Thursday, February 9, 2012

Motivate your life

I am often asked, “how do you write so much?  Or “how do you come up with so many ideas?” or “what is it that keeps you going all the time?”  My answer is one that I tell fifth graders when I give my talk to them on the topic “Writing.”  As much as you can, whenever you can, you move as fast as you can, to capture the emotion of the moment.  We are all filled with emotions (they are omnipresent in our lives), and they often occur rapidly and sometimes intensely.  To go with the flow (the existence of the emotion) makes sense for that is the key to motivation — that is the stimulus, the inducement, and the inspiration that creates the enthusiasm and determination to do something.  It is, basically, what moves us to action.
For me as a writer, I simply try to capture in words the feelings I have.  Often, that is why I must write essays soon after (or even when) having the actual experience.  For example, I try to write my travel essays while on-the-go — traveling.  Not only in that moment do the words flow more rapidly, but the intensity of the feelings produce more and better adjectives to describe and explain the actual experience.  In other words, intense feelings produce a larger number of language choices which not only makes writing easier, but it makes my writing more vivid as well.
Now, I realize that most people are not writers.  And it may be, too, that most people do not have the wide range of experiences I have.  Nonetheless, most people do have an interest in motivating their lives — that is, they have a need to get their lives off dead center.
One of the keys to self-motivation is a change in attitude.  I often talked to my students about being the teacher.  That is, instead of taking the position that learning occurred to them as a result of an outside stimulus such as a teacher or a textbook, they should adopt a new attitude that learning occurred as a result of self-pursuit, self-stimulation, self-determination, and self-discovery.  The teacher, indeed, was inside of them not outside of them.  This simply means that the teacher is within them, and it puts the responsibility on their shoulders for the learning that takes place.  What they received from any experience was totally up to them!
There are many writers who offer suggestions for motivating your life; however, if the key just discussed (putting the teacher in yourself) is not adopted, it doesn’t matter what the suggestion is, it won’t work.  This can be an incredibly important awareness because it opens up the doors of knowledge, education, enlightenment, understanding, and even wisdom.  It makes you a student of life and a student of this world and everything in it as well.
At the web site Motivation and Money, the essay, “What Motivates Your Life,” (September 19, 2009), lists the five most common of life’s motivators: 1) Guilt: “[People] live their entire lives running from regrets and hiding their shame.” 2) Hatred and anger: “[People] hold on to hurts and never get over them.”  3) Peer pressure: “[People are] always being disturbed by what others might think.”  4) Materialism: “[People’s] desire to acquire becomes the only motivation of their lives.”  5) Fear: “[People’s] fear may be a result of a traumatic experience, unrealistic expectations, growing up with extraordinary strict parents, or even genetic predisposition.”
Fortunately, there are important positive motivators as well.  Certainly one of the ways to help erase or overcome guilt, hatred, anger, peer pressure, materialism, and fear, is through positive action and behavior.  For example, for me, I always focus on the end of a project.  Much of what takes place during the production of a college textbook can only be characterized as tedious, dull, and boring.  But, knowing the influence that my ideas can have on students, knowing what a beautiful and useful product McGraw-Hill delivers, and knowing how satisfied instructors are after using my textbooks, I focus on that result to keep me going.
When I don’t have an ongoing project, another way I have to motivate myself is to choose a goal.  For me, any goal works.. I recognize my own needs, limits, and aspirations. The point is simply that I want a goal to focus on now.  Many of these are lifted directly from my “to do list” (or my “honey-do” list!).  Maybe it’s cleaning my study or organizing the garage.  It could just as easily be losing ten pounds in a month, avoiding junk food, working through a new activity added to my regular exercise routine, or anything else I have a need or desire to attain.  
Once I have selected a goal, I break it into steps.  When I taught this process to my students, I would break the process of developing a speech (the final goal) into steps for them. For example, as the first step, I had them select the topic.  They would choose three, and I would then select the best one. Their next job was to frame their topic as a proposition. Next, they had to collect evidence to support their proposition.  Following their research effort, they had to organize and outline their speech.  The final step was to present me a complete, fully-written-out manuscript for the speech as they came before the class to deliver it.   
Someone choosing to lose weight, would break their exercise routine into daily units and even map out their healthy eating habits.
At the end of every successful project, I invent an appropriate reward.  Often, it is time off for good behavior, engaging in another likable project, going to the library, reading (and reviewing) another book, taking a short vacation, or having an extra beer at the end of a long day.  Everyone has his or her own desires that can be used for rewards.
I have always found that one of the joys of keeping a “to-do” list is checking things off that I’ve accomplished.  Often, that check mark alone is sufficient reward.
Nobody on earth has the same interest in your success as you do.  Motivating your life is a result of habit.  Bad habits such as procrastination and laziness stand in your way, but the best way to break bad habits is by replacing them with clear goals and careful planning.  Every reasonable thing you want in life is possible if you change your attitude.  Capitalize on your positive emotions.  You will gain confidence from small victories, and small victories lead to larger ones.  Remember that the most successful people in the world are not always the brightest, or the best looking.  It will be your success over both small and large tasks that will motivate your life, give you confidence, and allow you to move forward with perseverance, strength, determination, and conviction.
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Erin Falconer, has a great essay, “How To Motivate Yourself – Self Motivation,” at the Pickyourbrain web site, in which she says that the primary reasons we lose motivation is lack of confidence, focus, and direction.  She claims: “There is no simple solution for a lack of motivation. Even after beating it, the problem reappears at the first sign of failure. The key is understanding your thoughts and how they drive your emotions. By learning how to nurture motivating thoughts, neutralize negative ones, and focus on the task at hand, you can pull yourself out of a slump before it gains momentum.”  I loved her emphasis on emotions; hers is a terrific essay.

At Lifeorganizer, Donald Latumahina has a great essay, “Self-motivation: How to motivate yourself,” says, “If you want to excel in life, self motivation is essential. You must know how to motivate yourself. You must be able to keep your spirit high no matter how discouraging a situation is. That’s the only way to get the power you need to overcome difficulties. Those who are discouraged in difficult times are certain to lose even before the battle is over.”  He offers six methods: 1) Have a cause.  2) Have a dream. A big dream.  3) Be hungry.  4) Run your own race.  5) Take one more step.  6) Let go of the past.
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Copyright February, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing, L.L.C.


1 comment:

  1. Maximillion Ryan IIIFebruary 9, 2012 at 8:51 AM

    I've always thought that "intensity of feeling" is very important to writing. If you are passionate about a subject, it is much easier to convey your feelings if the reader can feel your passion through the author's writing.


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