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Archive for January, 2012

Dan, my conversation with Karen was very brief, but from the depth of our questions and inquires, it was useful in that it pointed to the one of the most important elements in all humankind; how do you get yourself and others to move towards desired outcomes?

This subject raises hundreds of questions, maybe thousands. All you really need to do is go into almost any bookstore and ask where the self-help section is located; if it’s not the largest section, it is close. That’s not to say that the philosophy, fiction, health, science, literature and even the romance section are not pregnant with similar musings and discussions. Motivation seems primary to understanding ourselves and others.

So I still come back to the question we asked about Karen, “Why this time,” First of all, if I had known my brief conversation with Karen would be the catalyst for our exploration, I would have spent more time with her. There is a risk to concluding why Karen was successful after such a short conversation and I want to preface the remainder of our conversation with the idea: We really don’t know why she was successful or what motivated her.

That being said, your comments about motivation styles as outlined in our communication model are spot on and give us a good chance to move our understanding of motivation to a new level. To review once again, in our coaching practice, we have identified five motivation styles, four of which you described thoughtfully.

We can be motivated to obtain what we do not yet have. We can be motivated to sustain what we value and might lose. We are motivated to avoid what we dislike, and we are motivated to end or extinguish conditions and experiences we find uncomfortable.

Three of these styles are readily applicable to understanding Karen’s motivation; obtaining, avoiding and extinguishing. She was certainly motivated to extinguishing discomfort, obtaining a new body and life, and avoiding the certainty of increasing her weight related illnesses.

However, what about sustaining what we value and might lose? This aspect of motivation is often subtle, even hidden. What about being grossly overweight is valuable? Why would someone want to remain at risk, in pain and uncomfortable?

Let me be clear, that in my brief conversation with Karen she gave me no clue that I was able to discern in this regard. But, it has been my experience that this domain holds some of the juiciest structures of understanding.

What have you noticed about yourself and your clients? Is there something we love about our misery, our confusion, our pain? It is so easy to imagine a better future, to envision a better day and life for our self. But that gets me thinking: Why can it be so difficult to obtain as well as to sustain?

Thank you Larry, launching our blog with Karen’s story was a wonderful choice. As is usually the case, your curiosity has been working. Powerful curiosity is one attribute of a great coach, and you have it in abundance.

You suggested we follow the link and read Karen’s story. I did just that, and I hope our readers have as well because Karen’s story is inspiring and instructive on several levels.

Karen Daniel’s Story

Before we go into your wonderful questions, I would like to say that I am excited to take the kinds of simple yet powerful topics we discuss privately into this public forum. Sometimes, you will pose the questions; other times, our roles will reverse. I also encourage our readers to participate. Great questions are welcome from all sources.

You closed your blog entry with a series of questions about motivation and lasting change; why not resume our discussion at that very place? From your post:

“Karen had become sick and tired of being sick and tired. She knew if she did not take action, she would continue to live a life of painful compromise.  She wanted less pain, and she wanted more fun and pleasure.”

A simple reading of Karen’s response would be that she was motivated to move away from her pain and to move toward what she wanted, “more fun and pleasure,” but your questions go much deeper.

“So what was it that made the difference for Karen?  Why was she able to trudge through two years of sweat and tears in support of her goals when many people cannot stay true to a new resolution for even one weekend?  Do we really need to become sick to muster the will and energy to transform our lives?  What motivates lasting change?”

What motivates lasting change? That’s the central question.

For the benefit of our readers, let’s begin at the beginning, with a general discussion of motivation, and from there, we can work our way back to the central question – What motivates lasting change?

Webster’s defines motivation as a need or desire that causes a person to act. In other words, motivation is what moves us. More specifically, we can say that motivation is a feeling that moves us to act and has both a direction and a source of energy.  When our goals are sufficiently attractive, they pull us forward, providing both the energy and the direction we need. Other experiences repel us, and we move away from those.

Karen moved toward happiness and away from suffering, true – but sustainable motivation is infinitely more nuanced than simply moving away from pain and toward pleasure. Our experience of identity, our beliefs about possibility, our relationship to time (more about that later), as well as our habits and temperamental predispositions are all factors influencing how we experience motivation.

This is a rich topic, and we will have much to share, including many practical techniques. This discussion will continue, but I will stop there for today.

I just finished a great book by Lawrence Gonzales, titled Deep Survival that I highly recommend. It is a book that looks critically at survival – who lives, who dies, why, and the many other mysteries of survival. It is not a how-to book per say, but a combination of great storytelling and hard science.

It starts with the story of Federico Gonzales, First Lieutenant in the Air Force near the end of World War II. Federico piloted a B17 and on was on his last mission when the unthinkable happened.

He was shot from the sky and his plane started plummeting towards the ground from 26,000 feet. Most, if not all, of the crew were killed immediately from enemy flack or hypoxia.

The plane came apart as it streaked towards the ground. No one had time to dawn a parachute or even say a prayer, death was certain and approaching at the speed of terminal velocity.

However, not Federico…he lived, to wake up on the ground in severe pain, most of his bones shattered from the impact. However, his survival story was only the beginning.

As he laid there in extreme pain surrounded by smoldering plane parts, a local farmer ran up upon the crash site with less than welcoming thoughts. With a pistol in hand, he walked up to Federico, pointed it at his head, and pulled the trigger.

It misfired. All he had to do now was survive years in a prisoner of war camp, horribly crippled, and in pain.

By the way, he did!

Although I find such stores fascinating, and the book is full of them, it is the analysis of the survivor’s mindset I find compelling.

So what is the difference between someone who survives and those who do not? Is it luck?

Many of us will never expose ourselves to the extremes of Mother Nature to test our resolve and fortitude, but afew of us live unscathed by the misfortunes and accidents of life. All of us have scar tissue, some more than others, so how is it some seem to arise over whatever takes a shot at them, wiser and more centered while others suffer and struggle at the least bit of pressure?

Here are the Lawrence Gonzales observations distilled down to twelve points; here is what survivors do:

  1. Perceive, believe (look, see, believe)
  2. Stay Calm (us humor, use fear to focus)
  3. Think/analyze/plan (get organized, set up small manageable tasks)
  4. Take correct, decisive action (be bold and cautious while carrying out tasks)
  5. Celebrate your successes (take joy in completing tasks)
  6. Count your blessings (be grateful—your alive)
  7. Play (sing, play mind games, recite poetry, count anything, do mathematical problems in your head)
  8. See the beauty (remember: it’s a vision quest)
  9. Believe that you can succeed (develop a deep conviction that you’ll live)
  10. Surrender (let go of your fear of dying; “put away the pain”)
  11. Do whatever is necessary (be determined; have the will and the skill)
  12. Never give up (let nothing break your spirit)

I love lists like this; I appreciate all the chunking and “distilling” it took to simply state them so clearly. It is not easy work.

However, I also ask myself how these steps, what seems so easy, can be so hard to do – especially when the pressure is on, life’s pressure.

What do you think? Larry

Awareness is a funny thing.  When I first started this project, I knew one of the most important and fruitful thing I could do was start paying attention, close attention to every single detail of my experience.  I have made a habit of that for most of my adult life and it has made a huge difference…there is nothing like really being where you are.

However, with this project I have taken that skill to a whole level.  And for good reason.  To explore doing 3415 pushups in one hour, every single intervention that contributes one more pushup is important… just as every diversion that in some way derogates the count.

And that exploration starts with me by paying attention.

Therefore, what is paying attention and how do I do it?  This is one of the first questions added to my journal for this project and for a good reason. If I was going to do this, I was not going to get there on will power or just by grinding out a bunch of pushups.  I just do not have that sort of energy…maybe 45 years ago but not today.  (45 years ago, I would have thought that anyone who did this sort of thing was crazy anyway).

If I had a chance at succeeding, I needed to pay attention to every single detail and chunk those details down to smaller and smaller pieces until I could understand something.

Therefore, asking, “How do I pay attention” was important and before I could answer that, I needed to explore what paying attention was.

The answer to that question has been the jabber of just about every single philosopher, religious leader, and thinker of the ancient and modern world so you will be glad to know I figured it out.  (For all you critical souls out there that was a joke).

Attention is one of the most intensely studied topics within psychology and cognitive neuroscience. William James in his Principles of Psychology (1890) wrote, “Everyone knows what attention is. It is the taking possession by the mind in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought…It implies withdrawal from some things in order to deal effectively with others, and is a condition which has a real opposite in the confused, dazed, scatterbrained state.”

So paying attention is an active process wherein we selective narrow or focus our consciousness and receptivity, wherein we concentrate and focus on something at the exclusion of everything else.

OK, how do you pay attention…for instance learning the two-step, riding a bike, driving a car, or learning a foreign language?

I suspect there are thousands of ways to pay attention.  My next post I will outline in detail how I go about paying attention within the domain of this project.

I love to work out on Saturday afternoons. There is a certain pace to the day; it is slower, more relaxed – very few interruptions and I have more time to work on whatever comes up.

I would describe today’s workout as smooth, well paced with overtones of wrist pain and a hint of endorphins…a good vintage but not a great one.  I thought it might be interesting to explain the workout in some detail.

I did 40 cycles (sets) on the two-minute mark.  Each cycle has four segments: exertion, up transition, aerobic and down transition.  The exertion segment is when I do the pushups, and in the aerobic, I peddle a recumbent bike. Some days I walk. The up and down transitions are used to center myself and to check on my thoughts and feelings.

My cycles went like this: 2×60, 2×50, 3×45, 3×40, 5×35, 11×30, 9×25 and 5×20 for 1305 pushups with the bike resistance set at 12. For instance, the first two sets I did were 60 pushups each, followed by two reps of fifty and so on.

I used an iPod I loaded with a MP3 file that signals me with a chirp when a cycle starts; otherwise I hear silence. This frees me to concentrate on other things besides the time.  When I hear the chirp, I get off the bike and ask myself two questions.  If the answers to them both are positive, I drop down and do the set.

My goal is to do a perfect pushup every rep and that is not a simple goal.  Depending on the intensity of the workout and number of the set, staying mindful to form and movement can be interesting…like when you run out of air.  After the exertion, I stand up, make a positive statement about the set and climb on for more biking.  All this happens within the two-minute cycle.

Before I start the workout, I warm up for 10 to 15 minutes and after and cool down for 10 minutes…workouts can be somewhat long but that is relative.

I have designed many different workouts, some focusing on strength and others that focus on endurance, but I have several rules I try to follow religiously.  First, I never push out one more rep at the expense of form.  If I run out of steam before the scheduled number of reps, I stop, take a few breaths and complete the set.

Secondly I do not do one pushup unless I am properly warmed up.  I hurt myself once showing off by doing 100 pushups, sort of on a dare.  My shoulder hurt me for six months…great lesson.

Lastly, I am very attentive to the process and when I notice something out of order, I back off.  I would list this as my greatest strength…paying attention to what is going on.

This is the ten cent tour.  The full Monte is something else…stay tuned.