Monday, April 20, 2015
The Road To Hell
So my 30-days-of-blogging extravaganza came to a screeching halt on the 15th when life intervened in the form of malware.
I am going to go ahead and give myself a big fat pass for missing the last five days because, well, just because. We all of us sometimes need to just forgive ourselves for not following through. It doesn't matter a bit sometimes why we don't follow through. In my case, a substantial malware infection, a yoga teacher training weekend, and a renovation intervened, not in that order, but even if I just felt like taking the weekend off because it was a gorgeous two days strung together, that's good, too.
This yoga weekend was not particularly fabulous for me, on a couple different levels, but the one thing I had reaffirmed was that it's really important to figure out what it is you want and go for that. The guest teacher talked about the word "should" as the heavy cat-o-nine that we flagellate ourselves with. He called it "shouldistic behavior" and said we were "shoulding" all over ourselves, two clever plays on words to indicate the painful and grotesque ways in which we sometimes attempt to motivate ourselves.
This applies even when your intentions are good. If you say things like "I should exercise more," then maybe your inner anti-cheerleader is talking shit in your head about how flabby you are. Maybe it's comparing you to the toned arms or buff abs of other people. In this way you perpetuate the cycle of feeling badly about yourself instead of focusing at the core of why you aren't doing what you feel you "should" be doing.
And here is (one of the places) where the teacher and I parted ways. He said that motivation is about changing the word "should" to the word "want," and then everything will be just peachy. Turns out that is kind of bullshit. I have studied what motivates people for the past 18 years and have found unequivocally that just changing the words, although that may be a start, is not nearly enough to change the behavior. Even just changing the behavior (like forcing yourself to exercise more) doesn't really silence the anti-cheerleader or change the internal dialogue.
And here's the unfortunate punchline: motivation is a complex issue that I have no answer to (nor do experts, really. Just suggestions.). Neither did the speaker in the workshop (although he seemed to feel that he had the only answer, and any time there were objections it meant the objector just wasn't ready for his message or the objector was lying to themselves or some other something. I felt like this teacher's ethos was very deeply rooted in est, the cult founded by Werner Erhard. I can speak directly to my interpretation of his premise because my father forced the entire family to go to an est weekend when I was younger, and the humiliation of that remains a vivid memory).
In other (somewhat depressing) words, motivation is unique to each person and can change over time. Key components to following through seem to be a mix of factors that are both internal and external. People who spend their lives being externally motivated (by gold stars as a child in school, by money in a job, or by compliments on appearance) may find themselves at a loss should (when) those external things disappear. Internal (intrinsic) motivation is far more valuable in the long run but far harder to cultivate, especially in a culture that is so comparative (and competitive) in nature. And, as evidenced by this weekend's computus interruptus, internal motivation can still be affected by the vagaries of life.
And here's where the rubber meets the road to hell:
"Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind." ~Bruce Lee~
It's good to have goals and develop persistence and internal motivation. It is satisfying to meet the bar we set for ourselves.
What's not good is beating ourselves up when shit happens. What's not good is comparing what we are doing to what other people are doing. What's not good is "shoulding" all over ourselves to the point where we are a puddly mess, incapable of taking the shape of the next move (that's a Wonder Twins reference).
So today I am back on the road to hell. Expect blogs this week covering writing like a motherfucker and why Deepak Chopra made me cry. But if it doesn't happen, that's fine, too.
Have a beautiful week. Or don't. Either way, don't beat yourself up.