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Act From Yourself

I'm forever blowing bubbles
Creative Commons License photo credit: Zanastardust

“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” -Albert Einstein

Our actions have many motivations, but the best motivation we can have is personal desire.  When we act from personal desire we act from ourselves.

Here is an example.  Let’s say you want to be a doctor.  And you want to be a doctor because you want to help people increase their level of well being.  You believe that physical health and feeling good are the foundation for a fulfilling life.  Within this motivation there is your own desire to do something, and a desire to contribute to others in a very specific way.  In this example you are acting from your own self, from your own desire.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective.  You want to be a doctor.  And you want to be a doctor because your Grandfather was a doctor and your parents think it would be great if you followed in his footsteps.  Based on your parents’ wishes, you decide to attend medical school.  In this example, there is no personal desire to practice medicine, only the desire to influence how other people think and feel about you.  Also notice that there is no particular desire to contribute in a certain way (even though you will help people based on the fact that you practice medicine).  In this example, your actions are based on other people.

When your actions are based on others, there is no force behind them.  No power.  And, you have no control over how people think and feel about you anyway, so the approval you chase is always just out of your reach.

When your actions are based on yourself, your own desire propells you forward in a way that nothing else can.  Obstacles and temporary failure don’t upset you that much, because you know that you will find a way around them.

The Strength of Acting From Yourself

Your actions will be:

Persistent:  There aren’t any obstacles that will stop you, only those that will temporarily slow you down as you figure out a way around them.

Courageous: When you need to get past the gate of fear, courage is the key that unlocks it.  It’s difficult to be courageous consistently, but with your own desire motivating you it becomes easier to access.

Creative: When you are seeking something you desire, your creativity is in full force.  That’s because the road is not straight and wide, usually it’s twisty, full of undergrowth and probably with a few dead trees blocking the way.  You will have to be creative in getting around obstacles.

Enjoyable:  This is very important and, in many ways, makes results easier to achieve.  When you love the act of doing something without worry about the results, the results tend to come.  When the result is all you want, it seems to get farther away.

Ensure Your Actions Are Your Own

Say “I Want”: All of your actions that arise from you start with the phrase “I Want.”  To say this without guilt or shame connects you to your personal desires and makes you want to realize them.  Make a list of all the things that you want to do that would contribute to the well being of others.  Make sure they are things you would love to do.

Understand You Don’t Control Others’ Approval: Wanting approval from others is not the problem, we all do.  But sometimes you have to act in spite of it.  Usually, chasing someone’s approval is the very worst way to try and get it.  You don’t have any control over another person’s thoughts and feelings about you, so trying to please others (especially at your own expense) is mostly a fruitless activity.  Use courage to act on your wants, even when it feels like you may lose the approval of others.

Detach Yourself From the Result: And now, for the most difficult step.  Personal desires are not only enjoyable to achieve, but they are also simply enjoyable to pursue, even when they are very challenging.  There is something very fulfilling about pursuing a personal desire even if there are no guarantees that it will come true.  Discover enjoyment in the process and you can let go of the result.

How do you ensure that your actions are your own?  Share your thoughts in the comments.  Thanks!

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  1. Thanks Amanda — I appreciate seeing this pointed out in the blogosphere. There are so many lists of things you should do today, but very little about our motives for doing the things we do — or, we could say, the state of consciousness we bring to them. I could successfully follow a list of 100 steps to becoming a doctor, like in your example, without getting any satisfaction out of it if my motive is to please others, so it seems that motive makes such a key difference.

  2. Hi Amanda – So true, yet so challenging. One way I make sure I’m acting from myself is to ask, “Is this truly my path?” I’ve noticed in the past few years that when I’m thinking of acting from a place of fear, insecurity, other’s expectations, conventionality, etc., I will often say to myself and others, “But wait, this is not my path.” It can take me a while to get there, though. Case in point: for many years I taught part time at the local university, which I continued even after it became clear to me that it is no longer my path. I would trip myself up by saying, “Who wouldn’t want to do this? What’s wrong with me for no longer wanting it?” It was a breakthrough when I finally said no.

    I also like your example of the doctor. Reminds me of Jung: What is the unlived life of your parents, and how is it showing up in your life?
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..Welcome to the Party Called Life =-.

  3. Very nice Amanda, it is such a shift in the beginning as we are brought up through school and university guided to do certain things and do them in a certain way. Before we know it the momentum is pushing us along and we have commitments to make.

    I know internally when what I’m doing is aligned with my deepest beliefs because I feel hugely positive. Whereas if I’m doing/saying things I only half believe then I feel a sort of hollowness inside, kinda draining over long periods :).

    The other tool I use is to ask if it were 10 years from now and my entire external world had totally changed would I still want to be acting this way, doing what I’m doing now.

    All fun and games, but I feel for those who feel they have no choice. You don’t have re-design your life to start acting as yourself.

  4. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Chris – I really like the way you have described “the state of consciousness” we bring to things. I think that’s a great way to describe what I was talking about in this post. In some sense, what we do is neither good nor bad, but what we bring to it, or why we ended up there, makes all the difference.

    Hi Jonathan – I usually have a result I would like in mind when I begin something. But for myself, holding on too tightly to that specific result tends to make me tense up. When I relax, and walk in the general direction of the result that I would like, but not hold on too tightly, I find that I get some version of my result, and I also can see opportunities along the way that I might have missed otherwise. I’d be interested in hearing if others feel the way that you do, though.

    Hi Patty – Yes, I’ve seen that quote about the parent’s “unlived life” and it’s a powerful one. I also liked that you brought up acting from “fear, insecurity, conventionality, etc.” because it’s not only when we knowingly are following someone else’s wishes, but sometimes it’s also that we feel we “desire” something when really we are trying to avoid pain. This is also not acting from yourself, but it’s harder to recognize.

    Hi Jarrod – I like your “10 years” exercise and I think that’s a great way to realize that the specific circumstances of our life right now are mostly going to be very different in 10 years, except for the things that really matter to us. So asking yourself how important something will be in 10 years (which won’t be very many things) is a good test

  5. It’s so true everything you say. I was 25 when I went to college while mothering my 4 daughters. I Wanted To Go. Not for anyone but me! It took me 9 and 1/2 years and I stuck to it because it was my dream. No one else really cared if I went or not. But I did. So I never gave up. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my degree. I just knew I wanted it. I majored in Spanish.

    When I graduated I knew I wanted to be a psychologist probably because I spent so much time in therapy I fell in love with the profession. I got my masters degree in 2 years and it’s exactly what I did…a psychologist in private practice.

    It was an amazing thing to watch clients grow right before my very eyes. It was very rewarding and to this day I hear from old clients on Facebook, by email etc.

    To know I made a difference in so many lives tells me I was doing the right thing at the right time. No one could have stopped me if they tried!
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..11 Things I Can’t Live Without =-.

  6. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Tess – Acting from yourself gives you a certain energy and strength that’s hard to find when we’re acting from other motivations. That’s clear from reading your comment. Obstacles don’t seem as big when our actions are our own!

  7. Hi Amanda!
    I love your writing style. Your words come out so strong and with such a sunny clarity. The message in this post is an important one. Really important. Vitally important!! My husband and I have some close friends, another married couple, who have made a lot of decisions, professional and personal, based on an image of…perfection? importance? they were after, we’re not quite sure. They are both such great people but talking to them, they just seem so confused, and their life seems to not have that punch of enthusiasm because they are not acting from themselves as you so eloquently write in this post. It’s sad, but I know everyone has to figure this out for themselves.

    This is really a fantastic article. I really enjoy your writing and your post topics!
    .-= Jodi at Joy Discovered´s last blog ..Opinions, Gratitude and Bridging the Gap =-.

  8. Amanda Linehan Amanda Linehan

    Hi Jodi – Thanks a lot! I appreciate the compliments. I know what you mean when you say some people (like your friends in the example you used) don’t have “that punch of enthusiasm.” When you are not really acting from yourself, even when you are having success, it never quite seems to fulfill you. Even when you get something you really really wanted. It never fills you up!

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