We’re all wired differently, right? Yet, so often people expect others will react with happiness, anger, curiosity or sympathy to the same things that provoke those feelings in us. This is true when it comes to motivation, and it’s easy to forget. When it comes to keeping ourselves motivated, it can be especially important to remember that different things drive us.
Several months ago, I confided to my boyfriend something I wanted to accomplish professionally. I described my desire to conduct a special kind of personal development workshop aimed and self-empowerment and increasing life satisfaction. My partner is an IT professional, and I understand when I speak in touchy-feely language, I will often lose him. Still I thought, he could appreciate goal-setting and would be interested to hear what actions I planned to take to accomplish this goal.
Not only was he concerned with how difficult what I wanted to accomplish would be, he confessed he didn’t see how I could succeed. He made matters worse as he attempted to make things better, by telling me that if it turned out I was successful, I could always tell him, “I told you so.”
I was crushed. He had problems understanding my reaction.
He reacted as he did, I understood, because he projected his own limitations. He could not imagine himself creating such a program and selling its benefits to people he didn’t have a prior relationship with. His remark, that I could chide him with a chorus of “I told you so” if I was successful, a comment made to motivate me, had the opposite effect,
We both forgot how differently we are wired.
He played tennis competitively as he was growing up. He faced a lot of challenges on his way to collecting some all-state trophies. He operated under the shadows of an older brother who also excelled at the sport, and he was short. (As an adult, he maxed out at 5’5”.) For him, when someone told him he couldn’t do something, he felt a surge of competitive energy. He always liked to use the skepticism of others as motivation for pumping up his own performance.
Me, on the other hand, when I hear someone, especially someone I love, tell me that I can’t do something, I’m devastated. I think, Well, they’re probably right. After all they know me. They don’t want me to be disappointed. A comment that might motivate my boyfriend makes me lose my motivation to try, and I can find myself swimming in self-doubt.
I have tried to learn from this experience.
Beware of Naysayers
It’s always good to remember that people will often shake their head around a new idea that has not already been commercialized (i.e., made into an app). Some people simply don’t trust their own capacity to be creative. Or maybe, the criticism you’ve received reflected other people’s habits of not following through on their ideas. In these cases, it may not be hard to recognize these comments are about them and not you and should not deter you in your plans.
It may be especially hard to field discouraging words from your closest friends and family. Here, they may not only be projecting their own perceived limitations, they may be very interested in keeping their relationship with you the same as it has always been. They may recognize that you could change if — when — your new goals are realized.
Don’t let them have power over you. It’s a natural preoccupation; being afraid of change. But change happens all the time. People can learn to adapt. The people who really love you can learn how to handle your success.
What’s your C-S quotitent?
A key for being in control of your own motivation involves understanding your C-S quotient? Do you feel energized when challenged? Or, do you thrive when you feel supported?
My partner and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum here. It’s important for both of us to spend some time among people who have the same motivation style.
Since my partner likes to be challenged, he needs to spend time with people he can compete with like golf and tennis buddies. He has to be willing to lose (because his playmates are competitive types too) and he has to be able to move on to the next challenge. He needs to spend time watching people who are better than he is because that provides him with inspiration and instruction. People who like to be challenged usually evaluate their performance constantly by asking themselves “Am I getting better?” (After we go to a jazz club, I’ll hear my boyfriend practicing drums for days because seeing a master inspires him to stretch his repertoire.)
To keep my motivation, I need to spend time with people who are trying to concretize a new idea. (Maybe they’re starting an arts or community project or a new business.) They understand the steps involved and the feelings involved and can often help me make good connections. They are also likely not to laugh at someone else’s goals because they are making similar leaps. In this kind of company, true support can be found. You might also find you can have a positive impact in this kind of crowd. Maybe something in your situation will spark an idea or inspire a peer. While you may only be at the early stages of a project, knowing that someone else understands your idea’s potential and can be inspired by your efforts can go a long way.
What’s your C-S quotient?
Deborah Hawkins is a writer, market researcher, and workshop designer. She blogs on gratitude and mindfulness, NoSmallThing.net, and plans to publish Transform Your Life with an Attitude of Gratitude Writing Practice within the year.