Since I grew up disadvantaged, I always put in extra effort at work so my kids never had to experience the things I did when I was growing up. Among other things, I was always ashamed of where I lived and our family car. So I made it a goal to have a nice house and car. When I was in my twenties, that’s what drove me. To me, a nice house and car equalled success and happiness.
I never went to college, which meant that in order for me to achieve this goal, I would have to work harder than my more privileged peers. So I spent almost the entire decade of my twenties working tirelessly. I went to work all day long at low paying jobs and then went to school at night. Making incremental steps along the way. I sacrificed time with my family to put my career first. I told myself if I could just get these things then I would be happy.
By the time I was 30 years old, I had done it. I had a house in one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the Silicon Valley, had a brand new luxury car in my garage, and my kids went to top schools.
But you know what? It didn’t bring me happiness.
At some point along the way, I realized that it wasn’t about having an expensive house. It was about my kids not having to go to bed worried if their parents had enough money to pay the rent, like I did. It wasn’t about having an expensive car. It was about having a car that wouldn’t break down on the side of the road like mine did.
What we think is driving our motivation is often driven by something else. Something deeper. It took me almost 10 years before I was able to recognize what the actual root of my drive was. What I was trying to acheive was that my kids were happy, healthy, and had a roof over their head. What was really driving me was not material things for myself but peace of mind for my kids.