Exploring a Gentler Approach to Motivation by Naomi Dishington

January traditionally signals new beginnings, but this year it just felt like an opportunity for magazine headlines and various media outlets to create a cacophony of chatter, all screaming at me to “Do more!” “Be more!” “Earn more!”  Society’s message is clear: “It’s a new year; what are you going to do with yourself?!” And my conditioned answer has been, “I will achieve!”  

Perhaps I’m not alone. For many of us, the early days in January involve making New Year’s Resolutions. Some might attempt a cleanse; some launch an exercise program;  perhaps others vow to break an addiction or purge their excess stuff or create a family budget. In order to motivate ourselves to achieve these goals, we set alarms and calorie limits; we create task lists and join accountability groups, desperately hoping to sustain the changes. We force our body clocks to sync with our calendars, and we march off, dutifully, determined to try (or re-try) maintaining our grip on motivation. Some of us - and we know who we are - even try to bully those around us into feeling motivated.

This year, I want to do it differently. I still want to grow, but I also want to enjoy the process.

To that end, I have been experimenting with a gentler approach to goal setting and motivation. I was inspired in part by Danielle LaPorte’s book, Desire Map, which lays out a refreshing perspective. To paraphrase LaPorte, the driving question behind motivation is not so much “What do you want to achieve?” but rather “How do you want to feel?”  

So I began to explore my goals in light of how I want to feel this year. At first, I felt disoriented, especially as I started to lean away from performance-based measurements, scales, and metrics. I heard my skeptical inner voice asking, “Wait a minute, how will you know if you’re SUCCESSFUL if you can’t MEASURE outcomes?”  But I tried to breathe, and gave myself permission to let go of measurements for a minute (and I shushed my inner voice). Then, I think I actually experienced a mini-surge of creativity, and the intoxicating freedom of choice ... or maybe it was joy?

What if my goal-setting process could morph from being a forced, number-crunching task into a vibrant, creative, inspiring process?  There is a childishness and an innocence about the idea, but for me, in this stage of life, it feels gentle and inviting. So how do I want to feel this year?  

Connected

Honest

Strong

Influential

Open-hearted

When I imagine allowing those words to steer my priorities and guide my decisions, I feel a pang of anticipation and excitement about creating new possibilities. I admit, I can’t forecast with certainty how this shift will manifest in “real life,” and I wonder how sustainable this experiment will be. But I’ll put those doubts aside for now, take a deep breath, and reach out to some close friends for coffee and nourishing conversation. I’ll stand in my truth. I’ll take baby steps toward strength, and I will use my gifts to lift up others. And always, I will love.

*Desire Map, Danielle LaPorte. Sounds True; 1 edition (January 1, 2014)