Each week the president of my company and I sit down and have breakfast, to talk about the business world and how things are going, both for the office in general and ourselves in specific. This morning was an opportunity to touch base now that I’m fully enmeshed in my new, more sales-oriented, role, and he took the time to ask me an important question – what’s my motivation?

As cliched and hackneyed as it may be, that question is thrown around quite often in acting circles, because it’s not enough to recite lines and move through scenes as the director envisions; for a performance to actually carry the weight of realism and of emotional impact, there has to be much more going on than just what’s on the page. In many cases the “why” something was done is as or more important as the “what” was done, and that’s an internal distinction each actor makes for themselves, line by line, scene by scene. The question also has import when it comes to real life as well – why do we do what we do?

I’ve thought about this question before, and while I’ve never quite been satisfied with the answer, I’ve always arrived at the same conclusion – what motivates me to get up in the morning, go to work, and honestly do most anything else in my life is the fear of failure. I work in the field I do because it’s something I’m good at, and because it allows me to provide a home and financial security for my wife. Meaning specifically that failure would reflect poorly both on myself and prove ruinous for someone I love deeply.

Neigh-endless posts on this blog talk about the need I have for external validation, that I have never been able to fairly judge myself, and I seek the attention and compliment of others to prop up my battered self-esteem, and really I can trace the motivations behind almost every action I undertake as a fear of letting others down, of diminishing myself in their eyes. Why have I run so many expansive role-playing games for friends? So they see me in a positive light, that I can help them explore stories and worlds beyond this one. Why do I learn about technology and the changing face of the internet landscape? So I can appear the expert or professional when it comes to questions about the modern world. Why do I write so much? Because I hope to be seen as prolific or accomplished in the creative arts.

The thought that keeps running through my mind this morning is that I need a new motivation. The fear of failure keeps me bound to the familiar, and honestly isn’t that great a motivator – when there’s nobody around to impress, I largely sit idly and discomforted at my own circumstance. In scheduling my next appointment with my therapist, I think I’ll aim toward that goal of growing, even just a bit, outside of my current and repeated pattern.

I know that incremental change is the most reliable way to achieve success, but right now I just don’t know where to start when it comes to my own internal needs or motivations.