Posts Tagged ‘values’

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.”

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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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