Have you ever felt like life is thrust upon you sometimes? If it weren't for life, you'd be this great awesome, perfect testament to humankind! Right?!
But life gets in the way....
"Some are born great, others achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them"
The other night I was watching a movie called Night at The Museum with my kids. One character, played by Ben Stiller, is a night guard at a very "lively" museum. He's this type of guy with greatness on his mind. Before begrudgingly taking on a night guard position, he was a wannabe entrepreneur and inventor.
Life had other plans.
Along comes a talking wax replica of Theodore Roosevelt played by Robin Williams. He sees this man's tendency to run from problems- the most immediate one being pissed on by a stuffed monkey in the museum...
Teddy Roosevelt wisely proclaims; "Some people are born great, others have greatness thrust upon them".
And I thought, maybe there's a Ben Stiller night guard in all of us. Looking for our greatness in great things, but hey, it could very well resemble a monkey peeing on us.
Change is rarely noticed as an “Aha!” moment.
We can have several aha! moments, but never actually change as a result.
When it comes to positive change, it is unlikely you will experience some kind of eureka or euphoric experience without some grunt work or the full-force thrust of life upon us.
Change is more often something that happens without us really noticing; when we're not given the tools, but rather given the experience.
The process of ideal or desirable change is never as glamorous as we might imagine so we abandon it before it has a chance to transform us...before we ACHIEVE GREATNESS.
On the other hand, the fortunate few can go many years believing they have grabbed life by the horns, but the reality of personal growth looks like a river of unfortunate circumstances.
Your idea of greatness may not be doused in monkey urine, but greatness is essentially growth. And growth isn't a realm of enchantment. Growth can literally be one undesirable thing occurring to help you deal with the next one. This still classifies as growth.
The good news? We always have opportunities for growth!
We can take our own opportunities, and be equipped to handle what life hands us.
The real Teddy Roosevelt began life as a sickly child afflicted with asthma and a weak body. As he got older, he decided that he would "make his body." He got involved in gymnastics, boxing, weightlifting, and bear hunting. He made up his mind to develop himself, and even so he was thrust into precarious events; when his mother and wife died within hours of each other.
Nobody asks for the greatness that disguises itself as difficulties. But this is the greatness that grows us!
Roosevelt was a lifelong champion of the "strenuous life," from pioneering to becoming the youngest president, by default (greatness being thrust upon him).
My "moment" of greatness began with a chronic illness thrust upon me. Eventually, it led me to rearrange my life so that my demanding career didn't kill me first, and I could spend more time at home being a mommy (ironically, getting peed on).
Mommy (and part-time writer) is hardly the picture of greatness for many people, but easily the greatest thing to happen to me.
Recognize the opportunities that are not dressed up in pretty packages.
The original quote I began this post with was preceded by one more line: "Be not afraid of greatness."
Why would we fear greatness? Because we walk away from the difficult monkey moments with a piss-poor attitude instead of recognizing a prime opportunity for growth and change.
Are you motivated by pleasure or pain?
Motivation is a pain in the derrière.
The truth is I'm not motivated by fanciful dreams of myself on eight vacations a year in the tropics, a new sports car, or cash at my disposal for liposuction on my problem areas. That all sounds nice, but obviously I'm pretty comfy as I am. But the instant I realize I'm late for an appointment, my ass is in gear.
Notice the picture of the shoe above. I know a lot of women motivated by acquiring shoes like this. But seriously, we all KNOW they are a PAIN. That's not me. This obvious pain in the shoe motivates them to acquire something they really want. An image they want to portray (which is fine- no judgment here).
However, this picture makes me motivated to work from home in slippers. I'd rather suffer the self-discipline of my own crazy schedule and deadlines amongst my kids and 8 pets. I would do almost anything to avoid working a typical 9-5, commuting to work, or wearing high heels on a daily basis ever again.
Currently I have three clients who want to improve their lives. We're in the consulting phase. The first thing I have to assume about any individual is that most people are motivated by both pleasure and pain, somewhere in the grey area.
Not that we're all asses, but a donkey is both motivated by a carrot dangling in front of him or a swat with a stick from behind.
Indeed, "pain" is a powerful motivator. For pain to be motivating though, it has to be more uncomfortable than say our ritualistic negative thoughts that sweep through our brain for no apparent reason. It has to be the pain of going to the gym to see positive results. Getting up a little earlier to "catch the worm". We have to accept pain as part of the process.
You have to choose the pain, or the price to pay, to get what we want.
If "pleasure" predominantly motivated us, we'd see nearly everyone's life match their dreams and goals effortlessly. Pleasure motivates moments, but when we're talking long-term, real change, something substantial and meaningful to us, pain is involved.
For quick reference, here is pain motivation in a nutshell:
Pleasurable motivation is much easier to give credit to. People assume positivity is at the root of accomplishing goals. This is not true. Positivity is certainly toted as a cure-all. Happy quotes run down our social feeds like an enthusiastic waterfall. Most of the time, they keep us comfortable. With this barrage of pleasurable feedback, we stay stuck.
We all need a healthy dose of reality every now and then.
You can be happy and stuck too. The world is changing. You are changing. What makes you happy today will not be true tomorrow. What makes you happy in the short-term, does not lead to long-term joy.
Motivation is a push-pull effort; being pushed by pain (away from your problems and out of your comfort zone) and being led by pleasure (your dreams/goals)
People lack motivation because everyone around them supports their beliefs and scripts-whether its pity or putting them on a pedestal. Very rarely do we subject ourselves to a painful truth...let alone using that to motivate us.
Someone could be committing career or relationship suicide and everyone would be inadvertently cheering on the sidelines, encouraging the wrong behavior because they want to appear "supportive".
(Takes me back to being the only one of my friends that did not support our friend driving by her ex's house to see what he was doing. Never drive by your ex's house!)
Negative motivation is being practiced, in conjunction with other methods, by many personal development coaches, beginning with the notion that everyone has room for improvement. Minus derogatory personal attacks, they are using the rigorous truth to help people make a positive change in their lives.
Of course I like this idea, because I've seen and help implement change in people's lives using these tactics. Get real. Get better.
Choose your potion or poison (Pleasure or pain? Hint: don't go for the obvious answer).
The next time you're torn between pleasure and pain as a way of getting into motivation-mode... think of a fork in the road. Pleasure on one side, pain on the other. You are in the middle, standing in that grey area.
Facing the mouth of this fork just before it splits off into two different paths, you look
ahead at the two paths spread out before you. One is who you want to be (think of what that ideal incorporates) and the other is all things you do not want to be (think of the unpleasantness of what exactly you don't want).
You will likely choose the path to your best self, not only because you want those desirable things that one path offers, but because you also want to avoid that path that leads to more pain and unwanted things in your life. We are a mix of both!
Run out and get a psychology degree! ASAP! Ok, you can't...too expensive, not enough time, or you don't want to...so I'll save you the time and headache and explain what I learned that I didn't necessarily bargain for (we'll get to that in a moment). Let's just say, I am really careful about what I feed my brain now.
My mom is an avid Fox News watcher. I'm not- I have seen it once or twice. That may be disappointing to whichever side you pledge your allegiance to (besides the point: to be fair ALL news stations need to change their delivery of information to get my time. I prefer info in thoughtfully, written form so I can research and digest it).
I'm used to my mom talking to me in "Fox-news speak", but just this last week after her stint in the hospital, she blurted out an original nugget of insight; "I think people are more concerned about who the world thinks they are than who they really are." BINGO. I agree (if you listen long enough to somebody, you can find something you agree on).
People want to portray themselves to the world as a "good" person (that's not rocket science, but it is psychology). Psychology studies should've come with a warning label: "You can't handle the truth".
There's a thing in psychology called the actor-observer bias (you're bad, I'm good) and it basically says that we're all a**holes.
It's nothing like going to war, but you will never be the same after learning who all of us really are (something war veterans get a heaping dose of).
Time-tested studies undeniably pinpoint who we are as a people (it's not puppies and rainbows). But of course, YOU are a good person, while everyone else is subject for debate.
(Approximately 85% of people are, and react, very similarly on any given study or test. You couldn't guess that with the current divided country...and world.)
Don't ever be too certain of yourself.
Can we all agree the brain is tricky terrain and an unreliable source of who you are? Do not take yourself too seriously, right?!
You might believe yourself to be compassionate, but science states it is practically impossible to be truly compassionate for all of humankind, and even so, internalizing the suffering and experiences of others would lead to extreme emotional burnout...look what happened to Jesus!
The thought that we are not as compassionate as we think threatens the perception of ourselves or that we could be good people, but unknowingly racist for example- that can be very uncomfortable. I've experienced tests where people are flabbergasted at their results- it wasn't cohesive with who they thought they were.
The less "desirable" facets of ourselves serve as a reminder that we should not get too attached to who we think we are or who we portray ourselves to be. Unfortunately, our common threads aren't pretty- they're human. Instead of embracing that truth toward connectedness, realizing we're not all that and a bowl of grits, we try to prove how we are the good guy. We can't see who we are as natural functioning humans (the traits that bind us). Try to point it out, and people refuse to see or get very upset (yes, I try to do this).
When we choose not to see (we don't have to show) all our less desirable parts then we fool ourselves into thinking it's everyone else who has problems in their behavior or thinking. Most of those facets are things we all struggle with.
We rarely take a walk into that kind of unknown. If we did, it would resemble Alice in Wonderland.
The following exchange between Alice and the caterpillar, makes a great argument for our inability to grasp the idea of who we are:
'Who are you?' said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, 'I — I hardly know, sir, just at present — at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.'
'What do you mean by that?' said the Caterpillar sternly. 'Explain yourself!'
'I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir' said Alice, 'because I'm not myself, you see.'
'I don't see,' said the Caterpillar.
'I'm afraid I can't put it more clearly,' Alice replied very politely, 'for I can't understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different ways in a day is very confusing.'
'It isn't,' said the Caterpillar.
'Well, perhaps you haven't found it so yet,' said Alice; 'but when you have to turn into a chrysalis — you will some day understand, and then after that into a butterfly, I should think you'll feel it a little queer, won't you?'
'Not a bit,' said the Caterpillar.
'Well, perhaps your feelings may be different,' said Alice; 'all I know is, it would feel very queer to me.'
'You!' said the Caterpillar contemptuously. 'Who are you?'
And now I ask you, are you closer to who you are or further? How would you answer the caterpillar's question?
Like Alice came to find, what you see is not as it seems- don't distress like she did. In this scene, Alice stomped off quite perturbed at the caterpillar for pointing out she is not who she thinks she is.
Knowing ourselves is less about who we think we are (and proving that "identity" to the world), and more about accepting what a caterpillar must- there are as many facets to ourselves as there are stages before becoming a butterfly.
By "something"...I mean God.
I'm passionate about no-nonsense self-improvement. Too many of us are plagued by faulty thought patterns- I aim to change that!