I thought I would be enjoying it more. Now just a few days into the five-week break between the fall and spring semesters, I am feeling somewhat restless. Although the intense pressure I felt only a week ago has been lifted, and at first it was relief like I had not felt in a very long time, I am now just a little bit… impatient. Very little is required of me right now and as a result, I am doing very little. My head is not buried in some book, I am not actively working on any kind of research, there are no looming due dates – it is an odd feeling. It is not like there is nothing to do; my office looks like a tornado blew through it, I have a number of books that I want to read and I haven’t pulled my out camera in days, but if I don’t do those things the consequences amount to nothing more than mild discomfort, at worst.
The fact that I am driven by deadlines is not news to me. At some level, I have always known that I am not a self-motivator. Unless I am in a position where the consequences are substantial, I am resistant. Some might call it lazy - so be it. But self-motivation is a relative term. There are a number of ways people get motivated. For some, it would appear, simply the need for a task to be completed is motivation enough. Either the discomfort of leaving something undone or, perhaps, the gratification found in completing whatever it is provides the motivation necessary. For others, the potential pain or pleasure must be more pronounced before any action takes place. And, of course, there are a million nuances – it is not a linear progression. More pain than pleasure? What sort of pain? How much pleasure? Money, power, prestige, personal worth?
For those like me, the motivation is not produced from within, although good intentions are. So what about us? Is voluntarily placing myself in a position where success is expected and the standards are high the same as self-motivation? College is definitely such a place – no one is required to go. Grad school is even more so. And failure, if I choose not to meet these self-imposed deadlines, means returning to where ever it was I was before deciding to embark on the path, meaning the negative consequences still leave me with a BA. Does that make me self-motivated? If so, why is my office still a mess?
It is also interesting that what motivates me today did not in years past. There are some things that I loved to do in the past that I couldn’t be bothered with today. For example, the idea of taking my car to the mechanic, not matter what the problem might have been, was laughable. I could fix virtually anything and loved to turn wrenches. Today, I am not motivated in least at the thought of crawling underneath a car. Yet I am motivated to keep my vehicles in good condition – perhaps more so than before because I know that I get nothing out of fixing a car on a moment’s notice. Driving an iffy car used to be an acceptable risk (I could just fix it, anytime), now it is not.
The motivation that comes with school also straddles the motivation continuum. Although there is not necessarily a serious “real world” negative consequence to failure, there is a very real personal consequence. Nobody wants to fail, even if there is no tangible loss. On the positive side, however, the same is true. The rewards of success are many and multi-faceted. They are realized in the short and long term. They can and often do include monetary gain, but it is much more than that. It is much more personal. It is a battle for not only success in my endeavors, but also against complacency – a battle to overcome laziness. Some don’t need to create challenges in their lives, I do.
Now if I could just get motivated to clean my office.