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10 Poor Reasons to Do Anything

Human beings behave based on an infinite number of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators. Many of these motivators are beneficial (lead to growth, enhance well-being, increase contentment, reduce unnecessary pain) while others are worthless or even injurious (create resentment, favor short-term pleasure over long-term gain, cause unneeded pain to others, destroy relationships).

Therefore, it would make sense that we favor acting from beneficial motivators; however, the reasoning behind our behavior selection is highly complex. Because we strongly favor pain avoidance, sometimes we opt for short-sighted behaviors over ones that elicit long-term rewards. It can sometimes take years of positive habit development and cognitive-behavioral training to select beneficial reasons to support our behaviors over damaging reasons.

With that in mind, here is a list of 10 things that we should try to avoid when deciding to do anything.

    1. Doing something solely because it will look good on your resume/LinkedIn.

    Engage in work projects to help customers, make the lives of co-workers easier, or to expand your knowledge and experience. A nice bump on your LinkedIn profile should be a side benefit, not a focus.

    2. Doing something because someone else guilted you into doing it.

    Never do something because someone makes you feel bad about not doing it. You will resent the person and they will not fully appreciate you.

    3. Doing something solely because "it's what I'm supposed to do."

    Do you drive the speed limit to reduce the risk of injury or death to yourself and others, or do you do it just to avoid getting a speeding ticket?

    4. Doing something out of habit even though it no longer serves you.

    Developing positive habits, systems, and routines can hugely benefit productivity and life enjoyment. However, continually doing something just because it's something you always do, even if it no longer provides the value it once did, is a waste of time. Continually evaluate your habits and systems to ensure you are receiving the desired benefit.

    5. Doing something because "it's your responsibility" even though you have no idea how it became your responsibility.

    This one is related to #3 above. To some degree, we all have responsibilities. If someone tells you that you have to do something because it's on you to do it, and you don't know how that came to be, pause and reflect.

    6. Doing something to prove someone else wrong.

    It's a better long-term move to prove yourself correct (assuming you are) than to prove someone else wrong. Even if you manage to do the latter, all you'll get is a short-term dopamine boost, and once it's gone all you'll find yourself with is a damaged relationship.

    7. Doing something to get back at someone.

    This motivator is perhaps the most insidious one on the list. Getting revenge on someone is one of the oldest motivators in human history, yet it has never accomplished anything other than a short-term boost of dopamine. Once it fades, you may hate yourself, the other person will hate you, and worse - now the other person has a reason to get back at you.

    8. Doing something because you are obsessed/addicted.

    Whenever you lose the ability to choose whether or not to do something, and you do it because you cannot stop yourself from doing it, then you begin to select behaviors that are damaging. This could be spending too much money at the casino, sublimating your goals for someone else's due to a co-dependent relationship, or destroying your health by continually smoking cigarettes.

    9. Doing something purely for the short-term benefit.

    Behaviors that elicit solely short-term rewards are not inherently negative. Sometimes it's fine to reward yourself with a slice of cake, to take in a movie, or to enjoy a few alcoholic drinks. It's when you do these things continually to give yourself get an immediate feel-good reward when they start to create long-term damage.

    10. Doing something to boost your ego by bringing someone else down.

    This one goes back to that short-term dopamine hit. When we seek to "one-up" someone, we do it to benefit a weak, insecure ego rather than to develop a beneficial relationship with someone.

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