Strong before Safe

There’s a mantra I keep hearing here in mid 2020. It’s at the end of every newscast, and people say it when you are done with the conversation or when you are leaving their company. Stay safe. It’s become the Mantra of 2020. But it seems a bit wrong. I get it, people want to be safe. It’s why we have 2020. It’s why we’re in the situation we’re in. It’s people’s obsessive desire to be safe. But you can never be safe. One thing you’re always trying to avoid in life, is the one thing that’s certain. You will die. It’s good to try to prolong life and lead a high-quality life as long as you can. I’m not advocating that people seek death. But I would say that the goal of being safe is the wrong goal.

 We should try to be strong. We prolong life both in quantity and quality by being strong. Do you want to prevent infection from some germ? Build a strong immune system. Do you want to be resilient to adversity? Build a strong mind, strong emotional reservoir. The safe life is not the good life. But it sure feels good to be strong.

What would you do if you heard a tsunami was coming? Seek safety? I remember the story from the tsunami that destroyed Fukushima, a couple years ago. Everyone was told to seek safety. Fishermen were told that their boats had to be in the harbor, but that was where they would surely be destroyed. There was an old fisherman, a Japanese man, about 70 years old. He knew that his boat would be destroyed in the harbor. He also knew that he could save it. He didn’t seek safety. He got his boat and he took it out to sea. It was the only way to save the boat. He knew that he had to ride that tsunami before it hit the harbor. And he did. And they both survived. I’m guessing he emerged that much stronger. I’d like to meet him.

 But I don’t have a huge desire to meet the many people seeking safety in their homes. What would be the point? People are in their homes, worried about a virus. They’re not interesting. They seek safety. I don’t begrudge them that. Sometimes you have to muster courage though, and be strong. Those strong people are interesting. I’d like to meet them. 

The Motivation Bar

Imagine that I like apples. Everyday I walk my dog and on the horizon I see an apple tree. As I get close I see delicious juicy apples. Many are hanging right at eye level. This is the low hanging fruit. I make a prediction. I predict that if I eat an apple, I will feel good. So I grab one.
I take a bite and it tastes good. I have seen a cue in the environment, the apple. I made a prediction, that it would taste good and make me happy. I had the desire for the apple. I performed the action, which was to reach and grab the apple and take a bite. And I got the reward, which is one of the best pleasures, the sensual pleasure of eating.
Where does motivation fit in?
Now imagine after weeks of this that there are no more low hanging apples. The available apples are higher and higher up the tree. I have actually climbed the tree and gotten a few of them. But one day I was out on a limb, trying to grab an apple, and the limb broke. Now I cannot get to any fruit.
So the next day, I walk down the street and I see the apple tree. That is the cue in the environment. I make a prediction that the apple will taste good. There will be a reward. But I also make a prediction that I cannot get the apple. I still have a desire for an apple. But I don’t think I can get it. My prediction conflicts with my desire.
I think this is where motivation lies. I lose my motivation to get the apple. Because I predict that I cannot get it. I still desire it. So, somewhere in there is a belief. The belief in whether or not I can succeed. My belief is that I will fail, and so I lose my motivation.