Where motivation comes from

Something I’m trying to learn the difference between is the act of giving from a space of fear and giving from a space of generosity. This first came to my attention during the altMBA when I had to do a lot of work in a short space of time. Not only that, but the work was interactive – I could not prepare in isolation, but what I created depended on my coaching sessions, what my team members said, and the posts other people produced. Juggling full-time work as well, there was only so many hours in the day to prepare for each Zoom call and written contribution I needed to make over the four weeks. My reaction was to read, plan and write as much as I could before each session so that I was certain I would have something to say.

From the outside, I was disciplined. Why, though? Because I was scared.

I was scared of failing. I feared looking like a fool. I did not want to embarrass myself. Improvising and reacting are not my strong points; I needed to be prepared. This was because I cared about what others thought of me. A lot. Really, I wanted to impress.

And looking back, none of these things are bad things. It’s natural to want others to think well of you. These motivations were keeping me safe. They certainly kept me producing work. I was organised and knew what was expected of me; this helped me to make the most of the course.

And yes, I was fascinated by what I was learning – things I’d never heard of before, from a world-class teacher. I had been gifted this opportunity and I did not want to squander it. I wanted to prepare.

The motivation underneath my hard work was harder to look in the eye. Fear was a hard taskmaster. Fear had me trying to prove myself. Fear had me anticipating what was next, instead of sitting in the moment, being present and hearing exactly what was in front of me.

There was weight and pressure within my fear.

Is this really the best I can do?

Am I good enough?

And underneath, I think it’s safe to say that I didn’t think I deserved to be there, so I was over-preparing to prove myself.

Learning group after learning group, I was able to meet people who came to the altMBA with a calm sense of self, who knew without a trace of arrogance that what they had to offer others was worthwhile. They were giving from a space of generosity, rather than fear. I could sense it as soon as I saw it, and I knew that was the kind of space I wanted to get to. I just didn’t know how.

I did not learn the golden ticket answer to that question during this course. I did not change my motivations overnight when I saw what was going on underneath. It’s something I’m still wrestling with, as my default narrative is to worry first, prepare a lot and react later. It’s a coping mechanism, and any behavioural pattern you’ve had for most of your life takes a long time and a lot of effort to shake.

I am learning how to take the weight out of my fear of what other people think of me; a huge step on this journey is to put out this blog.

I know I need to work to change the internal narrative, to remember what I stand for, to be proud of what I contribute and feed the good wolf.

I think I can distil the tension inside down to whether I think what I’m contributing is valuable, and whether I am enough as I am, now.

Such important things to know, such hard things to put into practice.

Here’s to starting on the journey of being aware, and changing the narrative.

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