Do you know what motivates you? A lot of people think its money. But money is just a symbol of energy exchange – you can’t eat it, cuddle it (well not entirely true – Uncle Scrooge from the Donald Duck cartoons used to) or have a great conversation with it (pretty one sided at best…). Are you more motivated by the anticipated pay-off (sense of satisfaction etc) of doing something or the anticipated consequences (shame, criticism etc) of not doing it?
My system is nervous
Motivation is a fascinating topic and I think we are motivated by love or fear. But what’s the cost of motivating yourself with fear rather than love? I like to look at this from our nervous systems point of view – so let’s have a little science 101. We have two modes:
Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) – home of fight, flee or freeze
Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) – home of rest, digest and repair
Our nervous system is controlled by our subconscious brain so we can’t tell it what to do with our conscious thoughts – which is great in one sense – what if we forgot to tell our bodies to digest – could get very messy… In another sense it is tricky as we can be flogging our bodies with a chemical cocktail of adrenaline and cortisol without conscious awareness.
Modern life means we have far less physical threats (I haven’t ever been chased by a sabre-toothed tiger) but we often live in a SNS dominant state due to ‘perceived’ psychological threats. I say perceived because what constitutes a psychological threat is as individual as your fingerprint. If you are terribly shy then walking into a public space is ‘perceived’ as a threat, but if you are an extrovert it is not. If you don’t have a loving relationship with your body then swimming at the beach is hell etc.
In our image obsessed culture we are often taught to prioritise what we look like over who we are so this really primes us for SNS dominance. Our nervous system hasn’t kept pace with the changes in our way of living so doesn’t know the difference between physical and psychological threat therefore it reacts in the same way to both.
What’s this got to do with motivation? Heaps, because threats create fear. If we are motivated by the fear we are inviting our nervous system to ride the fight, flight or flee train. Unfortunately going through life running on our SNS we are also shutting down our creativity and higher thinking skills. It’s a chemical thing – our body is busy keeping itself alive so it deprioritises writing fabulous fiction or an extension to the theory of relativity.
Being motivated by fear is akin to using fossil fuels. It depletes our natural resources, leaves toxic waste in our bodies and blocks us from coming up with cleaner alternatives. Don’t get me wrong – fear as fuel can be very potent.
I spent the first 40 odd years of my life being motivated by the fear of not being enough – constantly perfecting, performing and pleasing (as Brene Brown so nicely puts it). It got me a first class honours degree, a high paying job and world travel – can’t fault the payoff but now I’m working through the hangover… a hangover that includes letting go of people reactions and focusing on how something makes me feel. It can take a bit to ‘un-numb’ when you have spent years denying your ‘feel-sense’.
So what’s the alternative? Were The Beatles right – ‘love is all you need’? Life feels very different when you come at it from a place of love. Your decision criteria changes dramatically as does your nervous system response. The rest, digest and repair PNS branch of your nervous system is your ‘safe’ place. Safe to be yourself – all of your awesome self. You are free to do what you do to express your unique skills and talents without any comparison to anyone else.
What you think of me is none of my business
You can educate, entertain and inspire people without worrying about others reactions (emm bye bye stage fright) because you love what you do and you aren’t living to please someone else – you prioritise INTERNAL rather than EXTERNAL feedback. That’s the beauty of being motivated by love – you can get over yourself because it’s not about you – it’s about what you want to contribute to the world – you become the delivery person.
Taking our fuel example – love is biofuel. It works with your body and enhances your well-being without the side effects. The fastest way to switch from SNS to PNS is through slow abdominal breathing – and it’s FREE!
Hey, hey, you, you, get off of my cloud
What about the real world with school fees, mortgage payments and food bills? Yep, I live there too not in UpSurge Utopia. What if you don’t know your unique talents and skills? What if you do know them but no one wants to pay you to share them? Good questions. But I have a couple for you. Do you really want to live in fear? Do you want to survive or thrive? The only person who knows what makes you thrive is you. Go inside for the answers rather than take a poll from the crowd.