Motivation

motivate copyI was asked this question while having a discussion with a friend about how she can’t seem to figure out what motivates her husband.  It made me think about not only what motivates me but also my immediate family.  My friend mentioned that being recognized for her efforts was a motivating factor for her.  I would say I am motivated when I am either doing something that is creative or challenges my brain, when I know I am doing something that will make a difference for someone else, or by the sense of completion of a task.  I seem to get great satisfaction out of being able to check something off my “to do” list, and that gets me through a lot of tasks.

Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone else in my family can say that.  I have one child who doesn’t seem to have the slightest desire to finish anything except maybe the book he has in his hand.  If I ask him to do something else, he always wants to finish what he is doing at that very moment first, such as the chapter he is reading or the level of the video game he is playing, but that’s it.  There are so many unfinished projects he has started all over the house, it’s not even funny.  I wish I could figure out what does motivate him, actually, since it seems like all I do is try to find ways to motivate him to get things done, even basic tasks like taking a shower.  My other two are a little more self-sufficient with getting their things done and are probably more motivated by a sense of accomplishment.  My husband seems to be motivated when he is working on something for work that is challenging his brain to solve a problem or come up with a new technique for something.  More menial tasks like making phone calls and straightening his workbench area – forget it.

The hardest things for me to find motivation for are things that involve overcoming the lack of will power, like when I am trying to lose weight.  It’s hard to find the motivation not to give in and eat something I shouldn’t or to just skip exercising.  I’ve tried many things like buying myself flowers every few pounds and leaving pictures of when I was thinner out as reminders, but it’s incredibly difficult to find anything that will overcome a lack of will power.  Finding motivation to change negative behaviors that are instinctive because we have been doing them for as long as we can remember is also very challenging.

Some people are motivated by money or gifts or being able to do something special as a reward, all of which are extrinsic or external motivators.  Other people like myself do better with intrinsic motivators such as feeling that sense of accomplishment and pride, knowing you reached a goal, or knowing you made a difference.  It’s easy to reward our kids with extrinsic motivators like paying them money for good grades, but I think that sets them up for needing extrinsic motivators the rest of their life.  If we don’t teach them about setting goals and feeling that sense of accomplishment, then I think we are doing them a disservice.  And I think that will only continue to get more difficult as we, as a society, seem to be increasingly more focused on how things look on the outside instead of how they make us feel on the inside.  How many decisions are being made nowadays based on how many likes or views something will get when it is recorded and posted on social media sites?  Too many, in my opinion.

The important thing is that we find some healthy way to be self-motivated because “motivation is the driving force between success and growth.”  So back to my original question…what motivates you?

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Expectations and Assumptions

If you think about it, our expectations and the assumptions we make have a huge impact on how we deal with and react to things.  I have a friend who expects people to do the wrong thing and to not follow through on things.  That way she is pleasantly surprised when someone gets something done or does do the right thing, whatever that may be.  I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and expect people will do the right thing but then are disappointed or frustrated when they don’t.  I’m not sure if it’s better to go through life being a pessimist or an optimist, but there are probably plusses and minuses to both.  Maybe somewhere in the middle would be the best choice?  I think your expectations affect how you carry yourself, how you interpret situations, how you speak to and treat other people, and ultimately how other people view you.

If you expect to not have a good time in an unfamiliar environment or around new people, you probably won’t.  If you expect that your kids are going to misbehave, then they probably will.  If you are a suspicious person who expects the worst in people, you will probably be snooping around looking for things that show signs of mistrust.  If you assume someone else is always trying to imply something negative no matter what they say, you are probably going to respond with sarcastic or snippy comments. Believe me, I am speaking from experience on these last two, having been on the receiving end of it.  Nothing is more frustrating than constantly feeling like I’m being accused of something that I am not doing.  I get tired of trying to convince others I didn’t do or say what they thought.  I wish all those negative assumptions weren’t there.

On the other hand, if you have a positive attitude and expectations and don’t make assumptions, then that is reflected in your body language and tone of voice, and other people will respond to you more positively.  And your kids just might behave because they are not sensing your negative expectations, or you might have a good time at a get-together because you appear more approachable.

I think letting kids know what your expectations are is the first of four things you need to do in order to teach them appropriate behavior.  Even saying things in a way that communicates your expectations is important.  For example, saying “You need to walk near the pool” is letting them know what you expect of them, whereas “Don’t run” leaves them with the thought of running in their heads.  Modeling whatever desired behavior is the second key element as well, as kids will more likely copy what you do and not what you say, unless they are one in the same.  The third thing is to catch them doing the expected behavior and praise or reward them for it.  Lastly, you need to respectfully point out when they are not, or possibly give them a consequence, depending on the behavior.

The bottom line is that we need to consciously think about our expectations and the assumptions we may be making.  It is always better to give people the benefit of the doubt and go into situations with positive expectations.  Easier said than done though, I know.  I am working on it.

Sometimes we create our own heartbreaks through expectation.

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Trust

trustThis is so very true.  And trust is such a huge component to any healthy relationship, whether it’s a family member, friend, or companion.  Lack of trust leads to suspicion of any number of things such as questioning someone’s loyalty, commitment, faithfulness, intentions, motivations, actions, and so on.  It can really drive a wedge between two people.

Some people are naturally suspicious and question the other person’s actions either because of their own prior experiences, beliefs, or insecurities.  For example, my husband does not believe that a guy and a girl can be friends without one or both of them being physically attracted to the other.  Even though I wasn’t giving him a reason to be suspicious, he automatically assumed there might be something going on between a particular guy friend of mine and me or at least that the interest was there, especially because it was someone I had a relationship with back in high school.  I understand the natural suspicion because of the history, but it never mattered what I said or did, we were assumed guilty and he would snoop through emails waiting and hoping to gather some information to catch us in the act of something that was never going to happen. He would always claim that it wasn’t me he didn’t trust but my friend, which I never believed.  I don’t think he ever really trusted me from the get-go because of whatever insecurities he had.  He has been suspicious of EVERY guy friend I have ever had whether I had a previous relationship with them or not.   So not only did the lack of trust itself play a major role in the demise of our relationship (technically we’re still married because of logistics but haven’t functioned like a married couple in many years), but all of his negative behaviors became worse when he was suspicious, which definitely pushed me away.

It’s funny though that when I was filling him in on a situation that our daughter was dealing with pertaining to another person, he was quick to say, “It’s like he doesn’t think a guy and a girl can be just friends,” as if anyone who thought otherwise was a moron.  So I don’t know if his views have changed or whether he sees things one way when it pertains to him and another when it doesn’t.  I just know that I don’t trust that he is not going to snoop through my things even at this point, and he probably still doesn’t trust me not because of anything I did or didn’t do.

Even in non-companion relationships, once a person has established a pattern of not being trusted, it is easy for someone else to make assumptions about that person that are negative.  My sons tend to sneak things like books out of another’s room, candy, food, time on the computer or other electronics, etc.  So when I hear the basement door open slowly, I am often quick to assume someone is trying to sneak computer time down there.  Or if I hear the pantry door open or see my one son disappear quickly up the stairs, I am quick to assume that he probably just snuck some food or a book from his brother or maybe has his DS tucked away in his bedroom when he shouldn’t, and then I react accordingly.  I am often right, but sometimes am wrong.  If the pattern of behavior hadn’t been established though, I wouldn’t make those assumptions.  I am not the only one in my immediate family who makes these assumptions either, as the rest of the family has seen the same patterns.  So it’s important to act in a way that is trustworthy if you want people to trust you, especially since some people naturally don’t want to trust others to begin with even without factoring in the other person’s behavior.  It’s also important to not be so quick to jump to conclusions and make assumptions, as I addressed in my last post titled “Jumping to Conclusions“.

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Jumping To Conclusions

How quickly many people tend to do this really bugs me sometimes, whether it’s in our everyday lives interacting with others around us or having to do with things we hear in the news or wherever else.

One recent example coming to mind from the news would be reading a headline about a local cop who supposedly fled the scene of a hit-and-run accident that took place in a parking garage.  The fact that the media is so quick to report stories with so little information and sometimes put their own spin on things is partly to blame, but with just the headline and basic information reported, it was natural to assume the officer purposely fled the scene for some reason.  His side of the story is that he hit a woman who he didn’t see because she had been walking out from behind a large pillar while he swerved to miss a car that suddenly turned in front of him, he got out and asked if she was OK and told her he was with the police and would help her after he parked his car, and then had to park a little ways away.  By the time he returned, she was gone.  That’s a completely different situation than what the headline eluded to.

That happens all the time where someone is painted out to have done something wrong before his or her side of the story is gathered.  We are so quick to jump on the bandwagon and condemn people with so little information, too.  And once those opinions are formed, we are reluctant to change them.  People should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but it seems to be human nature that we often assume the worst rather than consider other possibilities before we know the whole story.  It’s like we’re looking to see the worst in people. Why is that?

In relationships, so many people are quick to assume their significant other is cheating on them as soon as something seems out of the ordinary. Often times the person is wrong and it was something else like a surprise was being planned, the person was having health issues, they were stressing out about something, they were putting in extra hours at work, they were avoiding the person because they were afraid to bring up a particular topic, or any number of other possibilities.

My immediate family all seem to jump to conclusions frequently just in everyday conversations,  They often think they know what another person is going to say, that the other person is doing or saying something on purpose to bother them, that there is some hidden message or negative implication in what is being said, or that someone is accusing them of something rather than just gathering information.  I am guilty of these things too from time to time.  It’s so easy to think you know what’s coming or what’s intended and so hard to just listen without thinking about what you are going to say or read more into what is being said or done.

It is so very important to give people the benefit of the doubt, whether is in how we communicate or the conclusions we draw about the people we know and the people we don’t know. It’s something it seems most of us need to consciously think about a lot more than we currently do.

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Learned Helplessness

In my last post titled “To Be Or Not To Be…Just Like Our Parents“, I said I didn’t necessarily think that doing everything for our kids is a good idea.  I certainly don’t mind doing things for my kids like making their lunches to take to school and plenty of other things, but I am also conscious of the idea of learned helplessness where the kids become so dependent on their parents to do everything for them that they are not capable of making good decisions and doing things for themselves.  I watched my roommate my freshman year of college completely fall apart and almost fail out of school because her parents practically made every decision and did everything for her up to that point.  They even unpacked her things for her and decided where everything of hers including her furniture should go on the first day.  She had no idea how to manage her time and belongings and get things done.

There are things I wish I had done more at home before leaving for college like laundry and cleaning so that I was better at them once I needed to do them on my own.  I’m still not all that great at cooking, but then again, I wasn’t home much when my mom was making dinner, and it’s not a big interest of mine. Maybe it would be though if I was better at it.

When I helped in my son’s classroom and when I was teaching, I could sometimes tell which students had parents who sit with them through doing most if not all of their homework and are right there to help them figure everything out.  The problem I see with that is that the child doesn’t learn to think things through themselves and struggle with something for a bit before asking for help.  They are also being deprived of the opportunity to feel that sense of accomplishment and pride when they do figure it out on their own, which builds confidence.  It is these students who raise their hands as soon as they don’t understand something when working on class work to ask the teacher to re-explain it to them individually.  That makes the teacher’s job a whole lot harder and why my help was greatly appreciated.  Their homework then is also not a true reflection of their ability, and neither are their projects when parents do a lot of the work on them.

I know kids don’t like it much when they are asked to do things for themselves that they are used to someone else doing for them or when they are given new responsibilities, but hopefully they appreciate it down the road when they realize how many things they don’t need to rely on anyone else to do for them and how helpful they can be to others.  The people I know who are the most willing to do whatever needs to be done to help out without being asked are all people who were raised to do things for themselves and others at an early age.

A Wall Street Journal article from this week titled, “Why Children Need Chores” says that “giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance” and that “chores also teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs.”  One study noted found that “young adults who began chores at ages 3 and 4 were more likely to have good relationships with family and friends, to achieve academic and early career success and to be self-sufficient, as compared with those who didn’t have chores or who started them as teens.”  Apparently, it is strong relationships that are a more reliable predictor of personal happiness than high achievement.  So it is not only important to teach children to be responsible for themselves but also give them that sense of connection and responsibility beyond themselves as well.

I think particularly with the youngest or an only child, it is sometimes hard to come to terms with the fact that they don’t need us as much as they used to, so it’s hard to give up some of the routines like giving them a bath and start encouraging them to do things for themselves.  While some people may think doing so many things for their children and helping them with everything is the best route because they are being so nurturing, they may actually be doing their children a disservice by not allowing them to learn how to figure things out, do things for themselves, and learn to help others as well.  I think there’s a delicate balance that needs to be found where we are doing enough for our kids so they feel loved and nurtured but not so much that they are too dependent on us for everything.

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To Be Or Not To Be … Just Like Our Parents

Everyone has their own idea of what makes a good parent, whether they are a parent yet or not.  Our opinions on that have a lot to do with what we experienced growing up and whether we thought our parents were good parents or not.  And whether we like it or not, we will be at least somewhat like our parents.  This may be in our temperament, in our mannerisms, in how strict or lenient we are, in how we handle disciplinary situations, and so many other things.

What I find interesting is what we end up doing the same way our parents did or completely the opposite and why.  Some things are pretty clear, like why my mom for the most part only asked us to make our beds when company was coming over who might check to see how clean the house was and if all the beds were made.  My grandmother was such a stickler about having the beds made that she actually woke me up a couple of times when I stayed at her house so she could make the beds before other company came back upstairs to get dressed after coffee and breakfast.  Or she would make other peoples’ beds when staying at their house.  She couldn’t stand looking at an unmade bed.  I’m sure that wore on my mother’s nerves for many years, so she was the opposite.  That’s a pretty minor detail in the grand scheme of things.  It’s parenting styles that are more interesting.

I know people who had very strict parents who are strict themselves, but I also know people who had strict parents who are very lenient parents.  I wonder how much of that is subconscious and how much is a conscious choice.  I suppose that depends party on if you have put much thought to it, whether you like the fact that your parents were on the stricter side, or whether you are even capable of doing anything differently.  If you had strict parents but are lenient, perhaps you are over-compensating in order to not be like your parents.  If you are strict and controlling and also had strict and controlling parents, perhaps you do things more instinctively because that’s all you know.

If you don’t think your parents met your needs, you might consciously or subconsciously bend over backwards to do everything for your children, or you may not meet their needs either because you don’t know any different.  I don’t think either one of these situations is necessarily all that great.  If you do everything for your children, you run the risk of learned helplessness setting in, which I will discuss in more detail in my next post.  If you don’t meet their needs because you aren’t nurturing enough for your children, then the cycle continues.

It’s definitely an interesting topic to ponder.  I can see ways in which my siblings and I are similar to each of our parents and ways that we are the opposite as well.  And I can do the same with my parents and their parents.  Have you ever thought about how and why you are similar to or the opposite of your parents?

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Procrastination

At one point I made a list of possible topics to write about for this blog, and procrastination was one of them.  Ironically, it’s one topic that I keep pushing down the list, so apparently I can be very good at procrastinating!  I know plenty of other people who are good at it as well.  I think it’s one of those things I tend to harp on my kids about because I wish I wasn’t good at it myself.  Conversely, I get great satisfaction out of completing a task and crossing it off my “to do” list and often do get things done in a timely fashion, so it’s not that I am not ambitious or lack self-initiative.  It’s just that some tasks are just not as interesting or fulfilling or can be daunting or overwhelming.  Or I just need to be in the right mood or have a larger block of uninterrupted time.  It’s getting started that is the challenge.  Once I have gotten over that hump, then things are a different story.

I find that feeling like I am organized and on top of things makes a huge difference.  If either my work space or my brain is too cluttered, then I can’t focus as well and don’t have as much drive.  So that is sometimes the first thing I need to do.  Sometimes getting rid of things that either the kids or I don’t need anymore gives me a lot of energy to get other things done.  I also tend to want to get a lot of smaller tasks done first before I start a larger task not only to declutter my brain but to feel like I accomplished something because success breeds more success.  I often feel like I got more done in a day if I can say I got lots of little things done vs. a larger project.  The problem with that is that sometimes the smaller tasks just keep piling up and I never get to the bigger tasks.  I do sometimes have to remind myself how good it will feel when I have that larger project done and just dive in.

I do get distracted by things like Facebook and reading online articles, but I also will all of a sudden feel like doing something like clean out a kitchen drawer or a closet on a whim and will be getting something done.  It just wasn’t what I had on my “to do” list for the day or at all.  Then there are the times I will feel inspired to be creative and will go with that when the mood strikes me.  Doing things that put me in a good mood or make me feel like I am making a difference, even though they distract me temporarily, help keep me going as well.  So I need to find a balance between getting things done and doing things that make me feel emotionally full. What I need to be better at is sometimes setting a time limit for doing the more fun and fulfilling things when I know I have other things that need to get done.  Even though I suggest this to my kids frequently, I can’t always do it myself.

Life is obviously about much more than just getting things done, so it’s important to keep that perspective and not get too down on myself if I didn’t get too much done in any given day.  It’s when I have several days in a row of not accomplishing much that can make me feel like I really need to work on time management.

I have actually been procrastinating doing other things that I should be doing in order to write this because it is more fulfilling than the other things, although in a way it IS helping me declutter my brain of my thoughts on procrastinating.  So it’s time to follow my own advice and get started on something else!  If reading this has been a distraction for you, my apologies, but hopefully it was the mental break that you needed, and thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts!  Now get to work!

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