Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Mike Bundrant of iNLP.
“Do it, Mike! Just do it! Stop your whining and get off your butt!”
This is how I used to motivate myself. I carried around an inner high school football coach to bark at me whenever he thought I was slacking. The problem was, I constantly stressed myself out. Worse, half the time I “rebelled” against this inner dictator and became passive aggressive toward my own goals. How’s that for nutty?
Actually, this is a common pattern. A “dictator” style of motivation has an undermining effect in the long run. Most people don’t like to be ordered around. In the workplace it leads to low morale and a low productivity, high-turnover workforce. Dictator-style parents tend to divide families and create harsh rivalries in the home. Ordering yourself around leads to the number one killer of personal development goals: self-sabotage.
Think about it. To your mind and body, a harsh, loud voice ordering you around is jarring, regardless of the source. You respond with stress and resistance whether from an outsider imposing his will or you imposing your will upon yourself. In the end, your brain experiences the commands in a similar fashion. Your mind places a lot less emphasis on the origin of an experience than you may think. All of us can make our mouths water just by imagining a delectable dessert. We’ve all reacted with fear to inner thoughts that had no basis in external reality. Ordering yourself around is being ordered around, period. Chances are, you don’t like it and will shut down, refusing to take any action at all.
The stress and resistance of dictatorial self-motivation is an expressway to self-sabotage. “I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do!” is the common response to inappropriate commands, even when those commands are self-generated. It’s a perfect set up.
A New Way
Zen Motivation changes all this. The need to bark orders and force yourself to do things doesn’t even arise in a Zen motivation state. Motivating yourself to do things, even unpleasant things, is a normal part of living and comes quite naturally when in a more Zen-like state, connected to the present moment. Do this exercise and see what I mean.
1. Consider one thing that you need to motivate yourself to do, such as exercise, pull weeds, meet with a difficult colleague, and so forth. If you can, write down the name of the task in the middle of a piece of paper (if you have a pen and paper).
2. Become aware how you would typically motivate yourself to do this and write down (if you can) the thoughts and feelings that come next. For example, “Get it done!” or “Let’s move!” or “I just have to get this done!” or “Come on, Mike!” or (feelings, too) “Tension in chest and shoulders.” Write freely for a minute or so and don’t censor yourself.
3. Just clear your mind for a few moments. Shake it off.
4. Forget everything and enter a more present, grounded state by tuning into a mundane sound, such as the sound of distant traffic, the hum of your computer (or the white noise of a fan, refrigerator, running water, etc…). Don’t do anything else or try to relax – just tune into the sound. Keep listening for a minute or more, until you feel settled.
5. When you feel more settled, reconsider the task you need to get done. Write it down on a clean sheet of paper and notice the thoughts and feelings that come to your mind and body. Do you notice the difference? In this more calm state, what words can you choose to gently motivate yourself? How much easier is it to avoid ordering yourself around while you are feeling more settled and connected to the outside world?
For managers, the key to motivating employees rests with the quality of the relationship – how well do they treat their employees? Likewise, the key to motivating yourself is correlated with how well you treat yourself. Zen motivation allows you to motivate yourself from a more grounded, connected state. When you do, your tendency to order yourself around will vanish and your productivity will increase. Best of all, you’ll be respecting yourself more.
Image courtesy of phoeric.