Yvette had a hard time breaking through in therapy. She knew and understood well the rationale for putting in the work. Her grasp of when she felt anxious and distressed, and even what to do, was excellent. I mean, the research speaks for itself, right? Just do it- just practice what your therapist teaches? I wish it were that straightforward.
Finding the ‘Hack’ for Motivation
If you also have faced challenges in consistency with doing what you know you need to but have a hard time putting it into action, welcome to a very, VERY large group know as…people. Look no further than the many social media and tv advertisements for a ‘hack’ to well being, the modern Ponce de Leon (Fountain of Youth). Spoiler: it doesn’t exist.
What does exist is meaning and pursuit of purpose. What’s your why?
No, really, what’s YOUR why?
Yvette is fairly compliant as a person and very cooperative in therapy. It wasn’t until we dug into her motivation, barriers, expectations, and ‘why’ that she began to gain steam. Purpose and meaning are fundamental to who we are as people. Having a “why” behind “what” we do is essential. Sure, you can probably tie your shoes without some existential meaning, but few of us can really keep up the marathon that life entails (especially the harder it is) without a deeper sense of focus and purpose. Even children want purpose, asking, “Why, why why why why?”. “Because I said so” may pass for a moment, but it will not give a lifetime of motivation.
Tune Your Attention to Meaning
I could take more of your time quoting the extensive base of research on what facilitates “buy-in,” the importance of intrinsic motivation (vs. extrinsic), and how having a purpose outlasts a particular situation. But you’re smart and can easily search Google. What I would rather ask you to do right now is a real life exercise similar to the many I used with Yvette, incorporating tools from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
Why are you here today? This very second? No, not the obvious ‘my car’ or ‘my appointment’ or ‘your email’. Dig deeper. What goal do you have right now?
What’s behind that? And behind that? Dig deeper (no need to take longer than a few minutes right now). What’s your why? If you want to take meaningful action, what are your values? Or what do you want to discover or learn? What commitments do you have out of those? Are they realistic? Are they truthful?
Yvette found that she had always been a good student and was very intelligent, but she often gave the answers she thought others wanted to hear. Once she went deeper for herself, she found some answers SHE lives for, and she’s still learning (as we all are). She wanted to get better to feel better at first (who doesn’t?). Going subterranean, she wanted to decrease her worry so that she would be more present with her husband and kids, able to contribute at work (in healthcare) so that patients she talked with wouldn’t just be another number, but a valuable person who felt cared for in every conversation she had. She also wanted to feel value by accepting the inherent worth she believes she has as a person. Way to go, YVETTE!
Let me know in the comments your ‘why’ and ideas that have actually helped you personally get through hard things. I learn from YOU!
Note: Yvette’s(not her real name) information is obscured and blends cases (many, MANY that are similar) to protect confidentiality.