Friday, April 27, 2012

Motivation and Success

So often, we view success as something that happens to two types of people: the lucky people, and the motivated people.

What happens to those of us who don't fall into either category?  I'm not the most motivated person in the world. I make a good show of motivation for about two weeks, and then I lose interest in the attempted goal. Nor would I say I'm particularly lucky in the traditional meaning of the word (who really is?)

Have you ever met one of those people who can walk past a plate of brownies with out a second, wistful glance? Or that person who just seems to have the ability to work all day, and then take work home to finish over the weekend? I want to barf on those people. Seriously. If I ignore anything sweet, it is because there is a massive battle of will happening in my head at the moment.Working on the weekend (unless it is a few massages) makes me twitchy.

To be motivated, I have to be interested in something. If I am interested in being successful, I have to stay focused on that, right? What on earth is going to motivate me to focus on success?

I love running. It sounds weird, because if I had told me this two years ago, I probably would have looked at myself like I had donkey ears on top of my head. There was a point in time (and if I could distil this point into a specific moment and emotion, I would be the most popular running blogger ever) where I suddenly switched gears, started thinking of myself as a runner, and a little kernel of running love blossomed.

Sometimes when I'm running, I don't love running. Sometimes, I run just to burn some calories. I am always satisfied with a run when I am done though. The best moments are the moments I hit my gear, and I click along, cruising like it is nothing.

I'm getting to my point, I promise. Running takes practice. I've devoted a lot of miles to running (just check out my runkeeper profile). I'm still a work in progress, and I'm never going to win a marathon, but I'm considering myself a successful runner at this point, because I do love it.

Success takes practice. We find the motivation by having the mental image of what our success looks like: what we want out of our lives, what we need to have in place in order to be successful, the people who support our success. I frequently find myself stuck in a pattern of thought that involves the words "have" and "not have". For example: "I have clients this week" or "I do not have clients this week". My motivation wanes and waxes with the "have/not" moments.

Instead of getting wrapped up in the demotivating "have/not" moments, I'm going to treat this success thing like I treat running: sometimes, you just have to slog it out, even it is just for a few miles. At some point, the picture of success is going to come into a sharp focus, and that is when I will be able to walk past a plate of brownies with out a second, wistful look.

This success thing, we are in it for the long haul. Peter said it best last night: "In five years, we are going to be wildly successful" and I replied with "I'm holding you to that, and if we aren't, I'm suing".


Friday, April 13, 2012

Resolution Who Knows What Number-2012: Count My Blessings (Everyone of them)

There is always a choice.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about it in Eat Pray Love: when crying and knowing something had to change, she made the choice to stand up and cry. A small choice, but it was a choice.

I'm writing about choices today because I'm reminding myself about them. I'm a little sad these days (sometimes a lot sad). Work is slow, and I'm feeling like my reserves are being taxed. This is a year with a lot of change, and as great as some of that change might ultimately be, it is still change.

I'm an advocate of feeling what you feel. I'm not one to say this feeling is legitimate, or that feeling is wrong. I believe a person feels what a person feels, and who am I to say one way or another about it? That  being said, I'm also not one to let myself stay down too long, and I'm not a great person to come to when you want to whine endlessly about something. At some point, I'm going to ask what continuing to bitch is doing for you. My next piece of unsolicited advice for said whiner: count your blessings. I'm a little predictable.

I'm pretty good about being grateful for things, but when I start to lose my normally cheery outlook, I stop looking for silver linings and get a little introverted. This isn't my favorite thing about myself, but I'm not perfect, and I should not expect myself to be (just ask the carbohydrates in this house how perfect I am. Wait. You can't. I ate them in an attempt to soothe my grumpiness yesterday).

I'm going to make a quick list of the things that bugged me this week, and I'm going to turn them into positive statements. This is a fun process. Trust me. Try it next time you need a boost.

1. I'm not working enough
     - This is a tough situation for me. I put a lot of stock in my ability to support myself, and I really hate not living up to my expectations. The turn around: my wrists have been sore this week, and it is a good thing they have had a break. I need time to rest, clean my house, and  get involved in some of my neglected hobbies. I had time to walk the dogs today. I had time to work on a picture frame I've had for months. My house is pretty darn clean. This has been a really good week, though I might end up a little broke next month... Does it really matter? Also, I need to try to focus on finding opportunities to share my skills and abilities with populations I love. I'm going to present to a grief support group next week. How cool is that?

2. I miss the hell out of my friends and family
     - Being in a new town sucks. I'm used to having a vibrant social network I see on a daily basis. The last time I felt lonely, I forced myself to start a new hobby (belly dance). I love Belly Dance. And I love that I'm going to class again on Sunday. Maybe I have more friends here than I think, and I just haven't seen them for a few weeks. I'm already feeling less lonely. This also motivates me to put together a spring gathering of people I love and want to see. Which means I have projects, and if I know me, I love a good project.

The short version: I have a lot to be grateful for, and I would do best by myself to remember it. Being juicy isn't about taking the easy way. Being juicy is about taking the way that gives you the most satisfaction. I'm way more satisfied when I'm grateful for what I have.

Now if you'll excuse me, I just realized there is chocolate bunny left in the house...


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hitting the Proverbial Wall

We all have a wall.

I remember one of my bosses at a far-distant job describing how he broke through his wall when running: he imagined bursting through a piece of drywall. I remember thinking it was dumb.No one was working that hard at that particular fitness facility.

Randy Pausch (Seriously. Go watch The Last Lecture) said walls are there to show us how badly we want something. This is a great idea, when you aren't actually hitting said wall. From the right side, that wall can look like drywall, and from the wrong side, that wall can look like brick. What  the hell is "wall" any way? I don't know any one who hasn't used the phrase, but for the sake of accuracy, let's dissect what it means to "hit a wall".

Walls can form in any part of our life. Right now, I'm hitting a happiness wall. I think it is related to my return from vacation, and the realization that my real life has a chronic, low-level state of worry. I've hit walls when running. I've hit walls in the world of work. Walls are those moments when one is thinking "This is where I can't do anything more, I've given everything I can, and I just can't seem to make it past this". In the moment, it feels like a legitimate point.

If Dr. Pausch was correct in positing that walls are placed in our way to make us prove how badly we want something, the question remains: what do we do to get around that obstacle? Some walls don't break because we visualize ourselves bursting through a board of drywall (and I cringe every time, but I do actually use this visualization when I'm running and feel like quitting).

I'm a big fan of back-up plans. When I mentored college students, I would make them think about Plans A, B, C, and D for any situation that required outside assistance. Bless our support systems for being there, but people have lives that don't revolve around our needs constantly. Knowing what is available if our primary plan doesn't work out helps relieve some of this stress.

Okay, back-up plans sound great in the cases of baby sitters and universities we apply to. What about those walls that permeate our whole beings? This happiness wall I'm experiencing right now, it is manifesting in almost every interaction I'm having. My brain is wrapped up in this questions of how am I going to make all the stuff I've started fit into my life in the next two years, and even worse, what if my efforts continue to be this fruitless. I am lucky that I am a naturally positive person, but week after week of wondering if I will be able to pay my bills and save enough money to pay taxes at the end of all of this is taking a toll on my reserves of positivity. As a result, I'm not acting like my normal warm and fuzzy self.

In my experience with these walls, there is usually one particular fear that keeps repeating itself. In my happiness case, I'm afraid of being a failure waiting to happen, and I am going to have to disappoint someone. I really dislike disappointing people. I get worked up when I get my schedule wrong (since it isn't in front of me), and I have to tell a client I messed up. At some point, we have to recognize the central fear. Sometimes, simply giving it a name can help us to hurtle the wall. I can't please everyone, right? So I'd better get over the idea that someone, somewhere, might be disappointed in one of my actions.

As for the chronic low-level stress that is also eating away at my happiness: I haven't yet figured out how to best it yet. I can't decide if I should find a summer job to add to my already eclectic mix of employment, or if I should wait and see what happens. It comes back to not wanting to disappoint any one. Four jobs, a house to keep up, and an ultra marathon to run this summer keep a girl running in fifteen different directions. For now, gentle reader, I will cross my fingers and hope for the best, and try to keep hope that the best is coming down the pipe.

Maybe it is time to start writing to some resolutions again? Next week, we'll get back on a more positive track.