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Archive for the ‘motivation’ Category

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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“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” ~ Rumi

In the previous post, I wrote about momentum. Momentum is about sustaining action (large and small) long enough that our project picks up a speed of its own and carries us along with it. We don’t feel like we have to push so much.

Motivation is about what gets us into (or out of) action in the first place. It speaks to a need or a desire that moves us. It can just as easily move us away from our target as toward it. Motivation can come from fear as well as love. It matters that our motivation be honest and in alignment with our more real self.

If we are motivated by fear, we may seek to avoid something. Even if we are motivated by a need to fill a sense of lack in ourselves (looking for love, recognition, a sense of belonging from an outside source), we may be trying to avoid the pain and emotion of feeling that sense of lack. In that case, we are afraid of our own emotions more than that from which we think we are running.

Feeling deeply our own emotions is one of the  first steps toward recognizing we are the authors of our lives and as such are the ones who create our feeling loved, recognized and belonging.

If we are motivated by love, we may seek to express a passion, to share skills and insights, to create something for ourselves, for others, for the sheer beauty or play of it.

interesting photo

Our motivation contributes to our momentum. It is important to explore our motivations because, to put it bluntly, if our motivation is to prove something to someone else or to get something from them, then our strategy may well backfire. Our energy reserves will be depleted and our momentum will lose steam.

If you are procrastinating around something that makes your heart sing, you are more than likely avoiding vulnerability. It is vulnerable to allow yourself to be seen in your awkward exploration, grand adventure, playful innocence, sheer majesty.

If you are procrastinating around something that you think you should do, but it doesn’t really float your boat, then look deeply into your motivation. Is this your agenda or someone else’s? How in alignment with your values and desires for your life is it really? What do you expect to achieve or get for this? If you say yes to this, to what are you saying no? What are you avoiding by focusing on this instead of what you really want? Do you need to delegate or ask for help?

Let’s play with “motivation” as both a process/conditions question and one of goals/outcomes (motive).

As a process/conditions question, we are addressing how we can move ourselves into action, build and sustain momentum.

Some responses might be to:

• Build a habit or routine
• Plant a seed the night before to facilitate more automatic action the next day
• Make a game of it
• Have an accountability buddy
• Create a ritual around it
• Work with others
• Go on a working retreat
• A clean office
• Setting a timer
• Play music while doing the work

What processes/conditions motivate you? Are you putting them into place?

As a goal/outcome (motive) question, we are addressing why we want to do what we say we want to do. What we hope to get from it. It may also be a question of why we are avoiding what we say we want to do. Again whose agenda is it? Is it a should a have to a must or a desire? Is it for short term gratification or long term satisfaction?

Here’s an exercise to help you tease out whose agenda you are following (or chasing).

What do you want?

Take a moment or two to write down your answer to that question. Write at least 10 things you want and include the thing you are procrastinating around that you think or know you want.

Some of your wants may be simple, like a new washing machine. Some may be more complex like to have a child or change careers. An avoidance want might be, to get out of my marriage or get away from this town. (You aren’t sure what you want, but you know what you don’t want. If you have to start there, then do.)

What do you really want?

Take time to write down the answer(s) to that question, however it shows up for you.

If your first answer was more of a “don’t want” avoidance item, then write what you want instead of that. For example, I want to get away from this town might now become I want to live in the country or I want to live where the weather is more temperate.

For some people, it will be further clarity around their original answer, like a front-loading, red washing machine or a career in which I can telecommute.

For others, the answer(s) may be entirely different. The first wants become replaced by something deeper, more heart-felt, more vulnerable. Perhaps it even feels risky to put it in writing or say it out loud.

Many of my new clients have difficulty with the question, “What do you want?” It is totally understandable. For the most part, we have been shut down over the years with admonishments about what we should and shouldn’t want, can and can’t have, need to accept, plan B’s and compromises.

We’ve also been told it is selfish to want what we want unless it is for someone else or “world peace.” We are subjected to the opinions and judgments of others about our desires and preferences. It is painful to want something we think we can’t have. So, over the years, we’ve learned to stuff it.

We bury our treasures so deep that finding them is a major archeological dig. So, don’t worry if you are having trouble with the question. Stay with it. You were designed to want what you want at a heart and soul level. Our life energy and time is too precious to waste on chasing after someone else’s (including our wounded ego’s) agenda.

Here is another fun and powerful way to open up to your heart’s true desire, which you may also interpret as your calling). I first heard this from my good friend Joette Tizzone. She says she may have adapted it from elsewhere. You’ve probably heard similar approaches. I am fond of this version.

The Bliss Question

Close your eyes.

You have everything you need to create the life of your dreams.

There are absolutely no obstacles.

You have the money you need.

You have the knowledge you need.

You are surrounded by helpers, and anything you don’t know or think you might need is happily supplied to you by others.

Everything is in harmony as you create your beautiful life.

Allow yourself to feel this….

Now, please describe it to me, in the present tense, such as I am ….

Where are you? ( I am …)

What are you doing? (I am …)

What is around you?

Who is with you?

What does it feel like? (I feel …)

Allow yourself to bask in the feeling.

Open your eyes.

If you take the time to do this with reverence for the spiritual human you are, you will have begun to feed energy to a future that motivates you into creative action and comes back to you as a river moving through you.

Do not worry for now about the how. The how is always revealed as needed.

As Joseph Campbell said:

If what you are following, however, is your own true adventure, if it is something appropriate to your deep spiritual need or readiness, then magical guides will appear to help you. If you say, ‘Everyone’s going on this trip this year, and I’m going too,’ the no guides will appear. Your adventure has to be coming right out of your own interior…You must have courage. It’s the call to adventure, which means there is no security, no rules.*

So, dear reader:  What do you want? What motivates you?

The next post in this series will help you make a distinction between the form and the function of what you want which will help you go further with understanding the why.

If you would like to uncover the buried treasure of your true calling, begin your grand adventure and could use an ally along the way, contact me and we can talk about how coaching might be your best investment in your self.

copyright © October 2015 Kathy J Loh, All Rights Reserved

*Joseph Campbell in A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.

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