After writing the Me post, I was indeed, at least for a few months, present even in my work life. I was quick to respond, took up a lot of work, worked through it all, but I can’t say I was actually driven to do it in any way. I simply, rather mindlessly, plowed through the backlog of tasks.
And I burned out. At some point in April, every time I saw a new email or a message regarding work, my left eye would start twitching. I was under immense tension, so I had to step back and reevaluate.
I took up to listening to Dr. K (Alok Kanojia) recently. Few years back he found an amazing niche and purpose in helping, or as he called it – AOE healing (for the nerds) – people with video game addiction, through streaming on twitch.tv, talking, publicly answering questions and interviewing streamers / gamers / etc.
In early May, he interviewed several streamers I like, so I got hooked on his content. By then he had uploaded a treasure trove of videos on his youtube, some of which drew my eyes and might actually be the missing peace in my mind puzzle.
As I wrote before, my prior tries in finding daily work motivation failed.
“Each time I was motivated to try, I would daydream of how I would achieve that, make plans, but little progress. The way I thought about life did not motivate me into action, rather just into planning and fantasising. I would indeed feel good, walk a step forward, then crash two steps back.”
So goal setting, looking for passion etc. failed in my case. I then removed my internal need for a story (to be a cool entrepreneur), took a step back from my ego and simply started being here now.
When I did that, a natural question rose – would you then simply do nothing and just exist, enjoying the present? Probably in a lazy fashion, with no energy or purpose of any kind, hedonistic even.
And I had no answer. If some are driven by ego (or desires), what would / could / should be the driver if the ego is removed? In theory, when I just exist and appreciate nature, I’m happy. I’m fulfilled. Technically, there is happiness and fulfillment, if we’re dropping the I again.
But perhaps there is a way to be energetic and motivated without the ego in play..?
In the Me post, I mentioned something that, reading now, was the problem and the solution, in a way.
“That is not to say that we stop learning and growing or only waddle through life doing busywork instead of something great. By doing good work, each of us can change lives for the better. Whether for a small group people, a country or the whole civilisation – doing good work for the betterment of everyone is both worthwhile and attracts other people.
Elon Musk is a great example. He certainly could’ve given his ego a solid rubbing by naming cars, rockets or companies in his name (much like Tony Stark does, a comic book equivalent of Elon). Yet he didn’t. He named the companies/products as either puns or other people who inspired him.
And his goals are simple – we need sustainability as a species and to stop wrecking our planet (solar city and tesla) and if that fails – we need to become interplanetary (spacex). And these huge goals appeal to people, especially younger ones, for a reason – they are good goals. Huge and difficult ones. But necessary ones.”
Although I felt in many ways present these past few months and I did good work, I was never motivated or energized when doing it (likely the opposite, slowly got drained by it). I would not work late into the night (bar a few personal projects) or eagerly rush to work early in the morning.
I often considered that in order to feel motivated I had to be in debt or have other financial commitments (rent, being one of the bigger ones).
I was missing some piece of a puzzle, something that might explain everything.
Dharma – duty or responsibility*.
* Duty and responsibility is the Hindu interpretation of dharma and one given by Dr. K. I’m aware the meaning is much more complex, but for the context of this post, it’s enough.
Dr. K mentioned dharma in one of his videos and it just clicked.
When ego is removed and I’m one with the world, wouldn’t it be fitting that the world itself sends the true and motivating purpose / work? Something only I can do, something I’ve been training my whole life to do, something that the world needs from me.
These past few months, I detached myself from my ego and considered myself only a part of something greater. Something far removed from my own body.
Dharma, to put it bluntly, is a meeting of our experiences and what the world needs.
This definition has no mention of actual passion / potential to earn tons of money. It could happen and it might not (though often if you’re passionate about something and spend tons of time doing it, the world will be drawn to request that type of work from you).
Everything prior to finding dharma is growing and preparation. School, university, courses, whatever you do and can get quite good at – learn, get better, prepare. Spend all waking time learning, experiencing, preparing. Going out and learning.
Then karma – circumstance – will send dharma your way. A call to action.
And if you’re prepared enough, embrace it.
Unlike usual goals based on desires (earning more and more money to buy things, being the popular one), dharma helps you face negativity in life, helps you choose and accept adversity and pain. Willingly.
Dharma is based on values, not desires, and desires are not worth the suffering; many want to be a millionaires, but most would rather procrastinate (waste time) than “waste” time on becoming a millionaire (as there’s a shitton of sufferring and the end result is not guaranteed, the opposite of binge watching a TV series or playing a computer game).
How to know when the source of action is a desire and when is it a value?
The origin of desire is in the sense organs (indriya). Buying a house or a fancy car, eating a hotdog, earning more – all originate in indriya and are all desires.
You can indeed motivate behaviours with desires, but if you actually want to move forward – you need dharma. And values come from within.
So how to find yours?
Make a list of what you want and what you care about. Knock out things rooted in desires – as they are most certainly not your dharma. Look for things you could do and endure pain for. Those things are based on your values (small caveat, those values cannot be based in anger or the underlying hurt).
And your dharma can be many things. For some its family. For some, an NGO that can change the world. For some – the painting they think will change perceptions and bring systemic (and needed change) in the world.
And when you know your dharma, you must fight for it.
You’ll find energy and focus to work for many more hours than the 3-4 most people can be efficient, everyday if need be.
You’ll play with your kids even after a grueling work day (even like the one above).
You’ll show compassion, reassurance and limitless love to your significant other.
You can’t afford to fail, as that is our duty.
Dharma changes your tolerance of pain.
Doing everything else, especially things based on your desires, becomes a simple sidequest.
What happens if you don’t care about anything though?
Therein lies the problem. One I had for many years. I just didn’t care much, maybe only for myself or my parents and friends. But anyone else..?
Finding values requires a long and deep exploration. Experience, study, reflect. Go out and do something.
Dharma is a product of experience – go outside, explore, meet people, volunteer etc.
Every time someone tried to motivate me with desires, it failed miserably. But I never considered values as a source of action – might be partially because of my volunteering and employment times, when HR would sit us together to brainstorm values and mission. Those were for the company, not for me personally. Those might not be values to me whatsoever. Noone cared whether they were.
I sat down and asked myself – what are my values? What could my dharma be?
At first I sat in front of a blank sheet of paper, scribbled a few things – but neither of them clicked. I talked about dharma with a bunch of my friends, discussing, reflecting and first of all came to an odd conclusion.
I might not have the world changing and important dharma right now, but I do have one – to myself.
Staying healthy (physically and mentally), constantly learning and improving. Taking care of myself to be better able to care for others. This included, funnily enough, working on projects for the sake of earning money so I can live without stressing about money.
Those projects would, before, frustrate me, as I felt that type of work was pointless (and was based on desires, i.e. make more money to buy X). Now, although those projects might not be my dharma in off themselves, but working on them was dharma – duty to myself. So they don’t frustrate me whatsoever nowadays. And for some this might sound rather obvious – and egoistic in a way – but it doesn’t feel like that for me. I never let myself feel that I deserved a better life. Now I do.
Later, in a week or two, while on my early morning run, a word popped into my head. Opportunity. All the actual work I do is helping other people on their dreams and business ideas – giving them the opportunity to grow and improve – fairly, honestly, with integrity. I have a duty to offer my insights, skills and expertise in business and life to people willing to pursue their ideas, their passions, their dharma. When I started writing this post, no wonder I sat down and wrote for many hours straight (and kept rethinking and rewriting parts of it for weeks).
And it’s a journey. My dharma might change and grow into different things, or it might never change.
And in your case, if you’re equally struggling, your dharma can be yourself too. Your own health, your own wellbeing. To live a life without regrets, to give it your all.
And the way I lived before – prior to all these posts – I can’t say I had a life without regrets, nor have I given my all. Now I do. In relationships, in my work, in learning and improving. And nowadays, when I sit down after a long day of work, I would rather work, read or learn something, with enthusiasm, than just game all my annoyances away. That’s something.