Learner therapist (9) …"Finding my starter button"
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.