In Pursuit of Excellence…Where does inspiration and motivation come from?
**Warning – Somewhat fluffy and self indulgent post that will tread into somewhat personal territory…don’t read it if that annoys you 😛 **
“And if you look at your reflection
Is it all you want it to be?
What if you could look right through the cracks?
Would you find yourself
Find yourself afraid to see?”
Nine Inch Nails, “Right Where it Belongs”, With Teeth, 2005
Everybody has different targets for their own ultimate success; different aspirations to becoming “complete” and at ease with who they are. The only way to achieve this is through self awareness and self discipline. When one looks in the mirror, they will either like what they see or not like it. The most successful people I know have a desire for excellence, and an inherent knowledge that they will succeed at their task, whatever that task may be. And they like what they see in the mirror. I have that, but I was always a bit light in the self motivation and discipline aspects of attaining those goals. I have a certain amount of self awareness to this and have a solid image of who I want to be. I also have a game plan to get there. As long as you stick to that path you set for yourself, the target should be met automatically.
At one point in my life a few years back, I fell off the rails for that path. Various things conspired to create this atmosphere of discombobulation, but the long and short of it is that I fell into a long kind of slow burning depression and lost interest in doing the things necessary for growth. It went worse than that; I lost interest in doing the things necessary for sustenance as well. And yet through it all, I maintained that desire for excellence and vision of success. You can see how those confused self messages could cause a downward spiral to get worse. Eventually your self worth goes through the floor, to go with all the other things. There is no one to blame for this state of affairs but oneself, and the only way to get out of it is to get out of it. Period.
So I did that. About a year and a half ago, I woke up and realized that the person in the mirror was no longer me, but some empty shell that was pretty much dead inside. So I put things in motion to correct this tailspin and start my flight back upwards. It’s taken a while, and I’m only partway there. I have some things to finish up and get back into habits of. But some of the major things have been corrected, and the climb begins. I will continue working on some of the small things (for instance eating a meal for dinner instead of a bag of popcorn, which I’ve been known to do), and in the meantime I’ve taken steps to continue correction and improvement of the major things. I was getting things going and sort of slowly getting back to life but only looking at the low hanging fruit. The results of that were that financially and emotionally I hit absolute rock bottom around my birthday last year (December 28th) and was at a point where I didn’t know how I would eat, or pay rent, etc. I ended up having no birthday, really; I sat at home by myself and got drunk, feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t really dig that, so I decided to break that cycle before it got worse. It took about 3 months to get out of the financial pit that actually started in November due to some mistakes (actually it started some years ago, but last november it kicked over from a problem to an emergency), and it took only a few days to get out of the emotional morass. Of course it was another month or two before I really broke the depression mode, but that bounce off the bottom kick started it all. It was 3 months ago this week that I became a non smoker. I’ve been gradually changing my diet for the better, and recently re-started excercising.
I have a ways to go; I’ve got around 30 pounds I want to lose, I need to be always cognizant of cholesterol levels, and most every single day there comes a point where I desperately want a cigarette. It goes away eventually, but it’s there. My physical stamina is a fraction of what it should be. At work I’ve had a long period of less success than I personally would like, which falls onto me and my reaction towards a few things that have happened over the past 6 or 8 months. However, no matter how you cut it, at the end of the day I’m accountable to one person only, and that’s me. If someone wrongs me, I have 3 choices: Dwell on it, Ignore it, or Address it. For a while I picked the first one, which is not really the best choice. How I react to that disservice is my own, and if I let it get me down that’s no one’s fault but mine. Over the past few years I’ve noticed myself become something of a blamer. So that needs to be fixed as well.
So as I diligently work on all these issues, the original correction of creating self discipline and motivation starts to take care of itself; my chronic procrastination seems to be less (although it still rears it’s ugly head occasionally), and I’ve been able to maintain at least one very big self discipline item (the smoking thing). Like the original tailspin, a lot of things have conspired to motivate me through this massive transition back to being who I should be and improving that. The smoking and diet was easy; it doesn’t take more than one time thinking you may be having a heart attack to fix those things! But there has been a tank load of outside inspiration to keep me on the path. Yes, in the end I’m accountable only to me, but having a catalyst to change is beneficial as well. Most of these catalysts and inspirations come from people you spend a fair amount of time with, so co-workers and relationships. It’s important to note that none of these catalysts or inspirations cause me to be someone I’m not; rather they allow me to see the positive things about who I am or have been, and they remind me what those traits look like and what they mean to me.
The first major outside inspiration for me on this journey was my therapist; although she never made any judgements she allowed me to step back and look at what things were bugging me. And then to take action. Certain people that I see on a regular basis at work inspire or motivate me as well; Kasia’s continual positive attitude, or Dave’s unbelievably strong work ethic and stamina, Leila’s organizational skills, DJ’s confidence. In my personal relationships Ruth’s genuine love of people and desire to see them do their best inspires me, and Greg and Kat’s amazing parenting skills motivate me. Darren and Diane’s relationship is inspiring and gives me a view to a target of a strong and stable relationship. Even my ex’s ability to function and be successful through some negative influences are inspiring to me in hindsight. Ruth of course ends up being around for more of these changes than most people as she sees me outside the office and at my best and my worst. And I her as well, of course.
The long and the short of it is that although we are all accountable only to ourselves on this earth, we all utilize the advantages of having outside inspiration. It may be that picture on your screen saver of the dream car or the coach that brings out the best of your abilities or the partner that doesn’t let you get away with slacking off or your kids and giving them a good life, but the outside motivators are the ones that give us that extra push or catalyst to speed up the process. All of these outside influences catalyze me into action and give me a bit of extra motivation to reach my goals, and in some cases a template for that goal, but in the end only I can actually do these things and I can only do them for me. So through it all, the ultimate motivation is from within. I feel that, 18 months into this re-alignment of my self, I am near the target. Some changes have accelerated a huge amount these past six months (thanks for the positive influence, Ruth 🙂 ).
So, to put it all into the context of the song lyric above that inspired this thought process, as I look at my reflection, although it is not yet all I want it to be I can honestly say that I’m pleased. I can see the targets and almost touch them; I look through the cracks and I find myself excited to see.
Just as a bit of a lighter note, I’ve left the stocks I put myself in for the better part of a decade… 😛