I’ve learned something very fancy. Consider yourself blessed to receive such a kernel of ancient wisdom:
Pajamas on a twilight flight do not necessarily a sleepy toddler make.
In fact, Confucius might say:
Toddlers prefer to be wired in most cases.
Just last night, I flew my kiddos on a very late night 4-hour flight in order to drop them off to eager grandparents for a week. I think I assumed that just because my second born is more self-soothing, aka thumb sucking, that she might drift off into deep slumber if I just created a perfect sleeping environment on the plane: Soft pjs, her favorite goodnight books, a little night night lullaby, and I even built a deliciously isolating and cozy tent over our seats out of two rather static-filled airplane blankets, which I’m sure made the two dudes watching Game of Thrones across the aisle assume I was breastfeeding both my 3 year old and my 8 year old simultaneously.
Alas. All I had instead was an insight into what PeeWee Herman might act like if he were 3 and on some sort of fantastical “I no tired, momma” drug.
At some point in this adventure - which I know, before you even say it, was a nutty idear - I surrendered the sleep goal. And I just gave the wee one and her sister space to be curious kids on a airplane using “quiet inside mouse voices.” It was during that time that I found myself looking around the plane, seat after seat, noticing one thing:
No one realllllllllllllly wants to be on this plane.
Most are tolerating it, at best. In fact, the old man in front of me could barely sit for .035 seconds before twisting his head frantically side to side, asking on repeat with minor convulsions: “When is the drink cart happening and how much is vodka?” And then there was that darling young couple with a brand new baby, the father (I’m assuming) pressing the writhing, red-faced infant close to his chest as he bounced and walked up and down the aisle to exhaustion, with zero luck. (And, yes, he was doing it all wrong. He forgot the shush sound and the side to side movement that makes their eyeballs roll around and thusly close by necessity)
I observed carefully all the people around me, each one finding some sort of odd arrangement for the comfort of their limbs and hooking up like fiends to whatever digital distraction they had at their fingertips, and I realized that in at least for majority of us, wherever the plane was taking us, we had deemed it being worth this cramped span of time in an odd metal tube in the sky.
Which leads me to this thought for all of you strength seekers out there: It is TOTALLY normal to not want to be 100% “in” for every step of the ride towards your wellness.
I repeat: This is normal.
The most common thing I hear from the mommas that participate in our programs is that they are bummed to admit they have fallen off the wagon at some point or thay they are wishing they didn’t having trouble wanting to fit their 15-minutes in. And, while they might not confess it, most of them have at least a sliver of shame attached to that feeling. They assume that there is something wrong with them. That there will suddenly be a day when POOF they are super shiny spandex queens who wake up with rosy cheeks and say DAILY 15, WE MEET AT LONG LAST.
My number is 3. Meaning, if I take 3 or more days off of my Daily 15, I literally throw a tantrum getting started again. A full blown tantrum. I pull every procrastination tactic out of the book. I even start arguments with people I love while I lace up my shoes. Or deliberately call my student loan creepers back right before it’s time to hit “record.”
So, today, I am here to say this - and being the nerd that I am, I have research to back this up - motivation is not an inborn skill gifted to a select few of ambitiously golden folks in our stratosphere. No, it’s a skill. It’s a learned response to the normal sensation of “I don’t wanna.” The impulse to want to do something difficult actually occurs in a part of our brain that requires repetition and consistent stimulation in order to have more at the ready. We basically need to “flex” our motivation muscle in order to have a relatively higher flow of it.
How do we flex it? Here’s a short (ok, it’s never short with me) list:
- Get over yourself already: Your motivation status is NOT a reflection of how valuable or ambitious or capable you are. It has absolutely ZERO bearing on your potential. It is not a part of your personality. Or a fixture of your identity. It is outside of you - a skill that can be honed. Period. Get over yourself already. And give yourself a break if you don’t wanna don’t wanna don’t wanna.
- Try not to take lengthy breaks from the things you find the hardest to get pumped to do, like your Daily 15. The longer you move away from it, the less flexed that muscle is in this area. Keep it as consistent as possible for many reasons, but primarily so that it is not such huge psychological torture in order to get back on the wagon. I find a daily connection with that which I avoid the most is liberating because becomes less of a big monster of difficulty and more of a non-negotiable part of my life.
- If you do get off track with your motivation to do that big thing you don’t want to, don’t start by pummeling yourself back into that big thing right away. Just like you wouldn’t go run a marathon while throwing tires down a hill after being on bed rest for 3 months, don’t shock that motivation muscle. Spend a morning or a day or a night doing small things you don’t want to do, like the dishes or a crossword puzzle or a riddle or folding clothes or calling that student loan creeper. And then step into the big thing.
- Have compassion for motivation: Motivation is a living, breathing organism. It is not a steady, stable stream and never will be. It is not to be depended on as your main fuel. It ebbs and flows. It will have bad days and good days. Give it space to be that. Be able to watch it go through that in-flux existence without calling yourself names or attaching yourself to its status.
Annnnnnnnd, don’t think this here blog post was written out of burning motivation. I would have rather been sleeping on my post-kiddo-drop-off-red-eye-solo-flight, but apparently I am participating in a WWF style competition with the deeply slumbering couple next to me and I am finding it hard to doze with a stranger’s toe mere centimeters from my ear.