Who are you doing it for?


After I impetuously signed up for the Seattle to Portland ride last week, I found myself out on my bike, experimentally riding a dozen or so miles along the Willamette River, and getting used to the idea that I would be doing this a lot.

While on the trail, having plenty of spare brain space, I thought about how I was talking up this crazy scheme of mine. I confess that I’ve been struggling a bit with how to talk to people about it. I of course want to let people in on something that’s a part of my life, and yet I admit that there’s also been a consistent warning whenever I go to bring it up.

Know what you’re asking for

When we sign ourselves up for something, be it an event or some big goal or a road trip or even anything that requires effort, I think we naturally want to tell people about it. And in general, I think that’s a good thing. Lest we forget by all the attempts of the advertising people to make us feel otherwise, we are social animals, and shared experience is one of those aspects that makes life fulfilling for us. We want to include people in our lives, and the more important something is to us, the more we want to include others.

But when it comes to goal-setting and other pursuits, there is a danger, and that danger can be when you find yourself doing something for other people and not for yourself. The danger is that the real goal turns out to be approval and validation. And validation is like cool: it’s something you can’t ask for, only receive, and the harder you seek it, the less likely you are to find it.

So here’s a good question to ask yourself, in order to determine if you’re doing something for other people or for yourself:  If you could tell no one in the entire world about what you’re doing, would you still do it?

Now, we all know that telling others can make it more fun (and if you have an accountability partner, it can make it easier) but if you wouldn’t do something if you couldn’t tell anyone about it, you should probably think about your real rationale. Is it for validation? Status? Keeping up with your own personal Joneses?

Jonesing for the Joneses

A nice corollary to the above: If your primary motivation is for validation from others: stop doing it. Right now. Otherwise, you’re walking down a dangerous path. Validation is great, but it’s a drug, and if you become too reliant on it, you will find yourself continually needing your fix. Cut yourself off now.

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You need to find the fire inside you. Because when something comes from inside you, you know that it’s genuine. You know that it’s real. You know that it will always be there when you need it.

And so, while I have told people about my bike ride (it would be pretty hard to avoid it, considering how much time I’m going to be logging on the bike, plus of course there’s this), I realized that I don’t need anyone else to care or approve of it. This is something that I’m doing for me. To see if I can. (That I can.) And even if I hear from no one that weekend, and get no pep talk or support at all from anyone, I won’t be disappointed. I’m doing this for me. I’ll be out on the open road, on an adventure powered by my own two feet, and loving it.

But enough about me. Have you ever found yourself doing something solely for approval from others?

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