Discomfort

Are You Motivated Toward Pleasure or Away From Pain?

A guy giving me a sales pitch last year said to me,

"We've found that only about 20% of people are what we call 'Toward People'-- the ones who move toward pleasure; the other 80% of people are 'Away People' who move away from pain."

How Are You Motivated?

Am I able to see what I want and go after it or do I wait until the pain of what I have is so heavy that my motivation comes more from avoiding discomfort?

Any parents, teachers, managers, or other professions that necessitate motivating others know first-hand that this rule holds some truth. With one kid you have to promise ice cream to get the desired results; whereas with another it's not until you threaten to take away their TV privileges that they feel inspired. With weight loss as the example, some friends are chasing a goal--say posing in a bikini-- that motivates them; others, if honest with themselves, are just tired of feeling shame and would give anything to stop feeling that way.

It seems important to know which one we are. The last thing we want is to be in a bikini and still feel shame.

Why Do You Want to Make Friends?

Are you seeking new friends because you know how much fun it will be? Are you already looking forward to the activities, the sharing, and the bond?  Are you motivated to invite now by thinking about what you can be experiencing a year from now?  Are your eyes on the prize? Are you moving toward the pleasure you want?

Or... are you seeking friends because you're tired of feeling disconnected? Are you feeling the loneliness, the ache, and the angst of what it feels like to not have the friends you most want?  Are you motivated to invite now because you want to stop feeling the pain of feeling unsupported or unknown? Are your eyes on the pain? Are you moving away from the pain you feel?

Of course the two are interconnected: accomplishing one hopefully impacts the other. But that's not always the case, is it?  The strategy and results might look different based on which one is the primary motivator.

  • For example, if you're a Toward Person then you probably have a vision of what you want. Perhaps it's sitting in your backyard with a friend watching your kids play, meeting up with a group of friends for lunch downtown where you can talk work and vent, or having one person who knows everything going on in your life because you're both texting each other all through out the day?  Knowing the picture you want-- gives you instant information about the strategy you will want to employ, whether it's finding other women who work nearby or other women who have kids who will play with yours.
  • Whereas, if you're an Away Person then you could theoretically reach any of those visions listed above but still feel angst if you didn't first identify what pain you're trying to avoid.  Maybe it's the pain from being mad at someone, the pain of feeling misunderstood, or the pain of feeling isolated.  Sitting in the backyard watching your kids play may not be the answer?  In fact it may exacerbate the pain because you'll be confused why you still feel mad, misunderstood, or lonely if you didn't figure out why you were feeling those things and articulate what you believe would help you move away from that feeling.

I don't actually think one is worst than the other as much as they both just describe human nature and how we're wired differently. What could be damaging is not knowing which path feels most motivating to you.

Questions to Lead to Your Own Motivation

It's undoubtedly not as easy as an either/or answer for you, but I challenge you today to try to answer these following questions:

  1. Do you most need to move toward something or away from something?
  2. Based on that answer, write at least one full paragraph articulating either the feelings/experiences you want to pursue or avoid.
  3. Now let an image come to mind of you reaching your goal (what does it look like if you're not feeling that way, or what does it look like for you to reach the experience you're pursuing) and describe or draw what you see.  What are you doing? What does your face look like? Who else is there? What are you feeling?
  4. What does your voice of wisdom and maturity say is your take-away from this exercise? Is there an action you want to take? Is there something you want to remember?

Naming which one resonates with us might give us some ah-ha into how to best keep ourselves motivated.  It also hopefully helps us reach our real goals--whether it's the obtain something or avoid something.  Both are important.  But which one matters most?

If I could wave my little magic wand then I'd hope for you both the joy of pursuing pleasure and the peace from moving away from pain.  But since I can't find it right now, what I want for you is your clarity in knowing which one matters most to you right now so that your chances of success increase.  May you feel more relaxed in your friend-making journey as you sense that you have landed on what really will keep you motivated.

And, by the way, I bought the software from that sales guy. He won me over. Ha!

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  I finished my next book manuscript!  Woohoo!! This was a case of first being a Toward person as it was the joy of writing and teaching that motivated me to write a book proposal last summer for my agent to start pitching to publishers.  But then, in recent months I was definitely more motivated by recognizing that there was pain I wanted to Avoid.  When the book felt hard-- and oh this one was squeezing me tight and pounding me with pressure--the only thing that kept me going was not wanting to miss a deadline or disappoint my editor.  I was all about the avoiding pain! Ha!  So sometimes we can use both to our advantage!  :)  I CANNOT wait to share this book with you... as soon as I know the publication date-- I'll let you know!

Yin Yoga Inspired Wisdom for the Friend-Making Process

A girlfriend invited a few of us to a yoga class last Thursday. Intrigued and moved by that practice of yin yoga, I signed my husband and myself up for a 3-hour workshop yesterday (ah, he's such a good sport!)  Two classes in four days, an expert I am not. An impressed student, I am.  For those of my readers who are stepping into new friendships, the applications are profound. What can We Learn about Friend-Making from Yin Yoga?

1)   Discomfort is Expected. In the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, we are reminded that things that seem contrary, are interconnected.  That which seems dark, has light in it; and exists only in relation to its opposite. What moved me in yin yoga was the invitation to step into discomfort, showing trust in the human experience that we are capable of embracing and growing from all experiences.

yin-yang

Much like leaning down to touch your toes and finding that place where there is slight pain, our goal wasn't to simply be okay if we felt it; it was the expectation that we would go there.  And stay there. In that place where we were stretched, expanded and slightly uncomfortable.

What struck me is our tendency as humans to link all pain in one category to be avoided. To know the difference between sharp, shooting pain that injures, and the sensations of discomfort that brings benefits in the process is critical.

As women who value new friends, what would it look like to allow for discomfort in the process? If we expected the fact that getting together the first time was going to be awkward? If we simply accepted that the process was going to be slightly uncomfortable and unnatural feeling? And most important, that we chose to embrace that part of the experience, refusing to avoid it or walk away?  Courageously admitting that feeling the stretch is worth it even if we feel slight fear or embarrassment? Choosing to initiate a get-together, RSVP'ing for a ConnectingCircle, walking through the door to meet strangers, being willing to share a little about yourself, insisting upon following up and doing it again.

Not all discomfort needs to be avoided.

2.  The Value is in the Long Hold. Yin Yoga participants hold a passive pose (designed to lubricate the joints and connective tissues of your body, stimulate the flow of energy, and bring the body-mind into a state of deep relaxation) for several minutes.  That means we aren't just instructed to reach that discomfort and then retreat.  We are called to stay there.  And what we do there is transformative.

 

Dina Amsterdam

In the midst of slight pain, feeling the stretch, we are invited to do three things: breath, be aware of all things we're feeling and experiencing, and respond quietly with loving kindness.

 

Our knee jerk reactions to things that frustrate us or feel yucky is to retreat, to pull away, to react harshly, to judge it as bad.  In this practice, we are called to stay in that space, embracing it as part of the full human experience.  Teaching ourselves to breathe through the moment, holding non-judgmental attentiveness for how we feel, invokes in us a courage that we can do the same in real-world situations.

When we are looking for friendships, we are often disappointed when it's not instant or automatic. Much like Yin Yoga, to build friendships that matter, we are asked to stay, to push further, to lean in and to stay there. To ask a follow-up question, to share a little more, to invite her to another time together, to follow through on our agreement to be present.

Refusing to retreat from awkwardness is when we experience the value.

3.  The Benefit is Felt in the Aftermath. As kids, we would sometimes cut off the blood supply to our tightly clenched fists because we loved that feeling of letting go of our wrists, feeling the tingle as our white knuckles turned red again in the release.  In this form of yoga, after holding a specific stretch for a while, I had a similar feeling when finally we could lay down flat.

Laying on my back, my body felt congruent, released, relaxed, strong, calm, grounded and centered. I don't know the science behind the poses but apparently energy channels were opened and my body was responding. I couldn't have arrived here without first agreeing to the challenging pose.

Unfortunately, we aren't known to be good judges when we only base our judgments on the immediate pay-off. The friend-making process is comparative.  At first, the actual time together isn't always the easy part.  It's only after numerous times together that we usually begin to feel the benefits.  It's worth noting though that even in meaningful conversations with strangers we are still lowering our stress, strengthening our immune system, and increasing our endorphins.  We are benefiting even when it feels awkward; and even if we don't feel it until later.

We'd miss out on much if we though it had to feel good now to be good.

I left the class feeling brave, open and strong.  Reminding myself that I can breathe through moments that are uncomfortable. Holding confidence that since I know the difference between harmful pain and valuable pain, I don't need to lump the two together. Trusting in life as a process where there is both light and dark, good and bad, hot and cold--and that I can show loving kindness in all.  Using all these experiences to learn about myself, express gratitude and show up more fully.

We don't have to retreat.  We can engage. Even when it's uncomfortable. Especially then.

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Does this resonate? I'd love to hear when you're most tempted to retreat, or the value you've found in pushing through the awkward!