Recently, I have been trying to write my first online training program. I have spent a lot of time thinking about who my audience is for the program, what I would like people to get out of the program and what I would like to include in the program. It is now time to write the content and, I am struggling to bring myself to do it. I just don’t feel the desire to sit down for a block of time and get it done.
By pure coincidence, it was suggested by gsnprog in a comment to a Talkback Tuesday Post that a post about motivation might be useful. And so, this post is an exploration of motivation. This reflection has resulted in much learning for me, and I am incredibly grateful for the original suggestion – thank you!
As I pondered motivation, the first question that came to mind was around how society interprets motivation. For this, I referred to the online Oxford English Dictionary. The first definition that was provided was as follows:
- Reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way. ‘escape can be a strong motivation for travel’
As I read this, I asked myself why I was trying to write the online training program. This is what I wrote:
Developing a successful business that makes a difference in the lives of others is my motivation for wanting to write an online training program.
After writing this down, I referred again to the dictionary definition of motivation: Reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way. It then dawned on me that my reason appeared to be “Developing a successful business that makes a difference”, yet the specific action that I had linked to that reason was “wanting to write an online training program”. I was motivated to want to take a particular action; I was not motivated to take the action. This felt like a significant piece of learning, and it was at this point that I started to become quite curious about my way of being.
What was it within my way of being that had me not taking action?
I visualised what was happening for me when I sat down to write the online program, and started to reflect on this experience.
What is going on in language? What am I saying to myself about writing this program? The first thought that came to mind was that I didn’t know how to write an online program. I didn’t know how to break the course down, or how long it would be. I didn’t even know if my interpretations would make sense! All of the language associated with my experience of writing this program, whether spoken out loud or as thoughts inside my head, was centred in doubt. It occurred to me as I reflected on this that, by not focusing on actually writing the course, I was protecting myself from the possibility of failing.
What is going on in my emotional spaces? As I reflected on the moods that were present for me, it occurred to me that I was experiencing both anxiety and resignation. Writing this program was new and uncertain for me. I was opposing the uncertainty. At the same time, I think I could see some massive possibility, and yet I was also opposing that. I assessed that this was leading to anxiety and resignation.
What is going on in my body? What I noticed almost immediately was a tenseness across the back of my shoulders. I also noticed a sensation under my rib cage; one of those “yucky” emotional feelings. As I sat with this, I assessed that it was probably self judgement and anxiety taking hold within my body.
Deanne, imagine that you are feeling motivated to write your training program, what would that feel like?
At this stage, I visualised myself sitting at my laptop, outlining my course.
What is going on in language? What am I saying to myself about writing this program? As I sat there, I was saying “I can do this!” and “I wonder what I will create?” I was telling myself that my course was going to change lives. I was telling myself that it was going to be amazing.
What is going on in my emotional spaces? During my visualisation, the predominant mood that I could feel was wonder; I was in wonder about what I would create. There was also peace; I was at peace with the process and what it may bring. I could also feel some enthusiasm and excitement about making this happen. Mostly, however, there was largely wonder, closely followed by peace.
What is going on in my body? As I sat in a space of wonder and peace, I noticed that the tenseness throughout my shoulders was no longer there. My body felt softer and lighter. My shoulders were lifted and back more, and my torso was open. The yucky feeling under my rib cage had gone. My body felt ready to create.
OK, Deanne, what is missing in order for you to move from the first way of being to the second way of being?
What really felt missing for me was the sense of peace and wonder. When they felt present, I felt as though I could create this online program. In my old way of being, I felt as though I was an IT person trying to write an online program. In my new way of being, I felt as though I was an online course creator; a creator of possibilities. I chose this as my declaration: I am a creator of possibilities. This felt powerful and amazing and as I made the declaration from my new wonder-focused body, I felt motivated to achieve my goal. The actions that I chose to take were to shift my language to language more centred in wonder and creativity, and to shift my mood and body as per my visualisation. I made a commitment that I would say my declaration out loud every day for the next month.
From this experience, I formed the assessment that motivation comes from our way of being. If our way of being does not allow us to be motivated, then we won’t feel motivated. Further to this, I also decided that motivation in itself is an assessment. If I say that something is motivating me, or that I have No/some/a lot of motivation, then that is an opinion. There is no standard by which we can actually evaluate that someone does or does not have motivation. Because it is an assessment (or an opinion) we can shift that assessment; we don’t have to remain unmotivated. Similarly, we may also shift our assessment such that we are no longer motivated.
For me, the key in this was determining what I had assessed that I was motivated to do (or not do). From there, I felt as though I was well equipped to explore the way of being that surrounded my assessments about motivation.
When I first checked the dictionary, there was also a second part to the dictionary definition:
1a. (Mass noun) Desire or willingness to do something; enthusiasm.‘keep staff up to date and maintain interest and motivation’
I found this quite interesting, because it appeared to be more about how we motivate others. What occurred to me as I reflected on this is that, as someone trying to motivate others, what way of being is going to work for me? In addition to that, what impact will the way of being of others have on my ability to motivate them? In my example above, it became obvious that my way of being did not support motivation.
When we are trying to motivate others, how can we account for different ways of being?
If I am trying to motivate someone else, all that I can change is my own way of being. From my way of being, I can try to understand and speak to what is important to that individual. I can also understand that they are operating from their own emotional spaces, and I can be compassionate about that. I can hold them as legitimate, understanding that although I may not agree with their response to my attempts to motivate them, their level of motivation is going to be a result of their way of being at the time. This then led me to the assessment that, for someone who is attempting to motivate the whole team, the process can become quite complex because there are then multiple ways of being involved, each coming from potentially different emotional space and with different things that may be important to them.
For me, this exploration was quite fascinating, especially when I reflected on motivating others. I have seen leaders try to motivate their staff in many different ways and often with the very best of intentions. What I think is often missing is consideration of the impact of the ways of being of those we are trying to motivate. When we are not aware of what may be going on for others, and not holding them as legitimate, I wonder what the potential is for our behaviours to result in them responding to our efforts by becoming less motivated? If this is all that their way of being allows, this might well be the case.
Note: I have provided my interpretations of the moods, language and body that are relevant to my experience of motivation. This will no doubt be different for everyone. For some people, for example, ambition may be more prominent. For me, I find wonder an amazing space from which to create. There is no right and wrong, and you are invited to reflect on what might be relevant to you.
Who am I?
I am a leadership and life coach, available for coaching and facilitation services. If you feel that it would be useful to have a conversation with me, please feel free to view my services on the Leading and Being website.