First a few questions for you to consider:

Did you have a productive day today (or yesterday if you are reading this in the morning)?

How much did you do?

How do you personally quantify and or qualify productivity?

How important were the things you did and by whose standard?

How do the things you accomplished fit into the big picture of what you want for your life?

Merriam-Webster’s tells us that to be productive is to “have the quality or power of producing, especially in abundance” which is how most of us think of it, but it also says to be productive is to “yield results, benefits, profit as well as yielding or devoted to the satisfaction of wants or the creation of utilities.”

So, if we review our activities at the end of the day with the measurement of how much we got done, are we necessarily speaking to our productivity? Maybe and maybe not. Perhaps we are just bustling with activity or checking things off of our list without being discriminating about the value we are producing.

If you sat under a tree all day, would you be productive? What if you were Buddha?


Most of us collapse productive with being visibly busy or producing visible results.   We often feel like we are playing beat the clock. There is only so much time in the day. This leads to multi-tasking (now known to be counterproductive for most people) and myopic vision of what is important; putting out fires.

Busy-ness with no cohesion of direction or intention, with no sense of overarching purpose and lacking in substance, leads to overwhelm and burnout. For a long time now, being the busiest, most overwhelmed person around has been a kind of badge of honor. It is the ego’s way of saying “I am important. I must be, because I am so busy. Everyone needs something from me.” It is also the martyr’s excuse for never being able to get to what matters to them, because they are taking care of everyone else’s business.

But what does the wound-driven ego or the martyr know about what really matters in your big picture?

If you invested your time today in things, thoughts, activities, people that are in alignment with your soul vision, in alignment with your values and priorities, then you have been productive whether we can see it or not. You have surrendered to your vision and your priorities and come to understand what, at the end of the day (literally), really matters to you, no matter what other people make of that.

In the same way that action without substance can lead to burnout, substance without action can lead to a whole lot of potential with nowhere to go and it can lead you to depression or delusion.

So, being productive is about both the visible and the invisible, action and substance. There is a story that Einstein was often found sitting with his feet on the desk staring out the window. Was he being productive in those moments?

The key is not to fool yourself into thinking you are not procrastinating simply because you are being busy. By the same token, your musing, planning and visioning time may be highly productive or it may be a delay tactic. In either case, be honest with yourself.

Were you able to accomplish anything today that feeds your soul vision, your values, your creativity, your imagination of what’s possible for you in this life? If so, congratulations! If not, what were you up to instead?

Were you taking care of another person’s agenda?

Were the decisions and choices to be made so overwhelming that you escaped into the social media vortex?

Were you focused on that mountain of things that you think need to be out of your way, before you get to what matters?

It is time to walk away from the mountain. One thing I have learned about that mountain is that it will never be conquered. It is always growing. Trying to get to the top is about as easy as trying to move a sand dune, one teaspoon-full at a time.

You will need your body to help you out here. The mind sees things as done: whole and perfect. It has little concept of what it takes to birth something. Consider the last time you installed a new program on your computer and ended up online with tech help the rest of the day. Consider the last time you had a remodeling project or thought you might just do a “little yard cleanup.” Consider what you feel like the first Monday morning after we switch the clocks to daylight savings time.

The mind can plug things into your calendar without regard for your body’s needs. It just sees open squares with times next to them. Your body doesn’t care about the calendar whether paper or digital. It is not a machine. It follows the sunlight, your bio-rhythms, the moons, the seasons and the weather and reacts to what you ate the night before. Your body has reliable reactions to your choices and what you consider your priorities.

So, if your mind tries to convince you that you can add this one little thing your friend asked you to do because, it shouldn’t take long or says you can sit at your computer eight hours a day without consequence, check in with your body. Trust your aches and pains, your gut reactions.

Procrastination then is not necessarily detectable by a lack of action, nor is being busy proof you are not procrastinating. Meanwhile, we can just as easily procrastinate on what matters by getting busy with unimportant things or constantly taking care of other’s needs as we can procrastinate by doing nothing.

Sometimes what looks like procrastination is actually a time of stopping so that we can break old habits that keep us locked in our familiar patterns. This happens to musicians all the time. She may find that she’s been playing something incorrectly all along and the only way to break the habit is to leave it alone until she can approach it with a fresh start.

We are evolutionary beings. We are not meant to lock into one way of being and working our entire lives. We are not machines. We are not meant to be grinding our gears 24/7. Sometimes we need to just stop and wait and listen for a sign, a vision, a direction.

It takes love and hope to generate and receive your soul vision.

It takes vulnerability and willingness to stand for that vision.

It takes courage to hold your boundaries around your own agenda. Many will call you selfish for their own selfish reasons.

It takes commitment to invest your time and energy regularly in your soul vision

It takes discipline to meet that commitment time and time again.

It takes flexibility to surrender to the river of life when it takes an unexpected turn.

It takes forgiveness to meet your failings and begin again.

It takes faith to get off the familiar trail you’ve been on for years and follow your heart to blaze a trail  that is entirely yours.

How do you get a vision, develop deep listening, receive signs?

How do you develop these qualities of courage, commitment, flexibility, forgiveness?

That’s what I’m here for. If you are ready to invest in yourself and your dreams by receiving the help of a qualified coach and spiritual anchor, contact me today to set up an exploratory consultation.

I also invite you to read the other entries in this blog for inspiration and illumination.

Copyright(c)March 2016 Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved (includes photograph)

In my last post, I discussed two ways of looking at motivation: processes/conditions and goals/outcomes (motive). Today, we will continue to look at motivation by exploring form and function and the importance of being able to make and recognize the distinction.

When we are asked what we want, most of us will respond with a form or a state of being. We might say we want to live in New York or we might say we want to be happy, to be successful.

When we become attached to that form (living in New York) or state of being (happy/successful), we become rigid in our expectations and we interpret what happens to us along the way as either responding to our desire or getting in the way. Many of us view life as ups and downs, interpreting the ups as good and the downs as bad. Some of us even interpret the ups as telling us we are good and the downs telling us we are bad or doing something wrong.

We chart our progress like a stock graph. If the line is constantly going up, we are doing well. If it dips or crashes, we are off our path or we did something wrong, bad, stupid. We say things like, “I feel like I’m taking two steps forward and one step back.”

interesting image

I wrote a bit about this in the post on momentum. Sometimes, an apparent slowdown or obstacle is all part of the momentum, at a different pace and for an essential reason.

Sometimes, though, a slowdown or reversal in momentum occurs because we have become too rigid in our expectation of form. If we are aware of the function of the form, we can be more open to possibility, options, and perhaps even discover that what we think we want, is not actually what we want and we are chasing a phantom. Chasing a phantom or someone else’s notion of what we should do, be and want can easily contribute to procrastination, because our heart is not in it.

So, what do I mean form and function?

The form is what we call something or an identity: to be a ballet dancer, to have a mansion on horse property in Kentucky.

The function is the why of it, what it gives us, or what we hope it will bring us. For example the form might be happiness or success. The function is what we think happiness or success will provide us.

It’s important to explore the function (why we want what we want) for several reasons.

First, it can reveal to us what is driving the desire. Is it heart, soul, passion driven? Is it for the sake of revenge or to prove something to others, to earn something from them, like their approval and love?

Second it can reveal to us that more than one form will serve the function. That can be a very freeing discovery as we now have options.

Third, the form is often a metaphor. I remember years ago, during the process of going through The Artists’ Way by Julia Cameron and making lists of what I wanted. I always included “sculpting” on my list. (I’ve never sculpted, outside of making a clay squirrel in 8th grade art class or throwing a few pots in college.) Yet, I wasn’t moved to pursue sculpting literally.

It was always mysterious to me why “sculpting” appeared on my list until I realized it was a metaphor. It was a metaphor for creating something where nothing had existed before. Giving shape to something that did not previously have that shape.
So, the function may also be found by exploring the form as metaphor.

Here’s an exercise to help you explore the function of something you want, to help you reveal to yourself why you want it and what options might be available.

You will need a piece of paper and something to write with (or your computer). We will follow a line of repetitive questioning.

At the top of a piece of paper, write what you want (the goal, the identity, the state of being, the form).

Then write: Why do I want that?

Write your answer to the question. One sentence or two should do it.

Then write: Why do I want that (referring to the answer to the first question)

Write your answer, again in brief.

Again write: And why do I want that? (referring now, to your second answer)

Continue this series of questions and answers until you stall out. You may hit gold or you may need to persevere through some discomfort, thinking you don’t have an answer when you do. Your gatekeeper, the part of you that is afraid of change, will try to confuse you. Keep digging. You may also need to do several different rounds and look for answers you are hiding from yourself.

What does your final answer reveal to you about the function of the form you desire?

Here are some possibilities based on results my clients have experienced:

(1) Your final answer may reveal a hole in you that wants filling, a feeling you are lacking something that you hope to get from the outer world such as: approval, love, recognition, etc. If this is the case, it will be important for you to realize that no form can guarantee to fill that hole. That is an inside job. You may be in pursuit of something in the wrong place. It may work for a while, but until you address it inwardly and open up to approving of, loving and recognizing yourself, anything you get from an outside form won’t stick.

(2) Your final answer may reveal a need that requires your attention before you can (or at least while you are) exploring the more cherished desires. If you need food, you best take care of getting food, because saving the world, serving others or writing the great American novel is less likely to happen if you are starving. Day jobs are not all that bad if they contribute to your greater dream by helping you with a solid foundation. Just be sure to have it serve your dream and your energy rather than distract from it.

A stressful full-time job that uses up all your energy reserves and barely pays the rent may not be the best solution. You might be able pursue your dream while bringing in the rent by working at a job that does not require all your time and energy. Or you could work long hours at a job you plan to leave in a year or two that allows you to stash a lot of cash to pay future rent while you pursue that passion.

(3) Your final answer may reveal you are on track while opening the gateways for exploration of a number of forms that may serve that function. You then can be more flexible and open to opportunities and possibilities to which you might previously have been oblivious. Being attached to a specific form is like wearing blinders.

Here are some examples:

What do you want?

I want to be a photographer

Why do you want that?

Because I want to take beautiful photos and sell them on the internet.

Why do you want that?

Because I want to do something I love and make money doing it.

Why do you want that?

Because I want to work for myself and don’t want to work for somebody else, being indoors all day, having to commute with traffic.

Why do you want that?

Because I want to be free to make my own decisions about how I spend my time and I want to spend my time doing things I love. I want to be outdoors in nature, exploring beauty and capturing it with my camera.

You can see from this beginning that there is any number of ways one might respond to the question at each step along the way. You can also see that we can probably take this string further. And, if we stop here, what does this string reveal to us about the difference between form and function?

In this example, the form is “to be a photographer (who sells photos on the internet)”

This person’s responses revealed some values: exploring, outdoors, nature, beauty, freedom, and it leaves the inquirer with options for other ways to create income that are in alignment with their values and serve the same function; botanist, gardener/landscaper, painter to name a few.

In this case, discovering and opening up to options might be especially important if the wannabe photographer has not considered that a large percentage of his workday will be hours of sitting at a computer working with Photoshop or learning to market his wares and drive traffic to his website.

When our values are in alignment with our goals and actions; when the function the form is serving speaks to our heart and soul, and is energized by our passion, then our motivation contributes to, rather than steals from our momentum.

Let’s look another example:

What do you want?

I want to be a rock star

Why do you want that?

Because it is totally cool. People admire you and you make tons of money

Why do you want that?

Because I want be free and I want to feel loved and have people around me all the time.

Why do you want that?

Because I feel totally trapped in the mundane and I am always so lonely

This is an example of someone hoping to fill a big hole in their current state of being with a form: Rock Star. What are the odds this form strategy will fulfill the true function beyond a superficial level? They can still pursue becoming a rock star. They can still be a musician. And taking care of their need to feel special, loved, belonging within, through their own personal and spiritual development, will serve them in a way being a rock star never could.

So go ahead, try the question series and see what you want and why you want it. No one is looking over your shoulder. Go for it! Maybe you will discover something that has you realize why you can’t seem to sustain momentum with your career, dreams, relationships or projects.

copyright© October 2015, Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved
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