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Am I Motivating Myself or Just Pushing Myself?

Personal Perspective: The bracelet is inscribed “Keep Going.” Can I?

© alihaiderbhatti | Shutterstock
Source: © alihaiderbhatti | Shutterstock

This bracelet inscribed “Keep Going” was originally meant to inspire me because last year was a tough year with some serious medical challenges that have not wholly been resolved yet. Additionally, I was challenged by a new job which was my first position in a clinical supervisor role. Don’t get me wrong: I love my job and I love being a supervisor. It’s taken a circuitous route to get here, a little longer than a lot of people, but I’m grateful to my manager for taking a chance on me and I hope she is pleased with my performance. Admittedly, I’ve also made some mistakes to which I’ve owned up. I’ve come a long way from my strict perfectionistic mindset, in which anything less than no errors equals complete failure. The ability to hang out, even for a little while, in the grey zone is a monumental achievement for me. This was an issue that my former psychiatrist and therapist, Dr. Lev, and I worked on extensively and now, faced with a relevant situation, I’m seeing the results.

This week, which was a short one due to New Year’s Day, I had a jam-packed schedule as I had rescheduled clients from Monday through the rest of the week. Some of the days were long as well, with 7 pm appointments. There were times I was exhausted and I used the bracelet’s inscription more as a reminder to “push through,” rather than as motivation to overcome what had been a difficult previous 12 months.

How can I prevent this miscommunication to myself in the future when I glance at my bracelet? The unfortunate news is that my schedule is my schedule and I’m sleep-deprived. I think there is a way I can activate my brain to think of last year’s challenges and the motivation to have a better year all in one quick moment.

In her post, “Your Motivational Mix: What Keeps You Going?” Ruth Stitt states that “understanding your motivational mix helps you build in rewards that will keep you going even when it's hard.” She continues, “Intrinsic motivation comes from within, bringing a sense of personal satisfaction.”

I’m almost certain I have an intrinsic motivation style. My motivation to write is one form of intrinsic motivation because it brings me great personal satisfaction. My work as a therapist is a form of mixed motivation. Stitt defines extrinsic motivation as “external, exemplified by monetary reward or praise from others, or power over others." I’d be lying if I said my paycheck wasn’t part of my motivation for this job. However, a good part of my motivation is intrinsic, from the satisfaction I get from working with clients and watching their lives improve.

One study found that “motivation is highest and learning is most efficient when tasks are made just slightly more difficult than can be matched by the individual’s current ability.” In other words, to continue to be motivated we should continue to challenge ourselves by taking on responsibilities that are slightly more difficult than the ones we are currently engaged in.

So I just found the key to activating myself when I glance at my new bracelet: “Keep Going," for me, means to me to continue to challenge myself at the next level.

Thanks for reading.

More from Andrea Rosenhaft LCSW-R
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