What Motivates Me to Reach for the Higher Limb?

Uncategorized Dec 28, 2023

This article is the sixth installment on things you can learn from your cell phone. 

I recently stumbled across an advertisement for Sony’s camcorder, circa 1980, which boasted a videotape recorder that “goes anywhere you go.” It pictures a man perched in a tree videoing little birds in a nest while holding a camcorder about the size of a giant encyclopedia, equipped with a fist-sized handle at the bottom. The man wears a massive recording case, big as a briefcase, strapped around his shoulder. I tried to picture what the guy would have looked like climbing a tree with such bulky equipment. Those poor birds would have been frightened! The irony of that much video equipment easily “go(ing) anywhere you go” is laughable in our day with all the video capabilities in our phones.

I thought about how, if someone should say they wanted to give me that equipment today, I would think of it more as a burden than a blessing. What was top-of-the-line back then is so far below the simple technology found in my iPhone, so inconvenient, that I would assume someone was just unloading their garage junk on me. I would not be content with such a gift.

But forty years ago, Sony’s “go anywhere” camcorder set would have been a prize. I would have been not only content but excited. I guess contentment is relative. Contentment is not just relative to technological advancements but to everything else in my world. I am only content with today’s food relative to the quality of food I usually eat. I am only content with today’s clothes relative to what I am used to wearing. Contentment is relative to my other experiences, my other possessions, and my other opportunities.

Do you find it hard to be content? Think about your family and your marriage. Think about your business. Think about your possessions. Wanting growth and improvement in these areas is a good thing. But there is a difference between the desire for improvement and discontentment. Desire for growth can cause us to challenge ourselves to achieve a better marriage or to be a better parent. A desire for improvement can cause us to recognize where we’ve been slack in our business or financial disciplines. Desire for growth can lead us to self-betterment in everything from physical exercise to entrepreneurship.

But discontentment is a disease. It destroys. It eats you alive from the inside out. If you have looked at your family relationships, your house, your car, your business, or your job, and you have snubbed your nose at it like it was a Sony camcorder circa 1980, perhaps this would be a great time to ask yourself whether the problem is internal rather than external.

Here are some questions I asked myself to spot-check my level of contentment and gauge whether my pursuits are driven by discontent or a desire for growth:

  • Is there any physical possession or opportunity (e.g., my job or business) that, if I lost it, I would not just feel its loss, but I would feel destroyed? If so, there’s a chance I’ve built my life around that possession too much.
  • Have I sacrificed quality time for those things I claim are my priorities (e.g., my family or my marriage) for things that are genuinely less important in my list of values? If so, my actual values must be acknowledged and adjusted.
  • Am I pursuing after-growth opportunities (e.g., expanding the business) to increase and bless others, or only for my personal satisfaction? If so, my pleasure and pride are my real motivations rather than genuine love and legacy.

Another thing about that picture is that the man in Sony’s advertisement photo struggled to climb that tree with all that equipment. But discontentment is a lot like that. It’s baggage that makes it hard to climb; it makes it hard to increase and difficult to grow. It poisons my passions. It dilutes my motives. It blurs my love for those who matter.

I want to set all baggage aside, become more content, and reach for a higher purpose rather than just the next limb above my head.


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