A few years back, I lost my motivation. Every time I worked on my book, I felt frustrated with my writing. After the tenth edit, I stopped working on it. At the time, I just chalked that up to laziness.
Also, I was helping a coaching client be more profitable. His consulting package only scratched the surface of client issues, and he wasn’t charging enough to cover all his expenses. It was a lose-lose. We designed a bigger consulting package so he could better solve issues AND stay in business. Yet, he still wasn’t reaching out with the new offer. At the time, he just chalked that up to laziness.
PROCRASTINATION IS RARELY LAZINESS
Upon further research however, I discovered there is plenty of Psychological research to show that procrastination is rarely about laziness. It’s usually something deeper, at the subconscious level.
In my case, it was being overly perfectionistic, underneath that was fear of failure. What if people didn’t like the book, what if it wasn’t good enough? In his case, it was self doubt. He hadn’t proved to himself worthy of the bigger fee.
In the past, I’d push myself past procrastination, then end up feeling burnt out and resentful. I no longer ignore that feeling of low motivation and no longer try to push clients past it either. Transforming the underlying MindStory is far more effective.
GROWING A BUSINESS IS A HERO’S JOURNEY
Growing a career is a hero’s journey. By that, I am referring to Joseph Campbell’s term for the core structure of all stories that seem to move people. Growing professionally is like a hero’s journey in that it involves stepping into the unknown constantly, to stay valuable to those you serve. One of the essential understandings of such a life is that everything you encounter—fear, resentment, failure, embarrassment—is actually a gift. It’s an invitation to grow as a person. Many of us know this intellectually, however, there is hard-wiring in the human psyche to avoid that kind of suffering. The paradox, however, is that the resistance to it will end up limiting our professional and personal lives.
WHAT IS A LIMITING MINDSTORY?
MindStories can be empowering or limiting depending on the meaning you give them. My limiting MindStory started in childhood. I brought home a “B+” on an essay and my father said, why didn’t you get an A? He’d been an honor student and a member of Menza, and so from his perspective, he was trying to encourage me to be my best. At the time, however, I gave it a different meaning. I made a subconscious decision that nothing I did was ever good enough.
My client’s limiting MindStory also started in childhood when he asked for more pocket money from his mother so he could go to the movies. She said, “You haven’t done a good enough job cleaning the garage so not today.” From her perspective she was trying to encourage him to be more thorough, and give value to get value. However, at the time, he made a subconscious decision that nothing he did was ever good enough.
A different story for both of us, but the same result.
The “I am not good enough” is like a Mind Virus in the human condition. Almost every client I’ve ever worked with seems to have some version of it. Since stories got us into the problem, I often find stories can help get you out.
THE MONKEY MIND STORY
The Buddhists often refer to this limiting subconscious voice that says “nothing is good enough” as “The Monkey Mind”. In Tibetan Buddhism there is a story about a great cave-dwelling yogi. One day, he left his cave to gather firewood, and when he returned, his cave was taken over by demonic-looking monkeys. They were breaking things, making a mess, being loud and making themselves fully at home. At first he said to himself, “I have got to get rid of them!” He chased after them but that didn’t work. In fact, the more he chased them, the more settled-in they seemed to be.
Then he chose a new approach. He would teach them a better way to be. He taught them about consideration and kindness. They simply ignored him and caused MORE havoc in his cave.
At this point, he let out a deep breath of surrender, knowing that they would not be manipulated into leaving. Maybe he has something to learn from them. He looked deeply into the eyes of each demonic monkey and bowed, saying, “It looks like we’re going to be here together. I open myself to whatever you have to teach me.” In that moment all the demonic monkey but one disappeared.
One huge and especially mean-looking demon monkey, with flaring nostrils and dripping fangs, remained. The yogi let go even further. Stepping closer, he placed his head in the demon’s mouth, offering himself completely. At that moment this largest one bowed low and dissolved into space.
YOU CAN’T AVOID LIFE’S SHARP EDGES BUT YOU CAN TRANSFORM THEM
One of the things I love about this story is that it highlights the illusion that we can somehow avoid life’s sharp edges. Personal and professional growth tends to bring up unresolved issues from the depths of our subconscious, like a geyser of black mud. Transforming that is central part of the hero’s journey.
That said, when those demons appear, it is not so easy to just relax and let go. We usually try a number of different approaches to get these uninvited guests to go back to the dungeon. Pushing them away often looks like procrastination, addictions, distractions. Trying to reason with the inner demons may look like trying to talk yourself out of fears. Neither usually work.
Stories you hear AND stories you tell yourself, can leave you feeling more empowered or less empowered. It’s very important that you pay close attention to the TYPES of stories you’re listening to. When I first heard that story about the yogi, it was empowering and seemed to bypass the subconscious programming, as stories often do.
GETTING YOUR MOTIVATION BACK
By surrendering to my inner demons, to learn from them, it gave me a breakthrough. I saw the game being played inside my own psyche of slaving away at the writing and then condemning it as not good enough. What was a third and better approach? I had to get back in touch with why I was writing the book in the first place. Who did I want to serve and how did I want to help them? Then, I hired a good editor who helped me become a better writer and who I trusted to tell me when it was “good enough”. That got my motivation back to complete the book.
When my client first heard that story, he also found himself more willing to learn from his inner demons. He saw the game being played inside his psyche, of never feeling good enough to charge more. What was a third and better approach? He, too, was able to then better reconnect to why he started his consulting business in the first place and how he wanted to help people. It then gave him the idea to offer one existing client a pro bono consulting package that was more extensive than he’d done up to the point. In exchange, if the client got great results, he would do a video testimonial and refer him to three colleagues. It turns out he was “good enough” and his client raved about him. That got his motivation back to offer the bigger consulting package.
Do you have any “Monkey Mind” voices stopping you from moving forward? Instead of resisting them, inquire if they have anything to teach you. Ironically, that inquiry can often reconnect you to the vision for your business, and lead to a breakthrough. Then naturally you get your mojo back.
Want more tools for getting your motivation back?
Check out 2 free trainings that can help you transform hidden blocks to success
- The Art of Mindset Mastery – online this Sunday
- How to Break Free of Hidden Saboteurs – 3 times this week to choose from
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