A friend and I had a wonderful conversation the other night about achieving. About whether you are someone who sets a goal and then goes for it, or whether what really gets your moving is avoiding the consequences of not doing it.
It’s a tricky one to figure out. But when I think about how I plan my days, sadly, it’s often the latter. It’s not “I want a beautiful garden so I will plan to work on the garden daily and revel in the results.” It’s “Damn it, I can’t bear to have people come over and see my weeds!”
This can be applied to wide areas of my life, I see now. There are many things I do for pleasure, obviously. If I name “likes” right off the top of my head, they seem to fall into more passive activities like books, movies, talking with friends.
Activities that require action, motivation, planning, from hiking to housekeeping to job hunting, are driven by a vague, angry disturbance that I can’t quite put my finger on. Like I’ve poked awake a crabby creature deep inside, a being that tries to shrug me off so it can go back to sleep.
It’s a puzzle because I really do love gardening, hiking, writing, parenting. Right now, I am alternating writing this blog with fixing the drip irrigation (damn that puppy!) and moving plants around. But I can find a part of me that, if no one was coming over and my body wouldn’t fall apart, that would let the garden go and would never exercise again. And that part often has a lot to say in how I feel day to day.
I’ve read all kinds of things about motivation, and know that many people settle for the satisfaction of having done it — just pushing themselves through the undesirable task by focusing on how they’ll feel after. It’s true that I love having written something good, eating a good meal I’ve cooked, seeing a healthy bank account. Here’s an inspiring post by blogger Justine Musk about how she has gotten herself to stop smoking and start exercising.
I just wonder if there’s a way to reset the inner process to make my day-to-day a little happier, to enjoy personal achievement more. Because when the consequence is avoided, there’s a sense of relief, I’ve noticed, perhaps a smile, but not a broad sense of contentment. Not much delight at what’s been done. Not enough to do it differently next time.
I suspect shifting this is a lot like good breathing. If I take the time to breath deeply when I wake up, exercise, or work throughout the day, I feel better, more alert, less interested in sweets, caffeine and dozing off. Mind-bogglingly simple, breathing well is a system that came free and pre-installed to the body. But when I’m rushed and feeling shabby, cookies really seem like they’ll do the trick.
So, I’ve experimented enough with cookies, now it’s time to rededicate myself to more experiment with things like slowing down, noticing when I feel stressed, “forcing” myself to enjoy good results. Phooey. I did so love the cookies.
This post is part of a series of posts on trust, based on the 21-Day Salutes originated by blogger Colleen Wainwright. The intention is to write daily to help shift a habit. Originally, she had been told that it takes 21 days of new behavior to change a habit. She has since found out that it is apparently takes much longer. Oh well….