I didn’t know what else to do?”
The source of an inner drive is undoubtedly in yourself, so it must come from within. But it is not a straightforward process. It takes lots of trial-and-error, pivoting and self-honesty to simultaneously choose, discover and shape your inner drive, while you avoid lapsing into one of the social roles offering themselves.
It is unlikely that you will find your inner calling at a job other people are willing to pay for – or on the fringes of a family role. If you keep looking for the shared set between your inner desires and social roles – you will always end up with nothing because social roles are designed to eat up all your time, resources and life, and they are actively hostile to keeping anything to yourself. Sure, you can negotiate little pockets in your life that you call yours, like your Krav Maga classes or reading a book alone. But we both know you are just faking it and those are just substitutes. It looked so easy when you were younger, everything seemed to be full of purpose, every single night out was super important, every new acquaintance a potential friend for life, a true artist or the future Elon Musk. But then schools and other institutional life paths ran out from beneath your feet and you were left with the feeling that you are lacking substance. Not in the sense that you are boring or ignorant, you have learned a lot. It’s just that there is nothing that motivates you from the inside.
For some reason it is hard to admit and you wonder why. You adopt life roles, do the things people are supposed to do, react to the demands of life, and it looks like living because you are technically moving, but you know deep down that it is just because things and people are pushing and pulling you around, not because you are moving anywhere yourself. You are motionless inside and no amount of dating, marrying and childcare can make that feeling go away.
The thing that should animate you is missing. You notice that your little escapades into crafts or cooking schools just make you a consumer of industries profiting off of everyone’s lack of substance. There is nothing wrong with it, but this particular void cannot be filled with ravioli recipes and chasing the elusive ‘connection’ with other people.
Only you can fill that gap, but you don’t know how to. No one ever told you how to do it. Or even that you should do it. There are no fairy tales teaching children about people finding their inner drives. Or maybe there are, but nobody wrote the manual on how they did it. You studied for over a decade and there were classes on everything from the self-aggrandizing history of past politicians’ to the way petals grow on flowers – but there wasn’t anything on creating your identity, discovering your inner drive, or shaping your own character. You read blogs and self-help, browsing forums to read about people who might have the same feeling that doesn’t even have a name. How do you google that?
Your inner drive should be discovered, not found. And chosen. And shaped. And created.
First you have to bring it to the surface, identify it and adjust it to reality. It must not hurt others, for instance. And if it requires the consent of another person, you also have to learn to negotiate it. You shape it according to reason and, eventually, also usefulness. Usefulness to yourself, hopefully.
So this is how it goes:
You should start with basic drives
Appetite and sexual desire are the most innate drives a human is born with. No wonder social mores are so heavy on these two fields. Society must clamp down on the self-discovery process at your earliest age in order to cast you into a prefabricated mold. Coming from the outside.
Self-discovery is an organic form of creating your identity and discovering and forming your desires into much more complex inner drives. Which then can turn into a calling. Unless you let society to shame you and ban you from learning how to develop yourself from the inside out.
Your appetite and later your sexual drive are things that you will definitely experience for yourself. If you weren’t so inhibited and your outer limitations weren’t so tight, you should use these simply examples to learn the method of discovering and shaping inner drives.
It would go something like this: 1) You have a vague idea what you would like to try in sex. You give it some deep thought. 2) Is it a real desire or are you just copying someone? It is real – then go ahead. 3) What exactly is it? Harder question then you think. What exactly is of that scene that turned you on? 4) Does it hurt anyone? You might want to go back to square one if your desire appears to be based on the hurting of another human. Who is just as real and valid as you are. 5) Does the execution of that desire require consent? Go and negotiate it. And so on.
Once the method of bringing desires to the surface is perfected – it becomes second nature and you can use it to construct higher level and more complex inner drives. And when you don’t learn how to do it – then you are exposed to and helpless in the face of social roles – i.e. others pulling you apart with demands on your life. They you will be a role – a function – for them. And they want it all.
Not every inner desire is created equal
Some suck and some are dead ends. Some you just saw in porn. This is why it’s important to take them under the magnifying glass of reason and run your rational analytical mind over them. Some are flukes. Some are unimportant fragments. Some are just tips of much larger icebergs. Some are truly ingredients of your calling – and you’ll see how complex such a calling can be.
Inner drives also evolve
Some turn out to be unpleasant. A sex act you thought would be fun – but isn’t really. So you check them off and move on. Others are great – so you incorporate those. But still move on.
Either way, desires evolve. Once you lived one – you are ready for the next. Dreams are meant to evolve – you should not sit on them all your life. They may not even be worth it.But if you never try, they will take on mythical proportions – often undeservedly.
When people live their entire lives sitting on a single, un-lived desire – it is both alarming and sad. It tells you everything you need to know about our thwarted view of life: single-use, one-track, one-size-fit-all. One single track from childhood to death, culminating in a prolonged hospital stay. When done according to the book, it must look good from the deathbed. But only from there.
The enemy of your inner drive is outside expectations
You substitute one to the other because you go for the least resistance. And even if you yearn to find your own true calling, you hope to find it on the fringes of others’ expectations for you. Or in paid employment.
You hope that you somehow manage to fulfill all expectations towards you – while still keep some of your life to yourself. That you can stay profoundly agreeable, the good boy or good girl, and still develop organically. But I have bad news:
You must be disagreeable to be authentic
You can no longer the the good boy.
Every time I hear someone claiming that they found their true calling – while they also remained the good boy – I see a fraud. Same goes for people who claim to make money with their passion. The latter may be easier to understand:
Take those lifestyle bloggers claiming to work 35 seconds a week. They are frauds. Firstly, because that post she bragged about not working at all took 3 hours to write – and 3 days to promote. Plus the 4.5 hours spent on posing for, selecting and editing that spontaneous Instagram photo that went with it. Secondly, once you do your hobby for a living – it ceases to be a hobby. Trust me on that.
Similarly, most people who claim that they found their true calling withing the framework of uniform family roles – they are desperately trying to convince themselves. They cheated themselves to believe they always wanted to do whatever they were supposed to do anyway. They sincerely made themselves believe that this is what they want (“What’s not to love about it?”) – and their physical symptoms and inexplicable skin condition are just there for totally unrelated reasons. And they are only trying to loudly convince me because I seem interested (not). Not because they want to convince themselves through me.
From the inside out
Do you know those black and white images where the positive and the negative give two different pictures? Like this one, where the black spot forms a chalice – but the white spot draws a human outline?
This is how our identities are formed most of the time. The chalice is the collection of social expectations of what we should be and what we should want – and thus restrictions on which way we are allowed to grow. And we mistake our outlines (our identity) with the restrictions imposed on us. The white spot is not our own shape – it is just the space surrounded by our limitations. And we are not solid but a gas that fills up the available space.
Our purpose in life is also such an available space – prescribed by social expectations and flanked by the ducks of social restrictions. It may be painful to consider ourselves as such, but we may turn out to be not the substance – but the space left available by the surrounding rules, habits and restrictions. In other words, a random collection of functions we fulfill in others’ lives and in the life of society. Nothing more – nothing less.
Our purpose in life thus becomes such an “available space” – rather than an organic, from the inside out built identity and purpose. Some adopt it with relief, others with rebellion, some notice, others don’t.
Even when we rebel against it – We serve it
We may sometimes rebel against the nature and shape of the space left available for us. We criticize the predefined life roles – but only a little. Say, the outer shape of the space we are supposed to move into is a family with two kids and a dog. But we rebel and we refuse to move into it.
But we can’t move in any other direction either. We feel arrested in development – and we are, by our surroundings and limitations. But they we will be called names for not moving ahead. And we cannot resist pressure. So we move on, but with some feeble resistance for show. For instance, we refuse to get the dog and one of the kids. For now.
This way even our rebellion serves their purpose. It makes us feel totally different – when we really just chose a different color for the house we moved into with the two kinds and the dog. Our feeble rebellion only distracts from the fact that we fight with them – instead of ignoring them and looking inside for something that’s our own.
The fight against social expectations is not the fight we should having. We should be contemplating which direction we want to grow, what shape we would like to take. When we demand more space – we just justify their boundaries. We accept the boundaries – we just want them elsewhere. And we prove their point: that we couldn’t exist without the boundaries. We don’t dare to ignore than as long as they define us. We instinctively feel that without them we would be shapeless.
Only a very few actually create their own outlines, organically, from the inside out, as it should be – and then contemplate their options freely. Most of us just whine a little when the role we adopt is not comfy, the space we fill is not to our liking. But of course, it isn’t. It is not designed with our interest at heart.
The available space is a social role, and every role is a function in someone else’s life. It is not supposed to be pleasant for us. No one ever said that a relationship, a marriage, or children make you happy – only that you have no other choice. You merely assumed the rest. An entire industry had been built on the fact-free illusion of happily-ever-after and every-mother-enjoys-it.
No one said it wouldn’t hurt
And why would it be pleasant for us?
We never fought our own fights, we never worked on our own identity, we never went through the painful process of shaping ourselves and choosing our own purpose – and then choosing it again because the first choice was wrong and we have only ourselves to blame. We didn’t show any resistance, any bargaining power – why would the chalices give us anything?
What you want should come from the inside. Not suggested to you, internalized and then expressed as your own. Don’t use the hardship of building a self as an excuse for adopting life roles. It is practical, sure. Why resist the pressure when you could just roll with it? Why am I trying to make you work harder when you could get away with being pushed and pulled – but never decide. Well, because your inevitable frustrations will turn you into one of the zombies who will try to enforce those same sick rules on others. Consider that before you lapse into your comfy (not) life roles.
Finding out what you want should start with the basics: what you want to eat, what you desire in sex – and as you grow you can use the same method to find out more complex wishes and desires – and ultimately, to find out what you want in life.
Featured image: Pinterest