Performance Anxiety and 3 Fears to Intrinsic Motivation – Part 1

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 “You heard me tell you the story of the lion and gazelle. You are the gazelle. You need something to motivate you. What happens to the gazelle when the lion ain’t chasing him? He’s nothing. He stops running. Why?

Because he always needs something external to motivate him. That’s why.”

Maybe, I should have waited a year or so before I published this. Especially when the experience feels so raw and fresh that I should give things time to settle before writing something like this. But in internalising this experience for myself and journaling it, I realised that this article was already written. So I guess that meant I had to publish it.

Any task that you take in life is a journey no matter how short, or long. It has a beginning, middle and an end. A dream, a goal, for example and the realising of something you want to create in your life in such a journey.

And the true beauty of any journey to me is never the destination. If it’s your goal in life to make a million dollars then there must be a deeper more elaborate reason behind it. If someone just gave you a million dollars what would you have learnt from it? Absolutely nothing.

You see, it’s not about the dream you achieve in the end. It’s always been about what you learn about yourself on the journey towards it. The roughest seas give you the clearest reflection of who you are. It reveals your ‘why’.

And that is something I have been learning the hard way over the past few weeks. After recovering from an injury in January, I began to work again. But I found myself thoroughly unmotivated, and almost a little depressed. It was difficult to wake early in the morning like I used to or to really go head on into anything I felt was important.

I was lost.

And I couldn’t figure out why. I had blocks in everything I did. It was like I had lost my mojo. If I had a normal job, I’d just do what my boss told me. But this is exactly what I want to do. Isn’t it? Was I wrong?

What else would I be doing? I asked myself.

And the answer always was nothing but this.

Now, I should point out I don’t believe in asking myself what I should be doing 10 years from now because it will never be tomorrow or yesterday. It’s always right now. So the question for me always is, “What do I want do with my life right now and why do I want to do it?”

And if I did what I’m doing and woke up one morning and decided to stop doing it, fine. Fair enough. But it didn’t feel like that time was now.

It was obvious there was a blockage. Something I was holding on to that was not allowing me to move forward and I had to find out what that was.

One thing I’ve learnt about procrastination is that if you’re delaying something, there’s a fear, or a belief or a definition that doesn’t agree with what you’re doing. And the conflicting ideas stop you dead in your tracks.

So I researched feeling blocked/procrastination and found a couple of techniques that seemed to help.

I made time to just sit and breathe and figure things out. If I didn’t feel like doing it, I didn’t beat myself up over it. I accepted it. You can’t pour more water on a plant and hope it grows faster can you? Sometimes you just have to give it time to find itself. Like waiting for the dots to connect.

And in those subtle moments with myself I found the answers I was looking for.

There was a fear. And it had to do with 3 things.

1) Money

When I first left my corporate job, one of my motivations for working was of course passion. But it was also with a knowing that I’d make enough to live a comfortable life.

I told myself that I may have to struggle for a while but it would all be worth it. And I believed that. But what if I was wrong? What if it didn’t turn out that way?

I realised that one of the things that were bothering me was this fear that I’d simply never make a lot of money. And this completely conflicted with the image I had in my head. So my ego was simply not acting on anything I had in front of me because I wasn’t giving it ‘what it was promised’ and if that was the case it just wasn’t going to do them.

2) Facing this Journey Alone

We’ve all seen examples of people who think differently, who follow different schools of thought, who have been branded as “not-normal”, “non-conformist” against the grain, etc..  Like the school kid nobody wants to hang out with.

Yes I know I exaggerate and it’s definitely not true. But that’s a fear you see. And identifying it was big for me because I didn’t even know it was there. What’s the motivation to do anything if you’re feeling like a lone wolf doing it. And it’s a fear because honestly, no one really wants to be alone on our journey. But if you examine the belief you’ll realise that there is nothing wrong with that at all.

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No matter who you’re with, your journey is always personal and the story is always from your perspective, your interpretation of the experience. I’m not saying keep everyone at a distance. No. I’m saying we’re all characters in everyone else’s story and we have to accept that people come and go. And we have to be ok with that. We can’t count on others to carry us through.

In this marathon that we run called life, we’ve already set up our checkpoints. You can make things happen in your life but you can’t force things to happen. You have to be ok with whatever comes and essentially, just trust the experience.

3) Success

They say if you do what you love you’ll succeed in it. But that’s not guaranteed. Anywhere. There are countless musicians, artists, writers around the world who for generations have ploughed in the dirt and never risen to the success or fame they had hoped for.

But these goals which turned into fears were exactly the things that kept me driven when I left my job to pursue training. Without them, I wouldn’t have know myself as well as I did now.

And in realising these fears, in uprooting them from the soil of my mind, I realised something. I don’t  really care.

That was the point!

The idea wasn’t now to go out and get these things (though it would be absolutely lovely to have them). The idea was to be ok with NOT having them.

Fear wasn’t resolved in the gaining of these items but in the resolution that I would be completely fine without them.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he describes the 8-fold path to Yoga. Under the second limb, Niyama (Suggested Individual Disciplines) he describes Isvara Pranidhaa which roughly translates to surrender to God. But I don’t think it just means surrender to God. Because on another level, we are God and it also must mean to put your trust in yourself and what you’re doing and believe that this is the best course of action. So what if it doesn’t turn out how we expected it to. All that really matters was that we did it to the best of our ability (Once you’ve cleared the roadblocks). We fail to accept that even failure is a necessary aspect of personal evolution.

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And if you dare to fail, you’ll connect with the part of you that dares to succeed. Isn’t that motivation?

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But this brought me to another realisation on the idea of expectation. which I’ll cover in part 2