Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Appreciations (10) – Just walk on by…motives (un)fulfilled

Appreciations (10) – Just walk on by…motives (un)fulfilled.

Torrey Orton

August 26, 2009

I went out this morning at 7:15 to pull some weeds in the lawn. They are egregiously big things which shade the resilient grasses into nothingness after a month's growth. It's not like I just noticed them today. I've noticed them for a month, having decimated their tribe a few months ago with a heavy session of pulling, root and branch. The act is a wonderfully refreshing test of hand /wrist strength and a certain tenacity in the face of roots natural resistance to eradication. The branches fail easily which actually defends the roots from my efforts. Mostly I win.

For the effort, I got not only death to the weeds but also this boy's delight of dirty hands and nails needing themselves a serious brushing to return to sociability. If only I remembered this collateral effect I love I might more often grab the offenders early in their life-cycle and so eradicate rather than just interrupt their progress. There are a bunch of similar activities which I almost always like doing and enjoy the after-feel of. Among them are: aikido technique practice, cutting the grass by hand, skiing (cross country and downhill), and bushwalking with a stiff climb in it. Daily stuff like dishwashing holds a similar place in my life.

From motivation to motion

This brings me to the point of this appreciation: what a fine turn of awareness into intent it often is that brings something from the edge of possibility to the range of probability and then into an undertaken and completed task. The possibility-probability transition seems to be the longest for many highly discretionary tasks.

For instance: I can let a weed go for months, reminded more or less daily when I look out the door; the box(s) of empty wine bottles on the way to neighbour Etty for recycling move a bit more briskly. Ironing is somewhere in between the weeds and the recycled. If there's too little or too much time, I avoid with reluctant energy. Mostly, I do this by forgetting, which is irritating when I remember that I had an hour here of there over the week languishing for a utility to be fulfilled. I 'used' it on snoozes or another modest editorial foray from the world's presses.

A case of aikido interrupted

This is all a bit to do with subtleties of my motivation. For example, I decided last night I would practice my aikido technique this morning. I only do this early, before eating. I did not get there today. Here are the checkpoints along the way to the trip I did not take (this failed intention occurs about once a week, with one or two successes, too). I've counted 11 potential disconnect points along the road – always there for every trip, hence perfectly envisageable when I don't take it.

  1. The alarm
  2. Getting up
  3. Go to bathroom
  4. Dressing
  5. Picking up jo and sweatband
  6. Going out
  7. Walking to park (3 mins)
  8. Warm-up 90 seconds
  9. 21 kata each repeated 5 times (25 mins)
  10. 31 kata sequence repeated 1-3 times (3-5 mins)
  11. Walking home (5 mins)

A feature of these potential disconnect points is that they require transitions of time, space and mind to accomplish them. Every transition contains at least the moments William Bridges (and Kurt Lewin before him with unfreeze / change / refreeze) popularised three decades ago:
Endings, Neutral Zone, New Beginnings. Each of the 11 change points in my aikido practice is a transition. Therefore, there's a big opportunity for distraction or spontaneous variation (home of insight, creation and their friends).

…building blocks of life

One of the points of aikido practice is to make excellent moves routine. This requires constant attention to perfect form, followed by the assumption that perfect form cannot be achieved; it can only be maintained with vigilance (hear an obsession coming on?). My interest here is not myself, but the exploration of the delicacies of distraction, interruption, and creation which surround the engagement with established or establishing routines – the building blocks of life.

Self in the way of action

In general, there are a number of struggle themes / patterns around these distraction opportunity points. These include the struggle with my disengaged, distant relationship style (dismissive avoidant?), my strong inclination to large picture concepts and abstraction (INTP), my do-nothing reflective/contemplative self, and my worrier approach to work performance. Recently, I've been very interruptable by ideas for writing. I often get stuck in writing an article and then I suddenly see my way into and through it at odd times. These are notably ones when I'm doing something active, but measured – bushwalking, aikido, weed pulling, etc. Gross muscle activities seem good for thinking without intending to.

All of this applies to my vocational cores as well – the various helping/thinking/creating things that are me without my choice. But, some of the maintenance tasks (keeping case notes, organising data files) around them are more discretionary than driven. Therein is one of my motivational outs. Back to walking by things like weeds. Walking by seems more likely to occur the more transitions there are in our lives. Transitions often offer a promise of change, difference, and may provide instead breakage and fragmentation of our continuities.

The virtue of trying

And herewith is one of the implications, so far, of this walk into domesticity. For me, to keep trying is critical in doing new things. Aikido and writing are the most recent additions to my daily life. Not that I do them daily, but they are in my mind, I am working them to varying degrees. So, while I often fail to get up, or to get going once up, I almost never fail to catch an idea, and will even put Aikido second for that. It's the trying that counts, as long as I am trying about something that matters.

It seems to me the common perception that goals and objectives are the way to change / improvement is largely hollow. The hollow part is where the fundamental motivation – the motivation by vocation or value(s) – is missing. It cannot be replaced by short-term goals and performances, unless these are understood as practice for the real thing.

Getting good at trying is one thing I need to learn to teach others, while keeping in my own view the vision and practice of adequate trying myself. Much of the self-focussed reverie above begins specification of the internal and external contexts which need to be identified and engaged to increase motivated change – the direction for our trying.

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