Motivation and Setting Intentions
by Gail Allen
Can I make a confession to ya’ll? Like many people with ADD/ADHD, I struggle with Executive Function. Which means I can either do ALL the things, without notice of minor trivialities like time, hunger, and bodily needs….OR...I feel completely overwhelmed and can’t do any of the things. None of them. I start checking out and resort to my (possibly unhealthy) coping mechanisms...like procrastinating, napping, and distracting myself. My college roommates used to say that they knew when I had a big math test coming up because that’s when I’d thoroughly clean the bathroom, no matter whose turn it was! (Yep, I’d rather scrub a toilet than to study Calculus, but that’s a story for another day!)
Then a few years went by and I discovered *Goal Setting*!! (The heavens opened and the angels sang!) And SMART goals. I taught it to all my students! Best thing ever. Until. Until it wasn’t. Coming from a conservative, Southern background, women are *not* supposed to be ambitious! Like record scratch, suck all the air out of the room! My goal-setting looked like ambition to a lot of people. And suddenly I realized… I didn’t really care about my goals. I was very extrinsically motivated to reach them.
As I started my last year of Grad School, my thoughts turned to my Thesis. What did I really care about? What was something I really wanted to research? And you guessed it...I picked motivation. Help me understand, Universe … why do we do the things that we do?
It turns out we can be intrinsically or externally motivated. Externally motivated is when we do something because we want to achieve a certain result, for a varying payout. Intrinsic motivation, however, is different. Research suggests that we are intrinsically motivated for one of three reasons:
1. Survival. We have to survive. Humans come equipped with a sense of self-preservation. It’s part of our brains, in fact! If you haven’t read the blog about living in Survival Mode, you might want to!
2. Fear. You might think that this is related to survival, and in many cases it is. However, we can be motivated by guilt and fear fairly easily in areas not related to actual life and death situations. Think - relationships. Some religions. Choices around our careers. Need I go on?
3. And finally … Love! Those who study human behavior suggest that love is actually the biggest intrinsic motivating factor of all! It’s what fuels mothers to jump in front of speeding cars to save their baby’s life. It fuels our passions to master skills. It helps us live life to the fullest! It fills us with a sense of calling and purpose!
So how can we use this knowledge to our advantage? By setting intentions based in love versus goals. What is an intention, really? An old country music song by Travis Tritt talks about the best of intentions. (Apparently, there’s also a newish pop song by Justin Bieber also about intentions, but I’ll likely never hear it!) So are they just failed goals? I suppose that could be one possibility, but they can be so much more!
Intentions are often open ended. They help us to focus and direct our energy and attention. The Earth’s cycles afford us great opportunities to examine our lives and set our intentions. Many people throughout history in various cultures have used the Summer Solstice for setting a yearly intention, the New Moons through the year to plant seeds to help it grow, the Full Moons to do the weeding, and the Equinoxes as check ins.
What’s your intention for this year? Summer 2021, I intend to be more…. (fill in the blank).
Loving. Mindful. Peaceful. Joyful. Maybe give it a try - the year is yours for the taking!
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Gail Allen and Danielle Schwartz are both 500-RYT yoga professionals trained in Hatha and Kundalini Yoga. They specialize in Chakra Healing, Curvy Yoga, Reiki Healing, Aromatherapy, and other modalities of healing.