Sunday, July 24, 2011

Learner therapist (9) …”Finding my starter button”

Learner therapist (9) …"Finding my starter button"
Torrey Orton
July 24, 2011

B., 32, is struggling to step into his realistic, clearly focussed, and preferred work life. He has a track record of work and initiative in the field (food service), a plan for exploring a start-up enterprise, down to possible funding, and most recently a partner prospect of long acquaintance. What he doesn't have is a "starter button". Motivation for the last year or so has been negative – escaping a clearly unsatisfying present job, at which he is also underperforming (though his employer doesn't seem to mind because no pressure is explicitly put on B to do more or differently or better, or…anyway, actually a great situation for a career change – paid exploration time!).

But not negative everywhere. In the last six months he's discovered running and pursues it with sturdy and rewarding attention, to the point of prepping for a half marathon now. No trouble starting his engine for the morning chug around the neighbourhood. He knows he'll feel good doing it and enjoy the challenge of sharpening his times while trimming his steps to reliable sustainability. And so he knows what it means (thought/feeling/action) to be motivated, and is so about some things! His wife and child are among important others.

On the edge of his stasis lies a gambling penchant with a smoking habit attached, now under control, more or less. He recognises this cluster is a displacement of energies which could drive a new life direction and his shortage of accepted alpha aspiration for a male of his social, ethnic and religious identifications. As well, there's a family history of weak father performance in the provider role, which B reflects in his unfound "starter button". He doesn't believe he can succeed at leading a venture alone.

Some months into this exploration, along came the right business partner prospect – a friend of long standing, appropriate openness and relevant life background, interests, experience and resources. Then up jumped a new challenge. What is B expecting the partner to lead in the enterprise and what will/can he lead himself? He doesn't know, nor had he thought of the question, but can feel the relevance.

The background discussion is 'what is motivation and how can it be grown, urged, prodded…in short, increased?' Also in short, motivation is the outcome of a shapely purpose, plus attractive incentives. We know that incentives can act as a purpose, or be confused for one, because need for them (money, status, position, etc.) is confused with purpose arising from deep within – an intrinsic motivation driver. Motivation is enhanced or compromised by competence: actual, imagined and aspirational – which in turn are sustained or demeaned by hope. B. suffers from a motivation hope deficit.

So, to start again, how does B improve his shortfall in leadership competence? By replacing it with confidence in shared leadership – the everyday business solution except where compulsive micro-managers are in the seat. Two parallel leadership relationships bear on his future: the business partner and the life partner ones. While both of these people support his vocational initiative, their stakes differ; His life partner's stake includes management of the household economy, it also affects her personal vocational future(s) (they agree she should go back to work in some way). The business partner's stakes principally centre on business management issues and the household side of his own domestic economy, too.

For B, clarifying his life partner's needs is the starting place to setting some personal goals. But that cannot be done without clarifying his needs. We're talking here about real things like amount of time away from home, expected low income period for the start-up and fall back options for the venture. In parallel run her only slightly spoken vocational aspirations, motherhood self-images, and such.

Both share a habit which blocks exploratory discussions directly affecting them: the wish to do no harm to the other. This is held with something approaching the energy of medical professionals, but not the same professional obligation. The ethical one is almost as powerful. As a result they cannot enter into potentially disputable grounds – those which harbour uncertainty about life critical matters like the family economy above, for instance. And the perceived relationship of doing nothing is still too slight. Doing no harm prevents doing good.

Keep posted.


1 comment:

  1. A timely and much needed posting Torrey.
    I have clients along similar lines…and as you know I’ve been through such journey myself…still ongoing.
    I offer the deeper questions of “Who says B. needs motivation now? What’s wrong with allowing the status quo to just be, as long as it needs to be?”

    You may see that this is pointing to the direction of “doing” versus “being”. The doing that arises out of being comes with its own built-in motivation. An example would be B’s newfound love of running and his “no trouble starting his engine for the morning chug around the neighbourhood”. Whereas the being that results from doing needs motivation from outside which is hit and miss and usually doesn’t feel quite right or fused with one’s being.

    You have analysed effectively the forces at work for B. including practical “real” ones, as well as psychodynamic ones re his family of origin and such; yet the underlying and unquestioned belief seems to be that he needs to do something. And since he doesn’t have the motivation for what we call “work” then something must be “wrong”.
    I’d argue that challenging that fundamental belief with uncompromising curiosity and openness would be most helpful for B. Such curious challenge would bring him face to face with the forces of conflict dragging him down causing the lack of motivation. Once these internal forces are felt and experienced by B in his body, new insights arise which are embodied; not just in the mind; and the holding forces would lose their grip on him. This in turn creates fresh space for whatever is needed to arise. What may arise could be the motivation he was searching for in the dark with no space (capacity) to accept even if he found it. Or who knows, perhaps some deeper holding forces that need to be felt, understood and digested may arise leading to fresh issues and then space for the new...
    Of course practicalities of life, such as family responsibilities, financial commitments and the like are always around too; but they can usually be worked out. In particular in B’s case he has a job and can cruise along what you nicely called “paid exploration time”, so let’s cherish it and “just be” for a while.