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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D. — a uniquely qualified therapist, life coach, and former university professor — has coached tens of thousands of people from over 87 countries to achieve happiness and success in their relationships, dating, psychology, and lifestyle.
Dr. Tian has been featured in international media, as well as co-hosting a radio show on national radio and a weekly dating advice column in a national newspaper in Singapore.
The show, “Man Up: Masculinity for the Intelligent Man” (https://www.davidtianphd.com/blog/), is David’s way of helping as many people as possible enjoy empowering and fulfilling lives, while contributing to the global understanding of masculinity in modern times. In the show, he takes your questions posed in the Man Up private Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/manupcommunity/) and answers based on his experience coaching tens of thousands of students around the world for over a decade.
Connect with David Tian here:
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How To Stay Motivated If You Feel You’re Enough
David Tian Ph.D. reveals what our lack of self-worth can do to us.
David Tian Ph.D. explains what happens when you’re driven to prove yourself.
He also deliberates on what the “Tyranny of the Shoulds” prevent you from achieving.
In this Man Up episode, David Tian Ph.D. shares what the question you need to ask yourself first.
David Tian: Boom! Stop. I’m David Tian, PhD, and in this video, I answer the question: How do you stay motivated if you feel you’re enough? Welcome to Man Up Episode 197.
Hey, I’m David Tian, PhD., and for over the past 10 years, I have been helping hundreds of thousands of people in over 87 countries attain success, happiness and fulfillment in life and love, and welcome to Man Up Episode 197. Here I am in Bali, Ubud to be exact over our infinity pool. It is a gorgeous pool. I set up the camera and everything so perfectly, but now I’ve just decided I’m going to show you some of the view. I gotta not move that chair so I can go back. Okay, so you can see the rapids – hope I don’t fall in the pool here – just above me. Gorgeous. The sun is setting. It’s pretty much set, just behind the clouds there, and it was a really hot sunny day all day.
But just as I was about to shoot, the sun was streaming right into the camera, so I had to delay about half hour and then it went behind the clouds perfectly. So, we got little bit of time before the sun sets completely, and let me get this set up again. How about right there… that’s about good. Okay. There we go, okay.
So, perfect. So, welcome. This is Episode 197. Answering a question that has been asked many times, and I’ve kept putting it off because it’s actually a very deep question. It’s one that I’ve devoted hours and weeks to in fact in my multi-week courses, including Masculine Mastery, Rock Solid Relationships, Awakenings, which is an ongoing live weekly course, and we go deep into this question. But I figured here’s a shot at it. I’m going to try not to be a perfectionist with this, just put it out there with a caveat that there’s a lot more to say. And if you want to hear more, let me know because I can go into this in a lot more detail, and literally for four or five hours straight without repeating myself.
I’m going to pick and choose some things here and try to get it to the point as quick as possible. The question is this: If you think you’re enough, then why would you bother achieving, or where would you get your drive or motivation to achieve? I’ve been mentioning in many episodes that the key to the things – your fulfillment in life, the good life, including all of the good relationships that will serve you in life, are on the other side of being happy with yourself; being aware of your own self-worth, or really feeling your self-worth, feeling your self-esteem, feeling that you’re enough and that you’re worthy.
And I’ve discovered that a lot of people are scared of feeling worthy, even though they’re not even anywhere close to actually feeling worthy, but they’re scared of attaining that because their need for significance is so strong that they feel like if they’re not significant, if they’re not good enough, if they’re not worthy, if they don’t feel that, then their whole life is meaningless. It’s saying like, “Hey, look, you can be really fulfilled in life, but maybe you’ll have to give up some of this money” and they’re like, “Woah, no! If I don’t make my goal of making that billion dollar company, then I’m nothing.” Right? Especially a lot of young guys in their 20s are asking me this question.
It’s addressed in much more detail – there are a lot of nuances to this question, but I’m going to give you a version of it and try to do this in 20 minutes. The idea being, again, the question is, “If you feel like you’re enough, then where would you get your motivation to achieve?” That’s really sad when that happens, because that’s telling me that these people, these guys who are achieving, working really hard, they’re actually achieving, working really hard, and they’re not driven by intrinsic motivation. That’s like saying if I believe I’m enough, then I would not be doing all of these things that I’m doing right now. I wouldn’t work as hard…
And that’s just telling me that the work that you’re doing is pretty shitty for you. I’ll give you an easy example, a trivial one from my life. Professor friends that I’ve worked with, I counsel them on these issues, and many of us are driven by a lack of self-worth, from going back as far as infancy, toddlerhood and childhood, that we felt that we needed to be an achiever or a pleaser in order to get the love, and affection, and approval that we as little children so desperately needed. That is just basically repetition compulsion right through into adulthood that we continue to repeat these cycles of – this is the way that we learned, we were imprinted.
We imprinted this coping strategy in our lives of how to get love. And so, we take this into our relationships, into our lifestyles. So, we work really, really hard; we study really hard in subjects that we kind of are interested in. We’re sort of interested in them mostly because we’re good at them, but we don’t have an intrinsic love for them. So that if we didn’t have to make money, then we wouldn’t do that anymore; and that’s sad, because a lot of professors, they should have an intrinsic interest in their own work.
But here’s a place where it really comes to the fore. When they actually start to feel worthy in themselves, there’s some work, the tedious busy work that all professors hate, most professors hate, any intelligent professor hates, which is grading undergraduate papers and administrative work, which is what we signed up work. That’s not why we became professors. We signed up for the life of the mind, but we have to grade these shitty papers, like 90% of them suck, and so on and so forth. We have to do all of this.
And they find that once they are enjoying themselves, life is awesome, then they aren’t as driven and motivated to get through that stack of boring papers. Well, that’s actually a sign; it’s a sign that grading wasn’t part of the bargain, and you’re only doing it because you have to do it. Maybe you should think more strategically about ways of getting the intellectual work and finding a way to reward yourself with that, and then not having to do this shitty work that you don’t want to do.
There’s so many examples of this: People doing shit they hate, to what? To impress people they don’t care about. Well, they don’t know even. I forget the whole quote, it’s a Palahniuk thing from Fight Club. You probably know it, right? So, they’re on this treadmill, and it’s like the rat race. You take them out of it and they’re like, “Woah, what am I doing here? Wow. I don’t even know what I want.” And they finally can confront the question, “What do you really want?” And an example of this, Tony Robbins puts it really well, push motivation versus pull motivation. Most people, the people who are asking this question, were afraid of feeling worthy because then they might not do anything, are the people who have been doing everything from push motivation; where they are pushing themselves really, really hard.
And Gary Vaynerchuk, I’m a fan of his as well, he puts it really well in terms of money, that he’d rather make six million dollars and love the process and do what he loves than make 11 million doing shit he hates. I totally subscribe to that. There are a lot of people that I grew up with who were achievers and are still achievers, and that was my coping strategy. It’s very easy for me to go to achievers mode and pull all-nighters, and be really – like, the high at the end of it is always nice, but in the moment I’m not having fun. It’s not fun to do this subject that you don’t like, and stay up all night to pull off this all-nighter in order to get the A. You learn to like it, but that’s not what you would do if you didn’t have to do it; and a lot of people have never gone to that point where they asked themselves, “What would I do if I didn’t have to make money? What would I really do?”
And a lot of people would say, “Well, I’d just do nothing. I’d go sit on the beach all day.” Well, great. You should do that because then you’d find out how boring it is. Like, I’ve been doing this for many years. I have the freedom to go anywhere I want, just sit on the beach and just do nothing, and I’ve chosen to do something that I love even if it’s not financially rewarding. That’s the amazing thing. That’s push motivation for Tony Robbins, but there’s pull motivation, which is something you do with intrinsic motivation; something you do anyway, even if you didn’t have to make the money.
That’s what I’d ask you: What would you do anyway? Most Americans, most people in the world are just struggling to make ends meet and they’ll take any job that will pay them so they can pay the rent and so on. That’s a sad life and I realize that most people live that life, and that’s why they think if they have to not ever feel worthy because then they’d lose their motivation to go to work. That means that your job is not motivating; your job is not intrinsically valuable to you. That’s a sad state. If you accept that as part of your life, that’s fine. I don’t and I encourage my clients not to, but yes, push versus pull.
It goes even deeper than this. This is the tyranny of the shoulds or the shackle of the shoulds. And this I go into a lot more detail on this in Rock Solid Relationships, Masculine Mastery, and Awakenings, which is – where do these shoulds come from in your life? You feel like you should have a six-pack, or ‘the perfect body’. You feel like you should make a million dollars. You feel like you should have whatever it is, like for women maybe a certain type of purse, for dudes maybe it’s a certain type of watch, or maybe it’s a yacht, or a private plane, or you should have whatever.
You need to stop and ask yourself where this should came from, because the thing is, most of our shoulds – that’s why we call it the shackle of the shoulds or the tyranny of the shoulds – come from before we were consciously making these decisions about what we want to pursue in life. They come from our formative caregivers, our parents from most people. It comes from our school systems and the larger society, our peer group that imposes upon us these shoulds unconsciously that we feel like we need to live up to in order to get the attention, and approval, and validation that we have been evolved to crave.
It’s a sad thing, and I’ll get into this in another video. We are not evolved for happiness or fulfillment. We are evolved for a little bit of pleasure, but if you were in a constant state of being driven by demons to, “If you don’t achieve this, then your life is worthless.” Well then, you’ll go and do it, but it’s a horrible existence. I know plenty of people who live like that. And at the end of their lives, they look back in regret. They regret their lives, regret pushing themselves this way, regret a lot of things. Because yes, at the end of the day, maybe they have this amount of money, but now they’re going to die so they don’t get to enjoy it. You know, this is a legacy they can look back on, but if you don’t enjoy the process, then why are you doing it?
So if you’re coming from a place of negativity, like you’re driven to prove yourself, that you’re somebody, “You just wait until they see! When I show up in VIP, and I come in with my bottles, and everyone’s looking at me and finally I’ve made it, I’ve arrived…” I know a lot of guys like that, a lot of guys that I went clubbing with that are like that. They go through this cycle of emptiness, and many of them are still caught up in that. And you see it now as you get older – I’ve been over ten years in that scene. I look at them now and I feel pity for them. They’re just old wrinkly now, but they’re still trying to pursue the same kind of significance. They feel like they’re not enough, and so they have to keep doing these things to prove that they are the man, they’ve made it, they have the body, or they have the money, or they have the girls, or whatever.
And a lot of the marketing plays up, plays on this. Notice that a lot of the dating coaches are actually internet marketers, and many of them have now pivoted because it’s been a while, three to four years you get bored of it; and they pivoted, because they were never really deep psychology people. They were just like, “How do I make a quick buck off of these susceptible”… What’s the word I’m looking for? I’m forgetting the word, but guys who are easily duped. So, you see that now. They’re selling you internet marketing. There are many well-known cases of this from every company.
And look, it’s because none of that was intrinsically rewarding for them, and they were able to feed off you, right? They know what you want and they just feed this to you, a little bit to try to make money off of you. And it’s sad because you’re still on that treadmill of, “I need more. I need more. I need more. I need more. I need more.” And even when you do achieve it – many of my friends have, I have, and you get that pinnacle of – you got the body, you got the money, you got the bitches, you got the car, you got the whatever. The pleasure is empty. The pleasure is momentary. By its very nature, pleasure is momentary, is transitory.
It’s not fulfillment, and I’ll get into that in a future video, hopefully. That’s the tyranny of the shoulds. And finally, when you address, when you can step out of all of these shoulds that you adopted unconsciously as a child, even things like: You should get an A. Why? You should do well in school. Do we really understand why we’re doing that? Or you should learn calculus. I learned calculus. I have never used it since first year university calculus was…
You know, it’s like, there’s a lot of things that I, like many people, feel like they should be good at math. And then they do all this extra stuff like, “I should be pre-med” or “I should be a lawyer, because my mommy wants me to, because finally then I’ll make her proud.” And a lot of guys, they’re not willing to admit it because it makes them sound like pussies and they know it. But you know, this is the truth, and they’re stuck in this cycle of trying to live up to these shoulds.
So when you do move away from these shoulds and you no longer live your life under the tyranny of the shoulds, under the shackle of the shoulds, shoulds imposed upon you from the outside, then you can finally confront the question: What do you really want? What do you really want in life? Because there are some things you have to do. So, if you want health and energy for instance, then you’ll have to do diet and workout that would get you to that level.
There’s some certain things that you have to do, but the have tos are different from the shoulds. So, here’s a really great way of thinking about it. I got it from this great book, “When I Say No, I Feel Guilty”. A great book. It’s a corny title but it’s a much deeper psychology book than it sounds. In fact, it’s a classic book in psychology on assertiveness. I highly recommend it for everybody. There are different layers.
There’s the ‘I should’, and the shackle of the shoulds prevent you from living your true self. Because what will happen is, under the influence of the shoulds, under the shackle of the shoulds, under the tyranny of the shoulds, you end up having to live up to these shoulds that are imposed on you from the outside. And in order to do that, you have to adopt a false self, or an adaptational self. You have to adapt to that should to achieve it. You need to be this other guy who you are not really. And then eventually, over many years and decades, you are so far removed from that original self, you don’t even know what that is.
So, when we ask you the question, when I answer the question, “Okay, what do you really want? If you didn’t have to make money, what would you really do?” “I don’t know. I’d sit at the beach.” And you have never done that. Well, I challenge you right now. Quit your fucking job and go sit on the beach for a couple of weeks and see how boring it is. I don’t know. Some of you might’ve been so overworked for all those decades, maybe you’ll need a year of decompression. I don’t know, but eventually, you’ll realize that that in itself, the pleasure in and of itself, is not fulfilling and you’ll look for something else. You’ll look for purpose. You’ll look for flow. You’ll look for flow activity that draws your attention fully, and you’ll look for meaning, legacy, how to help other people beyond yourself, how to contribute, and then you’ll be looking for growth experiences.
This is for most people, those are two just abstract concepts: growth, contribution, influence on others, legacy, because they’re so driven at the base level of meeting the shoulds, living up to these ancient – well, for them – ancient standards that were imposed on them in their unconscious mind when they were children, when they were very young. So, once you get out of that, once you start to see the shoulds for what they are, “Why should I do this? Who said? Says who?” Right? And then you’re able to step away from it, and you’ll see that most of society is run through the shackle of the shoulds.
Most people are suffering under the weight of the shackle of the shoulds. And when you see that, you’re just like, “What? This is crazy.” You know, if you’ve noticed in the Man Up videos, I’m in so many different locations in a lot of the different videos. I’m not under these shackles, you know? I go where I want to go. Again, this is a beautiful spot. I miss the sunset, for you guys, and I’m here, I’m enjoying it. That’s because I ask myself the question, “Okay, what do I really want to do? What do I really want? What’s the legacy I want to leave? What is it that drives me? What are the reasons why I’m going to do what I do?”
And most people are not doing the things that they really want to do, they’re just robotically obeying some other standard. So, you know, like, there’s so many examples of this: money, fitness, material objects. It’s a sad, sad state. Once you get to the point where you start to ask yourself, “Why? Why am I doing this?” I’ll make it personal. I’ll give you a personal example from my own life. I know a lot of guys prefer that.
My story – I achieved this PhD, 3 MAs, three master degrees and a PhD, became a professor, one of the best jobs that year on the market, and I was sitting pretty on a really nice job. And then, you know, I was fulfilling all of these shoulds, “What should I do? I should be the model Asian-Canadian kid. I should just fulfill all of these societal expectations and then get a really plum job and get lots of security.” Because once you get tenure, it’s really hard to get fired. That was the road to happiness. Of course, that’s just the road to a certain level of pleasure and certainty, it’s not the road to fulfillment.
But anyway, then I started to achieve pleasure in other areas. I figured out women because I was married way back then, I got divorced, and then I was all alone and didn’t know how to navigate the dating scene as a 30 year old, so I figured that out. And then I was swimming in pleasure, in physical pleasure. And then I got my fitness down, and then I had – because the business was picking up, I had all my material goals met. And I just, for years, just didn’t have the motivation and drive to do anything further because I didn’t have the compelling and clear reasons why I was doing all of these things.
I was just feeling like, “Oh, okay. I should do this. I should try this. I should try this.” But I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at the deeper level. And nowadays, I’m motivated to create enough wealth that I can have established trust funds for my kids, established trust funds for my autistic nephew, established trust funds for other people that I love, and then to spoil my parents before they pass away. They’re almost 80 now and I want to enjoy the time with them. I want to have the freedom to do that, whenever I want, to just fly over there for a month, fly with them for a month, be with people that I love, not be restricted by a location, not be restricted by money and to do what I want.
And when you realize that – when it’s about experiences, that it’s not about possessions, your money can go a long way. You know, the things that really take up your money are possessions, things like boats, and planes. The guy who founded Maxim Magazine, he’s got that great saying, “If it floats, fucks, or flies, lease it, don’t buy it.” It’s a lot cheaper to get an hour in a private jet than it is to buy the thing. Anyway, the point is this: then it’s achievable, right? Then my point is, I’m driven by things that are outside myself to contribute, to others, to experience life, to experience freedoms, to experience relationships, and connection, and love.
And those are the reasons why I do what I do. And I’m not doing them because I feel like ‘I should’, I’m doing them because I want to. There’s something I want, and there are things that I have to do in order to get the things that I want, and I know why I want those things, and the whys are based on goals that are connected to love, and growth and contribution, and they’re not about validation, or showing off or anything. So, I know I’m pretty safe. I’m avoiding narcissism with those, and those are what drive me. They are what Tony Robbins calls the pull me forward, they pull me to go the extra mile and I’m happy to do so.
As soon as I feel overworked, or overstressed, “I’m going to have to sacrifice all this stuff”, when I go there, I get really pissed off and stressed and I take it out on other people, my staff. I’ve started to realize over the years that that’s because I’ve now – something’s out of balance, and for myself, I know that I need to pull away, take some time. We either need to scale faster and hire more people because I’m overstressing with the current team, or we need to just be able to be patient enough to take it slower and enjoy the process; smell the roses, so to speak.
As soon as I do that, it’s a mental shift, everything becomes easier, lighter, more enjoyable. None of these goals are coming from a place of “I feel like I should do this or I should do that.” I want to do it. And because I want to, there’s some things I have to do to get the things that I want, and the things that I want are intrinsically enjoyable for me. So, we’re all set. For those people who feel like – that’s why you can hopefully understand now why it’s so sad when I hear these people who are wondering how they’re going to get motivation when they feel like they’re enough.
If I am enough, then why would I go to this shitty job tomorrow? Exactly. If I’m enough, then why am I starving to myself to anorexia to look good for the photos? Exactly. If I’m enough, then why am I spending every fucking night, hours in this night club, selling my soul, picking up chicks? Exactly. So, hopefully you get me here, right? That’s why what I’m putting out, it’s called Man Up: Masculinity for the Intelligent Man. It’s not got anything to do with pick up. I mean, we touch on some topics where I get a lot of questions from pick-up artists, or reformed players, so I’m helping them.
I’m one myself, so it’s easy to help them, but you see how different it is. I don’t give a fuck how good you are with women. I have no desire to help you with that, unless there’s a good reason why you want that. For instance, you might want more social freedom, you want to be free of social anxiety, those are good things because you don’t want to feel bad. That’s good, so you want to get out of feeling bad. We can help you with that. And once you stop feeling bad, then you can start asking yourself, “Okay, now that I don’t feel so – I’m not suffering all the time, I’m not under pain, well then what do I want to do with my time?” Well then, great, now we can start from point zero now, just getting you back to baseline. Now, you can start asking yourself what you really want to do.
And maybe for many of you, you’ve been so far removed from that because no one’s actually asked you that properly. They’ve only asked you, “Are you going to make a living?” or “What are you going to do for your career?” or some shit like that instead of asking, “What do you want to do?” And then you can really sit down and brainstorm and explore all the different things that you want to do, and you’ll hopefully find one, or two, or three, or five that you’re really good at. Here’s a little tip: If you’re really good at and enjoy more than one thing, combine them. I have. You know, the academics with helping guys socialize, and the social anxiety, and the psychology, and all these other things; travel, lifestyle, combine them all. It’s wonderful. It’s a really good way to have a unique niche for yourself.
So, there you go. We touched on a lot of things, actually. So, the quick answer is: If you think you’re enough, how will you have the motivation to achieve? If you’re asking that question, then I feel sorry for you because you’re suffering from push motivation, where you’re really pushing yourself to achieve that thing, and it’s kind of a miserable process. Instead, you should be looking for the intrinsically valuable thing that you want to do even if you didn’t have to make money. Even if you didn’t have to, what’s the thing that you want to do? And then normally, that’s something that you can’t just immediately get, right?
So, whatever that thing is that you really want to do, what is the reason why? So, want, then why. Why do you want that thing? What are the reasons why? Go deep into it. Ask that why question seven times. Really get to the core of it. What do you think it’ll give you? And once you get that clear, and you know it’s a healthy reason, it’s a good reason, it’s not suffering from the shackle of the shoulds or the tyranny of the shoulds, then you have the want and why, then you can figure out, “Okay, what are the steps that I need to take? What are the have-tos? What are the steps that I need to take to achieve that goal?”
So the why, the want leads you to the why and then you can ask the have to. What do I have to do in order to get the thing that I want for these healthy reasons that are driving me intrinsically and pulling me towards it? That I’m not doing it in order to feel worthy, I’m not doing it in order to feel like I’m enough. So, that’s how you do it. That’s how you get around it, or that’s how you’re supposed to – that’s how you need to think about it, not get around it.
What everyone else is doing is getting around it. Instead of confronting their issues of the shoulds, they’re just going around it. They’re trying to avoid it. They’re trying to avoid asking the question, “What would I really want to do?” They’re just trying to make a living, trying to make ends meet. And that’s fine. I mean, if many people have settled in life – unfortunately now, we have the internet. So, ignorance was bliss back then, now it’s really hard to avoid all of these things that our evolutionary mind is like, “Ooh, pleasure, pleasure, pleasure, pleasure.”
Now, you really have to even more take conscious effort to ask yourself – to step out of the shackle of the shoulds, to unshackle yourself from them and ask yourself, “What do I really want in life? What is really important and why?” The harder question is the why. “Why do I want these things?” That in itself could become a multi-year process. I think for many people, they need to go and explore the world, experience new things, try out new and interesting things. So many people get in a rut after university because there’s no structure that forces them to grow. They just get a job the old-fashioned way, which is very quickly being dismantled, is to just stay in that job, that career for the rest of their lives. So, I feel sorry for them.
Hopefully, you’ve been watching enough episodes that you realize the way out of this and that’s first to start with the negative project, the feeling worthy; and then you move forward with the want, to the why, to the figuring out then your have tos.
Alright, there you go; a quickie answer, but it’s a lot deeper, especially the tyranny of the shoulds, and I cover all of that in Rock Solid Relationships, Masculine Mastery, and Awakenings. Just a little plug. But also, I want you to join the private Man Up Facebook group. I want you to join, so you gotta click the link to join it. I’ll see you inside the private Man Up Facebook group, great interactions in there. We got some really mature guys as well answering some questions in the comments, a lot of guys chiming in so it’s really good to see. We’re over 10,000 people now, so you’re welcome to join.
There are free courses in there that cover all of these issues, so I’ll see you inside the Man Up Facebook group. Until then, David Tian, signing out, Man Up!