Sex Energy

April 9th, 2007 by Steve Pavlina

Napoleon Hill devoted a full chapter to the transmutation of sex energy in his classic book Think and Grow Rich.  He found that the most successful people were highly sexed, achieving great success by directing their sexual energy into their work.  In this article I’ll explain how to use sex energy to set goals that align with your natural biochemical arousal triggers, such that you find yourself taking action towards your goals more easily.

Sex energy as fuel

What does it mean for a goal to inspire you?  It means when you think of your goal as if it were already here, it feels so incredibly appealing that you have an almost sexual attraction to it.  The thought of your goal being achieved is downright arousing, and you experience a biological response to that effect.

When you’re sexually aroused, you feel a compulsion to take some kind of action.  Your hormones take over, and you become incredibly focused and can’t think about anything but the object of your desire.  This is what it feels like to be driven by a goal that really inspires you.  It’s a magnificent obsession; even daydreaming about it is a delightful, energy-building experience.  There’s a pleasant feeling of tension that drives you onward towards release.

Even though you may face some challenges and resistance along the way, they don’t phase you because overcoming them is a pleasurable experience when you’re aroused.  Pursuing your goals is like practicing the art of seduction.  You don’t whine about the problems you encounter because overcoming them only heightens your pleasure.  If a problem knocks you back, you may be temporarily frustrated, but in the long run it just makes the pursuit that much more exciting and the reward that much greater.

Sexual chemistry

Think about the people you’re most sexually attracted to.  You feel a certain chemistry towards them.  You don’t get this feeling from everyone.  Some people spike your hormones, and some don’t.  Your reactions may be determined by a strange mix of biology and social conditioning.

Similarly, you’ll find that certain goals naturally arouse and excite you, while others just don’t do it for you.  Intellectually you may feel like certain goals are a good idea, just as you may tell yourself a potential mate seems like a good choice, but if the chemistry isn’t there, the passion and energy won’t follow, and you’ll wind up with a dud you’ll later regret.

In my early days of goal setting, I fell into this trap often.  I kept setting goals that looked great on paper.  I visualized them endlessly, but after a few weeks, I’d get the feeling something was off.  The initial spark had faded, and I just didn’t care anymore… maybe intellectually but certainly not emotionally.  The goals were stuck in my head but never infected my whole being.  Consequently, when I worked on those goals, it took a lot of effort to motivate myself to keep going.  I always felt like I was trudging uphill.

On the other hand, sometimes I’d get a wild idea for a goal, and even though it didn’t seem the most intelligent thing to do, I’d become totally obsessed with its accomplishment.  I couldn’t dive into the action phase fast enough.  I’d work hard on it, but the work was effortless.  Calling it work would be like saying sex is work… volunteer work maybe.  It may involve some energetic exertion, but it’s more fun than toil.  Both the goal and the path to get there are enjoyable.  It’s like the goal somehow sinks its hooks into my biology; my appetite takes over and does the work for me.

Discovering your arousal triggers

I’ve learned that there are certain aspects of goals which, when present to a certain degree, will trigger this arousal state.  These triggers vary from person to person, but some of mine are:

  • Challenge – I’m aroused by goals I find really, really challenging.  If a goal seems too easy for me, if I can see a fairly straightforward path to get there, I just can’t get myself to care about it.  Achieving easy goals is like attacking the weak – I find no honor in it.  If it’s easy, it’s just not worth doing because no growth will come from it.
  • Uniqueness – I’m attracted to goals that direct my life down uncommon paths.  I don’t like watching the same movie twice, and I don’t like setting goals that have already been done before.  If “everyone’s doing it,” I feel biologically compelled to do something else.  I prefer sailing through uncharted territory, especially those with lots of warning signs about dragons ahead.  Facing a dragon is more fun than mulling around on the beach.
  • Boldness - I delight in setting goals that seem to have a slim chance of succeeding (at least by other people’s standards).  The more I hear “you’re going to fail” and “what you’re planning is impossible,” the more I know I’m on the right path.  How many times did I hear, “No one can make a living as an indie game developer”?  Then it was, “No one can make a decent living as a blogger.”  Even the sperm that spawned me decided to buck the odds and go for it.
  • Impact – If I feel a goal is meaningless or irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, I’ll never care about it.  I like goals that can make a splash and have a positive rippling effect on others.  There has to be something more at stake than just my own gratification.  On some level I have to see that my goal is contributing to the greater good.  I pass up a lot of seemingly good opportunities because I can’t see how they’ll benefit anyone but a few people, and there’s no chemistry when that happens.
  • Creativity - I love goals that invite elegant, nonstandard solutions, the kind that require massive doses of human creativity – precisely the kind that drive right-handers insane.  As a lifetime left-hander, I salivate over goals that demand I fire up my right brain for hours at a time.  Non-creative tasks make me fall to my knees, pleading, “Why the hell don’t we have software to do this yet?”  I honestly have no idea how I survived 12 years of Catholic school — it took a good two years of rampant kleptomania to restore my sanity, and even then some will testify I haven’t fully recovered.

Interestingly enough, these are the same qualities I find most attractive in women — i.e. women who enjoy challenges; who are quirky and unusual; who have a high risk tolerance; who want to serve the greater good; and who can appreciate creativity, Catholicism, and kleptomania.

Although I didn’t figure it this way originally, I’ll bet if you list the qualities you find most attractive in people with whom you feel a certain chemistry, you’ll find those same factors apply to your goals as well.  You may need to generalize them a bit, but I expect there’ll be a correlation.

Setting arousing goals

Setting virtually any new goal can make you feel good and give you a boost of energy for a while, but how long will it last?  If the chemistry isn’t there, your attraction to your goal will soon fizzle.  You’ll look back on it a few weeks from now, and it will seem like someone else wrote it.  The attraction you once felt will be but a distant memory.  You’ll be left with the feeling, “Blech, who cares?”  The goal may still seem intelligent and reasonable, and you may feel like it should inspire you, but it just doesn’t.  If you try to plow ahead anyway, you’ll suffer weak motivation and frequent procrastination.  You may still achieve your goal, but it will be an exhausting uphill climb.  Once you finally achieve it, you’ll wonder why you worked so hard for such a dud.

Don’t settle for these kinds of goals.  If a goal doesn’t arouse you, it’s not worthy of you, so just dump it.

It can be hard to dump these kinds of goals once you’ve gotten attached to them, but try to recognize that chemistry is just as important in goal-setting as it is in relationships.  If your sex energy isn’t in play, you’re really missing out.  Don’t hold fast to uninspiring goals if there’s no chemistry.  Breaking it off may be tough, but at least your goal isn’t likely to feel rejected.

You may encounter some obstacles now and then that make you want to quit, but stop and ask yourself if the chemistry is still there.  Momentarily forget about the path you’re on, and just picture the goal itself.  Imagine you’re already there.  Do you still really, really want it?  Does the very idea of its achievement spark your hormone production?  Do you get aroused just thinking about it?  Is it hard to pull your mind away?  If the goal is a match for you, you should be able to reawaken that chemistry just by thinking about it, just as you might trigger a reaction by looking at a seductive photo of someone you find irresistibly attractive.  If you have to convince yourself the goal is attractive, you’ve set the wrong goal.

Transmuting existing goals

While I find it pointless to cling to goals that don’t arouse me, I have found that I can sometimes transmute existing goals by giving them a sex energy makeover.  In my case this means asking questions like:

  • How can I make this goal more challenging, enough that I must really push myself?
  • How can I make this goal more unique?  How can I steer clear of what’s already been done to death?
  • How can I make this goal bolder?  What can I do to incite the “you will fail” choir to goad me on to greater heights?
  • How can I make this goal bigger and more impactful, contributing to others in a positive way?
  • How can I make this goal more creative, fully exploiting my right-brained potential?

Sometimes it’s easy to tweak goals to fit your arousal triggers.  Other times these questions reveal that your existing goals are too far off the mark.

Just as it’s important to enjoy sexual chemistry in your romantic relationships, it’s equally important to enjoy biochemical resonance with your goals.  You may get all the other factors right, but if there’s no chemistry, it’s time to move on.  Don’t settle for chemistry alone, but be sure your goals fit your values and create that biochemical spark.

Years ago when I was setting goals to grow my games business, I started asking questions like the ones above, and I soon realized I didn’t have chemistry with those goals anymore.  After running the business for a decade, I was no longer challenged.  The work had become too easy for me, and I could continue to coast indefinitely without working very hard at all.  I was doing something that was becoming less unique with each passing year.  I didn’t feel I was doing anything terribly bold.  I wasn’t having the kind of impact I wanted to.  And my work was no longer creative enough.  I felt like I was becoming domesticated, and I felt a longing to stir things up to regain my earlier passion.

I could have addressed these problems to some degree without leaving the gaming industry, but I realized I’d have much greater chemistry with totally different goals.  It was time to tackle a different field, especially one where I could make a more meaningful contribution.  In retrospect I’m really, really glad I didn’t cling to my comfortable position in the gaming industry.  Too much comfort kills my spirit.

Your chemistry with a goal will change over time, so it’s important to keep checking in.  I had great chemistry with the gaming industry during my 20s, but the attraction faded during my 30s.  Aside from helping my daughter launch some educational web games, I barely even touch games anymore.  I played maybe a few hours total in the entire past year, and even that much I found boring.  But if you’d asked me if I’d ever lose interest in games during my 20s, I would have thought it impossible.  :)

Remember that the whole point of goal-setting is to get your thoughts and actions moving in a new direction.  If you aren’t driven to action, you’ve set lousy goals.

Just as I’ve said that building sustainable web traffic comes down to providing great content, goals must also have great content in order to inspire you to take action.  In this case great content means that your goals resonate with your own biological attraction factors, such that you actually enter a state of biochemical arousal just by thinking about them.  In this state action becomes effortless and enjoyable.  Others may still label it as work, but you won’t be thinking of it as such.  :)


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