Two Major Drives

The two major reasons for doing absolutely anything in the world: happiness and duty.

If something gives you happiness, even if slight, then it’s probably worth doing. You’re with someone (hopefully) because they make you happy. You have a job because doing it (or at least its results) make you happier. You take trips because you get to experience happy moments, either by yourself or with other people.

Duty is the second only in name. You take on a mission because it’s the right thing to do. 

If something gives you happiness, in general, you do it. If something is your duty, you also do it. If it does neither, it’s safe to say that you can probably avoid it.

There are two major conflicts here, though. The first is making the distinction between short term happiness and long term. Sometimes something makes you miserable in the moment but feels great later. My books are generally like this. I work through them but they’re rarely enjoyable in the moment – in comparison to, say, blog posts, which are generally really fun to write as I do them. Sometimes, you have to sacrifice short-term happiness for a potential in long-term happiness through either achievement, or satisfaction, or whatever else. Here the trick is to know when to make that decision.

The second problem occurs when happiness conflicts with duty. Then you have a decision to make, and in my opinion, these are among the most difficult and straining situations you can experience.

The best situation, of course, is when duty and happiness come together into purpose. Then, you know you’ve really got something.





17 responses to “Two Major Drives”

  1. Oliver Avatar

    You don´t do your duties because it´s or duty. You do your duties to avoid the pain you will have if you don´t do them imo.

    1. Susan Macaulay Avatar

      Yep, that too. But some duties can be pleasant and fun, even joyful. “Duty” tends to have a negative connotation to it…

  2. Peggy Avatar

    Simply put. Could not agree more.

  3. Susan Macaulay Avatar

    “The second problem occurs when happiness conflicts with duty. Then you have a decision to make, and in my opinion, these are among the most difficult and straining situations you can experience.”

    This post struck a real chord with me this morning. A year ago, I gave up my life as I knew it to return to Canada after living overseas for 18 years to care for my Mom who has Alzheimer’s. I value freedom above all else. I voluntarily sacrificed my freedom, and put myself in a hellish prison because it was “the right thing to do.” Caring for my Mom was a compassionate duty. I made the choice to do it, knowing that it would be the most difficult thing I had ever done. It has been extraordinarily stressful, tragic, and sometimes joyful.

    I gave up short-term happiness (and my freedom), for the long-term happiness of knowing I did the best I could possibly do for my Mom. Soon she will be placed in a home, because I can no longer care for her without it killing me.

    Your post added further clarity to the situation for me. Thanks 🙂

  4. Grant Avatar

    This is pretty much why people don’t save money for the long term, even if it’s only dripping feeding it into an investment. Credit is much more sexy as you can get what you want here and now.

  5. Mau Avatar

    You speak of choices that need to be made in the name of attaining happiness and/or complying with duty, but choice is an illusion. You are where you should be. Always. Happiness comes from understanding that.

    1. Nada Avatar

      I agree with you.

  6. Arthur Hung Avatar

    Hi Julien.

    I feel what you said is difficult but simple:

    *The second problem occurs when happiness conflicts with duty. Then you have a decision to make, and in my opinion, these are among the most difficult and straining situations you can experience.*

    You have a heart. When you follow your heart`s journey, it often brings you to things that help everyone in your experience and yourself – it just doesn`t look that way at first.

    But it doesn`t seem like you have any problem doing that – the long thousand K treks with your girlfriend and sharing it on your blog – inspiring many along the way.

    Cheers to everyone`s soul journey,


  7. Tim Chan Avatar

    Sometimes we put duty over our own happiness because our duty contributes to someone else’s happiness. And when we love someone deeply, there are times we will choose to put their happiness above our own happiness.

  8. M. Johnston Avatar
    M. Johnston

    This was a very sobering little article and it came right when I needed it. I am about to give up on a project that means a lot to me – a writing project in fact. If it means a lot why give up? Because its such hard work getting it to reflect what those around me want it to look like. I guess working through the piece isn’t enjoyable as it is with working on your book. Thinking about the long term goal that may come is encouragement to keep going. Not that there is anything but satisfaction that I ground through it but it is satisfaction all the same.

  9. Susan Cooper Avatar

    This one hit home with me. I have just returned from a trip that was part fun and part duty. The good news is they were separate but both were very enjoyable. That isn’t always the case at times. 🙂

  10. Alex Avatar

    On a more fundamental level, the two drives are actually
    1. Doing something because it gives you pleasure (or, more accurately, you either believe it will give you pleasure, or it has given you pleasure in the past)
    2. Doing it in order to avoid pain (or fear of pain a.k.a the flinch)

    With the second one being a lot stronger, but the first one being more powerful at creating new behaviour.

    This is taken from pshych, but I’m too lazy to post sources. Care to help?

    e.g.: you do your duty (let’s say, cleaning your bathroom, what you feel you have to do) because of the pain you’d get from your gf or, perhaps more usefully, the conflict with what you perceive as your identity (I’m not a dirty hobo, my bathroom can’t stink like this)

  11. Ara Bedrossian Avatar

    Duty is the stuff that builds character for sure.

    I’ve got a saying: The value of an accomplishment comes down to how much you want to do its grunt work.

    Well written.

  12. Peter Paluska Avatar

    Simply and beautifully put, Julien. That’s all I have to say.

  13. Alan Edmunds Avatar

    It all boils down to those two. Wonderfully written!

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