The Mystery of Motivation

curly hair woman happy face sitting in bright office room small white bookshelf
by Amaya Pryce

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

As a coach, I’ve learned to listen closely to any advice I give, because it often turns out to be exactly the advice I need myself! Recently this quote (above) came up in a conversation, so I paid attention.

For me, putting the foundation under my air castle is about actually writing the book I’ve been talking about for so long. Now that I’m off on my grand adventure I have plenty of time to write, but I’m having a hard time getting going on it. I toggle back and forth between the truth that I don’t have to do anything at all in order to be worthy, and the equal truth that we humans have an intrinsic need to be creatively involved in life.

That was the subject of a different coaching conversation, also pertinent to my own situation: We want to do something, but how do we tap into the passion that inspires action? I know that I want to write; why is it so hard to do it?

The book The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin may hold a clue. She outlines four different ways that people typically respond to inner and outer expectations (things that we ask of ourselves, and things that others ask of us). Here is a quiz you can take to find your own tendency.

  • Upholders typically meet both their own expectations and those of others.
  • Obligers are able to meet others’ expectations, but struggle to meet their own.
  • Questioners meet their own expectations, but will question outer expectations and only meet them if they make sense or seem reasonable to them.
  • Rebels don’t like to meet any form of expectation, inner or outer. They like to do what they want!

Alas, I am a rebel, and I suspect that the latter client is as well. Knowing your tendency can help you find strategies that will motivate you (although Upholders don’t really need strategies to motivate them – they need to learn how to let themselves off the hook!).

For Obligers, having someone else hold them accountable often does the trick.

For Questioners, doing research and convincing themselves of the soundness of a course of action is what works.

For rebels: who knows???

Actually, I have found that, as a rebel, I often respond to altruism (but only if I can choose the who, what, when, where, and how myself). Once I framed writing my book as an act of service, I made a good start. Rebels are hard to get going, but when they feel inspired they can move mountains!

As always, knowing yourself is the key. What’s your tendency?

To learn more about how to boost your motivation and achieve your dreams see: How to Boost Your Motivation

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