What motivates you?
Is it your kids?
It’s a reasonable answer. After all, you’re a mom and your kids are the driving force behind this 18-year work assignment you’re on. Oh, is that the wrong way to think about it? You’re right… it’s more like 30 years (or 44 and counting if you ask my mom).
So, what of those times when your motivation wanes? Why does that happen? Does it make you feel bad about yourself? What message is it sending to your children? And how do we fix it?
We get to the bottom of all of it in this issue!
Did you hear the news? Motivation and perfection are breaking up!
Few humans possess the ability to function at 100% motivation 100% of the time and that’s okay – normal even. Recognize this as an invitation to give yourself grace! Recognize it also as a reminder that we are not perfect and should hence not strive for perfection.
Perfection and motivation often go hand and hand for moms because we’re motivated by the unreasonable expectation that we need to make things perfect. Just ask my social media feed!
I know some of you are reading this thinking…
Me: She’s right.
Also me: I can’t help it. I’m a perfectionist.
Moms tend to get themselves into trouble on the journey to perfectionism by expecting chronic motivation. This expectation leads to feelings of guilt and shame when motivation wanes and we inevitably fall short of perfection.
The key to exiting the shame cycle is understanding the motivation cycle. Specifically, we must have an awareness of where we are in the cycle at all times and accept that we need to face each phase with intention. Let’s review the phases…
The 3 Phases of Motivation:
The Flow State
According to Wikipedia, the flow state is “the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.”
You know the feeling. You’re in the zone and you’re getting things done!
If you’re like me, you treasure feeling this way and make the most of every second of it knowing full well that it doesn’t last.
Which leads us to the next phase…
Resistance is that tiny voice inside your head that sabotages your motivation. According to Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, Resistance (with a capital R) is a universal force that has one mission: to keep things as they are.
You know this feeling too, right? “I just don’t feel like doing ANYTHING!”… That’s resistance.
Like the flow state, this phase is also temporary, however, unlike the flow state, we can get stuck here if we’re not careful.
It’s okay to settle into resistance for a time. Again, acknowledging that you’re in it is ironically the thing that typically prompts us to snap out of it. It’s when we find ourselves wallowing in it that we tend to get stuck in it.
For all intents and purposes, motivation is the phase when we get over the resistance and once again feel an eagerness to embark on a thing.
The key to this phase is having a plan. It shouldn’t be too difficult to create said plan because, chances are, it consists of all of the things that didn’t get done in the resistance phase.
This is a perfect time to reevaluate and prioritize your to-do list. Sometimes what bogs us down in the resistance phase is that we’re overwhelmed by our massive to-do list.
While you’re feeling motivated, get laser focused and determine whether you really need to tackle everything on that list. If the answer is no, get those items off the list ASAP and don’t give them another thought. If the answer is yes, make a plan!
When your plan is ready, work the plan to get back into the flow state! As you do, keep these very important caveats in mind: have realistic expectations and remember that each phase is temporary. You’ll need to give yourself grace as you move through the cycle and work to make progress, not strive for perfection.
Take it slow and steady!
Let’s circle back to those questions we opened this piece with and see where we stand…
Q: What of those times when your motivation wanes?
A: Recognize the cycle for what it is and roll with it. Leaning into each phase of the motivation cycle and accepting where you are in it will help you get through it. Every phase is normal. Expect it!
Q: Why does that happen?
A: Motivation wanes because no one (okay, there’s probably a unicorn out there) can maintain 100% motivation 100% of the time. It’s exhausting and we need rest!
Q: Does it make you feel bad about yourself?
A: If yes, change your mindset and rid your head and your heart of the shame you associate with feeling unmotivated and hence imperfect. Reframe it as an opportunity to regroup and prepare to hit the ground running when you’re over the resistance.
Q:What message is it sending to your children?
A: Contrary to what the perfectionist in you might be thinking, sending a message to your children that you are imperfect is precisely what they need to hear. Kids need to learn that perfection is not realistic nor healthy for that matter.
Q: How do we fix it?
A: When it’s age-appropriate, teach your kids the phases of motivation so they can skip the years of guilt and torment that come with feeling bad about being unmotivated from time to time. Work with them to recognize each phase and model the skills to cycle through them.
The perfect motivator is imperfection.
Striving for imperfect progress takes the pressure off and gives us permission to move in and out of every phase of the motivation cycle with grace.
Due to the fact that our kids are often at the root of our motivation to get things right, it is imperative that we teach them that getting things right doesn’t mean getting them perfect… because sometimes they simply won’t be motivated to get things right (and that’s okay!)
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