My premise is that there are only two motivations to our actions: 1) comfort or 2) adventure. We’re either doing or saying what we’re programmed to do or say while staying within our prescribed comfort boundaries, or we’re off on a grand adventure, working without a net. I struggle to find any grey area between the two, although rapid switching back and forth can sometimes look and feel like a grey area.
What motivates me? When I ask that question, I have difficulty answering anything but “change”—a.k.a., “getting out of my comfort zone.” I don’t think it takes any motivation to do what I’ve always done.
If I think about motivation on a continuum from -10 through 0 to 10, though, -10 means I already know everything I need to know for what’s going on in front of me and I will react the way my Knower/Judger has been trained to react.
Absent a blatant decision to move away from my comfort zone (i.e., to change), my default decision is to continue coloring between the lines. Some of my peers have argued over the years that reacting within my K/J training is not a decision but a mindless reaction to my environment and an attempt to stay within my comfort zone. I don’t agree. I think it’s a decision to not decide to do something adventurous.
10 on the motivation continuum means I’ve decided that my status quo is unacceptable—i.e., my Learner/Researcher believes a change is absolutely required.
I suspect I mostly vacillate between -5 and 5 on that motivation scale unless:
- the potential outcome is so terrifying that it requires me to stay home (-10) and do nothing different from what I normally would, or
- the potential pain is so great that it requires me to alter my action (+10) and do something different (adventurous).
Fatigue, stress, and occasional periods of paranoia tend to push me farther down the scale towards -10. You know the feeling: “I just don’t have the stamina, energy, presence to pull myself out of this, so I’ll just coast.” I simply am not in a decision-making mood! And then I ask myself how that’s working for me… usually not well.
On a recent vacation road trip, a series of reservation screw-ups (some mine, some not mine), incompetent desk clerks, unmet expectations in our accommodations, and an incredibly long wait for average Mexican food (the kitchen manager had just walked out) put me in one of those paranoid fugues. On this day, nothing went right! You’ve had them. (What the hell else will go wrong today?)
I’ve had these before, of course. We all have. Settling in for a bit of a pity party followed by internalized rage and anger, it occurred to me that executing based on this attitude would probably not improve anything. It could even invite a karmic continuation of my existing state.
Looking for a way to pull myself out of this swamp, I recalled Wayne Dyer’s quote: “If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”
It took a bit of coaxing (from two margaritas while waiting and waiting for our dinner), but then I decided that all of today’s challenges are really just a part of life and that the world around me could improve if only my outlook improved. While true that reservations were screwed up, motel staff didn’t have a clue how to work their new software, the motel didn’t look at all like the photos on their website showed, and dinner was ordered 75 minutes ago, I decided that my avenue out was to be kind.
I thanked that poor overworked and hassled restaurant manager and even her cook when I saw him. Back at the motel, I walked in and asked how they were getting on with the new software (while they were on the phone with customer support). Comfort for me would have been to wallow in my seething anger over how my day had gone. Easy. Had done it for years.
Really, that attitude had never done much for me—it certainly never improved things. Like eating comfort food has never done much for me but add pounds.
The adventure was to try something different. In the face of all this injustice I opted to reach out to all that had offended me that day. Change. A decision. I chose kind.
It worked wonders on my attitude and relief from all the people who’d earlier been responsible for my anger. The world around me calmed down. I chose a road less traveled (by me). And it made all the difference. Thanks Robert Frost.
Lesson learned. I’ll do it again.