Everyone is busy in college. From academics and e-board seats to research positions and volunteering, our plates are overflowing with things to do and long-term goals to work toward. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s more than possible to be both happy and busy. If you’re personally motivated by your activities and they bring you a sense of growth, they’re probably not bad ways to fill your time.
But if you find that what drives you to pursue a busy lifestyle doesn’t really drive you in the first place, then you might be going about life the wrong way. Now, you might be asking yourself: “How can the motivations that push me to chase my goals not be truly mine?” The answer is fairly straightforward, and it’s a problem many of us face.
Think about your long-term goals. Are they really yours? Are you motivated by these goals because of the validation you will gain from the people you care about upon achieving them? Or are you driven by the material or social perks attributed to goals? If your goals are predicated on these sorts of feelings, then it’s a surefire sign that you’ve simply internalized the wishes of others, or are driven by shallow rewards.
If you find that these things motivate you, that’s alright. Many of us are motivated by them because they’re highly seductive. Being able to live up to the expectations of your parents and peers or making a crapload of money are tempting rewards for years of work, but in the grand scheme of things, they won’t lead to fulfillment. Once the goals you work toward for other people’s approval or money come to fruition, you might find yourself much less satisfied than you expected, and a sense of longing will pervade your life.
It’s fundamental to find intrinsic motivation in activities that bring you genuine fulfillment on a regular basis, and to not get tricked into living a certain way simply for the ultimate outcome it’s attributed to.
And no, I’m not talking about short-term pleasures like drugs or sex, as great as those things can be (in moderation). I’m talking about the wholesome stuff. Building a connection with your community, fostering healthy relationships with the people you love, and being able to feel a sense of mastery and worth in your profession. These are some of the aspects of daily activities that create surefire fulfillment, and the more you’re able to work them into your life, the happier you might end up.
Let me just say that I’m no life expert, or even remotely close to one. I’ve found that I internalize other people’s expectations or become infatuated with shallow rewards just as much as anyone, maybe even more so. However, since I’ve begun to consciously disregard superficial sources of motivation, and incorporate truly fulfilling activities into my life, I’ve become a decent bit happier.