I talk a lot (a whopping lot) with clients about how they feel that they need to or should do things. I’m sure they get tired of me nagging them about their word choice and approach to getting things done, but it really pays off in helping them shift to more beneficial, internal motivators. So, what better way to start off the new year than to encourage you to make a resolution to stop bullying yourself into doing things.
Every time you say aloud or to yourself that you need/must/should/ought/have to do something (that is, use an external motivator), you’re putting pressure on yourself to do something. You’re trying to get yourself to act because you don’t have enough desire to do it without the pressure. So, you apply more force and ramp up the attacks on yourself, which do nothing to strengthen your desiring to do whatever it is.
I don’t know about you, but I had enough pressure put on me to do things as a child— “needing” to make the bed, do my homework, clean my room, call my grandmother, brush my teeth, finish the food on my plate, and write thank you notes for my birthday gifts, that I just plain got worn out with being told what I “had” to do. And I had a pretty easy childhood. The truth is that I didn’t mind doing these things (except for finishing the food on my plate which contributed to my becoming a compulsive overeater). I like a clean room, getting decent grades and enjoyed (the budding author that I was) writing thank you notes. What I didn’t care much for was being told that I had to do these things which took away all my desire to do them on my own for enjoyment or pride.
This is what happens when you pressure yourself with external motivators: You ruin your chances of developing or strengthening authentic desire to do something. Whether the issue is looking for a job or to stop eating when you’re full, cleaning out the attic or finishing the book you’ll be discussing at book club, you’ll do better making something happen by stoking desire. There are lots of reasons to do things—you’ll feel proud, life will be easier, you’ll prevent something worse from happening, it will make you happy in the long run, it will boost self-empowerment, doing it will help you build skills, or you’ll feel better without a task hanging over your head—so why not focus on upping your desires by lowering the pressure you put on yourself.
There’s a world of difference between badgering yourself to get something done and focusing on all the reasons you actually want to do it. It’s like the difference between having your car pushed or towed rather than filling your gas tank and driving off into the sunset all by yourself. You don’t need to give up these words, but I hope you want to.
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