The lovely thing about conducting a survey is that it clarifies what people need, so that I can speak directly to actual concerns, not just talk about whatever comes into my mind on a given morning. Here’s one which, in various forms, was repeated quite frequently:
“What I need most is inner inspiration and motivation.
Sounds easy, but it seems to elude me.”
Let me look at this one bit at a time, because the apparently simple statement is actually quite deep.
“Inspiration” and “motivation” are the things that get us going in the morning, or even better, that push or pull us to achieve beyond our current capacities or status. Most of us can do “the status quo” just fine. In fact, it is engaging in certain behaviors, thoughts, and feelings on a daily basis that CREATES that status quo. Understanding how to adapt new behaviors requires understanding what drives your CURRENT behaviors.
Pleasure and Pain. That’s it, on the simplest level. You do what you do to move away from pain and toward pleasure. All animals do this. Heck, maybe plants too. Depends on who you listen to. Whatever you do in your life, at some point you defined these actions as pain-avoidance or pleasure-seeking behaviors. Which means you need to look more carefully at the emotions beneath them. Pain and pleasure are sensations. The associated emotions are fear and love. We fear what causes us pain, we love what gives us pleasure. One of the steps of maturation is the ability to accept pain or postpone pleasure in order to reach a worthy goal. People who are gym rats, for instance, often learn to LOVE certain kinds of pain, because they know it leads to pleasure (a transformed body).
In fiction, there are countless examples. In CASABLANCA, Rick has associated emotional intimacy, love and commitment to pain–because the last time he loved, Ilsa ditched him and broke his heart. The entire film is about him “coming back to life” and embracing the emotional paradox of human existence. Both his love of Ilsa and his commitment to a larger cause are awakened as result.
In the movie TRAINWRECK, Amy avoids love and intimacy because her father drilled into her that love leads to pain. She drowns her real emotions is drugs, alcohol and meaningless sex to avoid the natural human urge to connect with another human being on a profound level. And her “cheerleader dance” at the end is her declaration that she is willing to go beyond her stated limits, to be outrageous, and to take a chance. She might be hurt, yes. But if she doesn’t take that chance, she is utterly lost and broken…forever.
(Really liked that movie, by the way).
Now, how does this relate to the common sense of “I’m not motivated”?
Simple. Do you have to motivate or discipline yourself to eat ice cream? No? Why not? BECAUSE IT’S GOOD. Because you reliably anticipate pleasure from eating it. In fact, the reason it is easier to eat ice cream than diet is that one is immediate pleasure, while the other is certain pain and often very uncertain pleasure (the observation/belief that “diets don’t work” suggests that all that discipline and discomfort will be for nothing). So to lose that weight, you have to have a path that is either less painful, or more certain of delivering the desired positive results. Without that, your pain/pleasure equation inclines us to empty that carton.
Back to writing. If you write well, and honestly, it is often painful. You have to “make” the time–often at the sacrifice of other things that seem more certain. You have to actually dig into your own emotions, even the painful ones. Have to fight against the voices that say “it’s no good! You’ll never be any good! No one cares! You’ll just be rejected!” as well as doubting voices from real members of our tribe: parents, teachers, lovers, co-workers, friends, spouses, bosses…if they don’t believe in what we’re doing.
Those outer voices are killer. The inner voices can be even worse.
Tim Piering said that you can accomplish anything if you have:
1)Well defined written goals and plans for their accomplishment expressed in continuous action.
2) The ability to take action despite the voices in your head.
Let’s go a little deeper. You will have inspiration if you connect with your own dreams. Motivation if you believe you will experience more pleasure than pain if you pursue them.
Here are some component things that will do this:
- Heartbeat meditation or “Ancient Child” work to connect to your essence.
- Goal-setting to clarify what you desire and why you want it.
- Organizational skills to make it as easy as possible to move forward.
- Completing short projects so that you have the total experience of creation.
- Setting a goal of (say) 100 short stories so that rejection is merely seen as a step along the path.
You have to know what you want, why you want it, how to get it, and how you will cope with disappointment, because there WILL be disappointment.
Let’s map this onto the Hero’s Journey, one tool that has never failed me. It is not the only way to look at these things, but it is damned powerful. Let’s look at my own life.
- Hero confronted with challenge. As a child, I wanted desperately to be a writer.
- Hero rejects the challenge. I was told I could not have it. My mother tore my stories up. People laughed at me. I had no role models of possibility, and had never met a writer in my life.
- Accepts the challenge. I DECIDED I WOULD RATHER FAIL AS A WRITER THAN SUCCEED AT ANYTHING ELSE. In other words, I burned my bridges behind me. All my love, all my fear, all my energy was focused on this goal, with the belief that “we become what we think about” driving me onward.
- Road of trials. I decided that I would write and submit 100 short stories before I even began to ask whether I “could” or not. In this way, the voices in my head had less traction.
- Allies and powers. I needed role models to show me the path. Read incessantly. Wrote every day. I needed to learn how to enter flow state (meditation, tai chi, yoga), how to deal with fear (meditation, martial arts) allies (choosing certain friends carefully), a “point of view” on life (reading, studying) and so forth. My “voice” was developed simply by imitating enough different writers that my own “way” emerged.
- Confront evil-fail. My heart was broken countless times. Ideas were stolen, promises broken, friendships betrayed, work laughed at. I was broke and discouraged, and my greatest idol told me that my first solo book wasn’t worth publishing.
- Dark Night of the Soul. I’ve been crushed more times than I can say. Lost, abandoned, shattered.
- Leap of Faith. What got me through was the belief that the goal was possible: others had done it, why not me? That I had accomplished other goals I’d considered lost causes. That I had friends or mentors who believed in me. And more than anything else, when all else failed, I had developed a meditation practice that took me deep within myself, to a spark of divinity within. Took me YEARS to develop it, constant daily effort. But I am made of the same stuff as the stars, and I love love LOVE writing. And the reward, in the end, is spending my life doing something precious to me.
- Confront evil–succeed. I’ve been through this, again, countless times. Both failures and successes. I just concentrate more on the successes.
- The Student Becomes the Teacher. As soon as possible, I began to share the path to happiness I had found. And in the faces of my students and the tales of their successes, I saw myself as part of the circle of life. And as there have been tears along the way, so too there has been much laughter,and love, and joy. And I wouldn’t trade the life I’ve created for a billion dollars.
Look, the HJ is one way to organize resources. As is THE SECRET FORMULA. As are Musashi’s Principles. As is the “Machine” concept that fuels the new course I’ve created with Art Holcome. FIND SOMETHING. Dig in. Prepare for battle. Find the resources you need to make contact with your real ambitions, your joys. Find allies and mentors who have been discouraged, defeated, disappointed, betrayed, crushed, lonely, and lost…and got up and @#$$ won anyway. Get mad, or joyful. Whatever works for you.
Live your life. You’re the only one who can.