Pull out the vertical pin, undo the hook and lift the hinged cover…3 steps that unraveled 3 scientists back in 1949. Harry F. Harlow and his colleagues decided one day in 1949 to create this puzzle and test it on 8 monkeys for a 2-week period. Not only did these primates solve this puzzle and others in a matter of seconds, they did it frequently and actually seemed as if they found joy in doing so. No one knew what was actually driving them, as up until now, there was said to be two main drives that fueled behavior. Biological drive which was innate, instinctual and mostly related to survival. The other was more external and that rewards or punishments shaped why we did the things we did. However, neither explained why these monkeys were doing these puzzles, as their survival didn’t depend on it and they weren’t being rewarded with anything for doing them and weren’t being punished for not doing them. Harlow came up with a third drive known as intrinsic motivation, which is basically doing something because you love doing it. Ok, no I am not doing a psych term paper on intrinsic motivation, so don’t stop reading, I promise I have a point. This summer, I spent a lot of time “free”. I stepped back from certain obligations, took risks and learned anything new I could…this wasn’t because I was bored, but because I was looking inwardly more for drive and motivation. I needed to reassess what makes me tick; whether it’s food, fitness or just life in general, as nothing was clear to me anymore.
When I was growing up, my father pretty much said if you don’t succeed at first, you fail. There are no second chances, no learning curves and no do-overs. Even Ricky Bobby said that “If you ain’t first, you’re last”…which is the basic principal as to how I lived my life. If I wasn’t the best at something, it meant I wasn’t good at it at all. There was never any middle ground. My drive and motivation came mostly from fear of my father’s disappointment and thus, as I grew older, my own. It wasn’t until college when I changed my major because I was miserably failing at all my computer science classes and immediately got straight A’s in all my Finance classes, thereafter. I succeeded not because I was the best at something, but because I truly enjoyed it. I loved going to class because I loved what I was learning, being good at it was just a perk! The thing with school is that there’s a safety net, it’s real life that I wish there were more harnesses that could prevent us from falling.
“Figure out for yourself what you want to be really good at, know that you ‘ll never satisfy that you’ve made it, and accept that that’s okay.” –Robert B. Reich
As much as I love this quote and and see so much of myself in the first part, at first I just couldn’t get on board with the last two parts. If you love what you do and master your craft, why should I accept that I am the best at it and that I have achieved ultimate success? Well it’s because those of us driven by our passions can’t accept that we’ve peaked and will never be okay with that, we accept that we will never completely master our crafts and yes, that’s okay because that’s what drives us to at least try. The problem with this often is that we lose ourselves, our vision and ultimately we get lost on our own journeys. Sure, there are curves and bumps in the road, but those we can accept as they usually come from external sources, but we always find a way back to the bigger motivating pieces that sent us on this journey in the first place. Me? I got lost and became my own roadblock on my journey.
I have the best motivation and intentions for the things I do. I always equate motivation to a seed for an idea or a journey that gets planted. My drive is the physical aspect that I engage in to get me to my destination. My problem is that I always stay on the road too long, after I’ve passed my destination hoping that maybe I can still find something else. I forget to take a rest at my destination, get a meal, go sightseeing…enjoy that moment and then reassess what more I can see and whether to continue to not. I always skip that part. It’s been a recurring theme in my life that started in a corporate position where the last 6 months were torture and I had no motivation of my own to be there, but was continuously driving… thinking that it was enough to get me appreciated and promoted. It never happened, I was always forced to leave and if only I had stepped back 6 months ago, reevaluate what my real reasons for still being there were, perhaps I’d been more successful.
This year was no different, except for one aspect, my ego. When journeys are your own, it’s harder to differentiate motivation and drive because ego gets in the way. What makes me feel the best? What can I do to be better than anyone? What can I do that others think I am better than everyone else? It was all about what everyone else thought. The acceptance and validation I needed from others. That “rewards motivation” mentality that I took too far. I didn’t balance it with my love for food and fitness. I just did to show that I could, that I was the best and no one could knock me down…except someone did, ME. I knocked myself down so hard that the ground fell out from under me and I’m still climbing out. I was no longer motivating myself to succeed in the gym or with my company and that had started 7 months prior, when I should have turned into a gas station with my low fuel light came on…not ride out those last drops of gas until I came to that dreaded stop, stranded in the middle of nowhere. I have been truly blessed having some of the best motivators I have ever known; my mentor, John, has always pushed me to have the craziest food ideas and Jake, my trainer, always pushed me to be the best version of me. I relied on others to motivate me. I stopped relying on myself. I stopped loving what I was doing and didn’t assess it, and when it all started to unravel, it ultimately became the reason why I had to step back. I couldn’t ruin anything more for myself.
As I began to burrow under a blanket of shame from failure and a bruised ego, I was in disbelief that I could self-sabotage things that once meant so much to me. I was truly hard on myself and didn’t know how to even subside the guilt and blame. Thing is, I had to go through all that, even as bad as it was, to even see a glimmer of hope for myself. I put up fronts for my friends, family and followers so that I didn’t have to admit to anything. The reason this all comes out now is that I have given myself three months to just think, reignite my drive, fuel my passions and plant new seeds of motivation. I have come back to fitness, and though not with Jake, he still motivates me every day whether I talk to him daily about my workouts, but more importantly when I motivate myself with the seeds he planted the first day I met him. In a sense, I will always be training with Jake, as when it comes to fitness I will always be relentless. He helped me find my place in fitness and always empowers me with the knowledge to be able to lead others to their own finish lines. I can now be the motivator and use that to also motivate myself as the student has just become the teacher 🙂 Ok, maybe not yet, but someday I’ll get a chance to teach him something as well, I’m not going anywhere. As for my company, this blog has definitely been a chance to reach out to more people and really understand the new path I want to take and realize just how multi-faceted my company really is and that I can use this to my advantage instead of the chaos it once created in my head. I miss cooking…cooking for people, and now I am starting to think about new popups, collaborations and just really just getting back into the kitchen. With that said, I want to take food to a different level and get my Health Coach certification so I can actually cook meals for those with rigid fitness regimens, dietary restrictions and nutrition needs and can speak to it professionally. Is all of this set in stone? No. Do I have a plan? Yes. Do I have my motivation back? Yes, seeds have been planted. My drive to go down this path? Still working on it. 😉
My whole point of writing this today is actually more of a self-reflection of this past summer for myself and how it all came to be. Most that know me are shocked that I have been this person that is taking risks and living in this state of flux. Even now, things aren’t completely clear yet, but it’s like a newly planted garden where you planted the best you could, just leave the rest up to the elements. I know that most people can’t take the summer off from their lives to “discover” themselves; that whole “biological” motivation kicks in, we need money to pay bills and “survive”. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be cognizant of how you are feeling and take a day off to think. You don’t owe anyone any explanations, or need to feel guilt or shame or even feel selfish for doing so…you only owe it to yourself…so with that said… you do you, and do it well.
P.S. You need to check out this book called “Drive” written by Daniel H. Pink….truly an inspiration for me to write this blog.