Do you ever really think about how we decide to do what we do?
I don't mean choosing between the low-carb and regular bagel. I mean the bigger things in life--the ones that are supposed to matter: careers, where to live, hobbies, who do date, etc.
I've been thinking about that quite a bit recently. In fact, I suspect I've been thinking about it more than I realize and for a much longer time, but that's really not the point--if there is a point at all.
If my own life is any example, I think that we make those decisions in a manner that's rather different than the way we describe doing it to those who might ask. Many times when I've made those kinds of decisions, I didn't really weigh the pros and cons or consider the impact to this and that. I just waited a while, thought about it off and on, maybe collected a bit more info (or not) and then... just knew. If you'd asked me to explain it, I'd just make up something that sounds sane and normal. But in reality it's a process I don't really understand. And for the most part that's okay because I've been pretty happy with my decisions so far.
I suspect that motivation has a lot to do with it. I also think that if my own life is any guide, we're not very good at figuring out (or at least thinking about) our own motivations for the decisions we make. Sometimes they're hard to see because you need to look at patterns--patterns in your own life that repeat over long periods of time and in slightly different ways. And we're just not as good at long term self-analysis as we think we are.
As an example, I remember in college thinking how funny it was that I knew people who switched their major. And many of them did it more than once. I just couldn't imagine not knowing what you wanted to do!
For me it was always obvious. There was no question. I always liked computers and wanted to work with computers for a living--ever since I got my hands on one. (In retrospect, that was a lot less specific that I thought at the time because computers are everywhere now.) But if you asked me why, I didn't really know. I just knew.
Over time and with the help of a couple very insightful friends, I've come to realize that certain things are true about me--or more specifically are what matter to me more than whether or not I'm working with computers everyday. Not only did it take a long time to realize and understand that, it took a long time to accept and admit it.
So what does matter or motivate me?
It's hard to describe, but when I try these are the ideas that come to mind:
- being a part of something I believe is important--something that matters to me (yes, I know that's a bit of circular logic)
- working with (or being around) smart and interesting people who also care about those things
When I see a good chance to do some or all of those things, I'd like to think that I'll take that chance most of the time.
Then again, if my own life is not a good example, this is all about me. And you're wondering what kind of a freak I am. It wouldn't be the first time. :-)
Anyway, what are those "things" I speak of? As far as I can tell, they're something in this jumble:
- connections and relationships
- new connections
- ideas, big and small
- seeing changes as the result of the connections among people and ideas
- influencing or helping that change in even a small way to make things better
Learning a lot about computers, programming, and networking provided me with ideas and connections. It's about taking ideas and turning them into concrete processes and then improving them even more. And then there's writing, which I've done in the form of a monthly magazine column and a book. And when you combine writing in a semi-public way with computers and networking... The online world provides even more connections, and thanks to e-mail and weblogs, relationships and a way of influencing that change. Not to mention ideas.
Looking at it that way makes a lot more sense all of the sudden.
How does flying, one of my other passions, fit into this? I don't know. I do know that it's a heck of a challenge, a lot of fun, and helps me to meet some very cool people. And it also forces me to think about the world in a very different way--constantly re-evaluating the situation I'm in.
Hmm. Put that way, maybe it does fit in better than I thought...
What got me thinking about this again and writing about it today? I blame a combination of recent events and watching 4 episodes of The West Wing (all praise Netflix) in one night.
More on those recent events when the time is right. I'm still digesting some of them.
The mere act of writing this up has helped to clarify my thinking (or lack of thinking) quite a bit. As for clicking the "post" button... why not?
Posted by jzawodn at July 15, 2004 01:54 AM