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Learning from mistakes, and self-discoveries

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Today's SparkCoach lesson is learning from your mistakes. Over time, I've had a LOT of opportunity to learn from my multitudes of mistakes, so here's what I've learned about myself and my goals. (I'm going to frame this as Good Motivation versus potentially Bad Side Effects, with my ultimate thoughts on the matter.)

Dicovery 1: I'm motivated by shiny. (I dealt with this in the last blog entry -- gold stars/medals/certificates get me motivated to do whatever I set my mind to doing.)

GOOD: Any reason I can come up with that gets me off my butt and into my activity is a good reason.

BAD: Am I doing this because I really want to, or really should do it, or am I just looking for the certificate/medal/gold star at the end? In other words, is the journey being neglected in favor of the final outcome? Am I relying on external validation from other people (the certificate givers) to show me my own self-worth?

ULTIMATELY: If star charts are what it takes to make something a habit for me, I'm doing them. Not relying on external validation is something I'll have to work on, because I don't impress myself easily. When other people are impressed by me, then it's much easier to feel proud of my accomplishments. I think that's part and parcel of being a performer though. We don't perform to amuse ourselves; we perform for the audience.

Discovery 2: I have a lot of motivation, at first. I delve into projects and challenges head-first, buy any needed equipment, set up schedules and plans, and print logs, journals, spreadsheets, etc that will help with analyzing the data I collect. But then I get bored and abandon the project.

GOOD: I have lots of motivation to begin a project, and I'm never afraid to start something new. I go into a project or activity fully prepared and committed to success.

BAD: This leads to never finishing anything. Or starting too many new things because starting new things is fun, while working on older things is work.

ULTIMATELY: This is a form of self-discipline that needs to be learned and practiced. I sort of do this with knitting, only allowing myself 3 unfinished projects at a time. I have to finish one before I start another. Ideally, I would find a way to get re-energized and excited about a halfway finished project, so that enthusiasm could take me into the final length of the project's duration. Also limiting the schedule for each new project to about 6-9 weeks helps. Even I have a hard time getting bored with just 6 weeks of something.

Discovery 3: I thrive on schedule and structure.

GOOD: I always know what I'm going to do that day or for that practice session or project duration. It keeps me on track with progressing in a linear fashion, and helps me visualize a goal halfway through, 3/4 of the way through, etc. With a schedule you can see the end goal a lot more clearly. It also prevents you from "revising" ie cheating, to make it easier. My schedule tells me I'm running for 30 minutes, so I'm running for 30 minutes, and not "cheating" and only running 25.

BAD: Reliance on a schedule can make me freak out if the schedule gets disrupted. It also used to prevent me from accepting that I need to revise my plan. (USED TO being the key words -- I've really gotten better in the last year at accepting that schedules and plans can be revised without considering the revision a failure.)

ULTIMATELY: I hate making decisions so I work best when I have someone else tell me what to do -- like when I get and follow a marathon training plan, or I'm told I have to learn a choreography in two weeks, or I have a series of daily video workouts to do that are clearly labeled "day one, day two" etc. (I'm SO grateful that my husband cooks dinner and I don't have to make THAT decision.) But there are many times in life when we can't rely on other people to tell us what to do or on what schedule. And I can't be so married to the schedule that I can't learn to adjust without having a stress attack. I'm getting better at this. I'm already okay with revising. I don't consider it cheating, and I revise responsibly :)

Discovery 4: I'm actually more competitive than I thought I was.

GOOD: Races give you additional challenges: times to beat, people to beat, people to match. That's additional motivation, I guess.

BAD: Am I doing this for me, or because someone else challenged me or told me I couldn't?

ULTIMATELY: I'm not sure how to handle this, or even address it. I never considered myself competitive before, so I need to figure out a way to channel it into something healthy. I like the idea of races because unless you're a really elite runner, you aren't really competing with other people. Most runners are competing with themselves, to beat a previous race time, or to just finish and complete a race. There are no trophies for beating your previous time by 30 seconds, but maybe personal best records don't need shiny things. And maybe that's the motivation to become an "elite" runner?

Discovery 5: I'm good at amassing information.

GOOD: My friends describe my home office as the Library of Alexandria, but without the Romans. When they have a question about whatever I'm studying, they come to me and know I can find them resources.

BAD: I have no idea what to do with half of what I have collected, and sometimes I think I might be an information hoarder. I almost have TOO MUCH information and sources to ever really utilize fully.

ULTIMATELY: Sometimes I think I amass information as a way of avoiding doing work. Yes, I have every recording Um Kalsoum made, but have I ever danced to any of it? Hoarders in general gather stuff about them in order to hide from the pain of the outside world. I think I hide behind collecting information and doing research in order to avoid doing work. Which leads me to this discovery:

Discovery 6: I'm freaking lazy

GOOD: I don't see much "good" in this discovery, other than knowing and accepting it, and trying to not make excuses for it.

BAD: Captain Obvious.

ULTIMATELY: Some self-help books would have you believe that laziness is a fear of failure. (Or oddly enough a fear of success.) I don't really buy into that. Laziness is a way to enjoy all the fantasy benefits of doing an activity without actually doing the work. When I fantasize about writing a novel, I don't picture myself actually hunched over the computer tap-tap-tapping at the keys, or going over a second draft with a red pen. I fantasize about the book signing. About seeing the book on the shelf. In other words, I fantasize about HAVING WRITTEN rather than actually writing. And all the time I spent fantasizing about a product I don't even have, or haven't even started creating -- well, that could have been put to much better use. Like actually DOING the activity.

Discovery 7: I'm good at starting or starting over, right now. I don't need to wait until Monday or the first of the month or whatever.

GOOD: A commitment starts RIGHT NOW, and not when the calendar says it's convenient. Every moment of every day is a chance to create momentum that will carry me through tomorrow.

BAD: ?

ULTIMATELY: My Mom was the queen of "I'll go on a diet starting Monday." Or "I'll start working out the first of next month," or "After the first of the year, I'll ... blahblahblah. She would always put off the start of something because she never wanted to make the commitment at that moment. And usually she would overeat on the weekend, so Monday's diet start had to undo all the bad from 3 days before. As much as I love calendars and schedules, I did not inherit the "why not put off till tomorrow what you don't want to do today" gene, unless it comes with a lot of stress (like finding a new studio to teach at!) But that's because I view starting new things as fun. I don't believe in the Bachelor Party approach to health and fitness (stuff yourself full of ice cream on Saturday because you're going to be dieting on Monday.)

I think I'll revisit this post in about 5-6 months to see if I've learned anything new, or found new ways of dealing with the potential negatives of these discoveries.
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