Cleaning is a chore that’s always on my to-do list.  I guess it’s a fact of life that cleanup is never done only once and is never done, period.  Take raking leaves, for instance.  Like trick-or-treaters on Halloween, leaves blow in from neighborhoods far away so that it’s dismaying when the work of raking has to be done again.  And again.

It’s enough to kill motivation.

Sometimes we blame ourselves when we run out of gas.  Setting out to accomplish a new and exciting project takes longer to complete than anticipated.  Or the future isn’t unfolding as planned.  Unexpected events interfere with plans that were best laid.

Bill Murray, in the film “Groundhog’s Day”, had to learn it’s not about extrinsic motivation, delineated by accomplishment, inducement, or incentive; rather intrinsic motivation is what mattered.  This impulse breaks into the core of who are, where each of us can believe in it, live it.  It’s the inside-out of motivation, performed somewhere in a misty garden at dawn while interminably standing on one foot.

That’s easier for some of us than others.

Like a leaf-free yard, motivation (whether it’s pure or impure) isn’t a one-shot deal; it needs to be conscious, diligent and consistent — while at the same time being not.

Because you don’t “get motivated” and “stay motivated”, your supply of gung-ho needs to be renewed.  It’s sometimes true that a battery’s life is longer when it depletes all the way before recharging.

Being calm doesn’t just belong to the OMers. Smart, positive people know the trick to maintaining motivation, especially intrinsic motivation, has nothing to do with working harder or smarter or later into the night.  It’s about preparing for the future; a trusted destination even as the direction isn’t.

What would that look like on a daily basis?  Maybe reading a passage from well-loved book, reading your “mission statement”, or developing one if you haven’t already.  Committing to time spent indoors or out- (a leaf-strewn patio?) or anywhere you can relax into what’s around you.  Listen to favorite music, pet a pet, take a break from work or relaxing, meditate, stand on one leg.

Motivation isn’t here, it’s there, and we haven’t gotten “there” yet. We never do.

Writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell said “We must let go of the life we had planned so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

In this way, motivation is zen, an act of not being and not doing while at once being and doing.  Having nothing to do with some thing and something to do with nothing at all.

Want to be smarter than your to-do list?  Pack a sandwich and go find some leaves.

Kathe Skinner has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 20 years.  She and her husband, David, live in Colorado Springs with their two hooligans cats and a yard full of leaves. 

copyright, 2015  Being Heard, LLC

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