Yesterday, early in the morning, I had a satori moment. In the Zen Buddhist tradition, satori refers to the experience of kenshō, “seeing into one’s true nature“. Ken means “seeing,” shō means “nature” or “essence.” (You can follow those links and read for days on Wikipedia if you like, but that’s not what this post is about.)
I saw what prevented me from doing the work
Some of you will remember Ev Bogue innovative’s work some years back at FarBeyondTheStars.com (now archived here). He was the first person in my experience to repeatedly use the term, do-the-work. He referred to doing what he was called/meant/wired to do and to engage in this activity each day. It was his priority to do the work before doing whatever he chose to do with the rest of his day, i.e., wandering, reading, yoga, cooking, etc.
Getting back the satori moment, before my dad died in February of this year, I was at the gym at least 4 days per week at 05:30 and worked out until 07:00. Then I’d return home and he’d just be getting up. My day was scheduled around his needs and getting to the gym at 05:30 was a pleasurable habit.
However, since his death I’ve not been able to get myself to the gym on a regular basis. You’d think that since my responsibilities as his caregiver are now over, I’d be free to get there and not worry about getting back my 07:00.
I’ve found that opposite is true.
Even if the gym offered to pay me to come in, the result would be the same.
But in that satori moment, I figured out why.
Push v. Pull Motivation
Push Motivation is like running away from something: being overweight, trying to make a change to counteract a disease. In this type of motivation, we often disengage from the activities it inspires when we see some progress is being made.
Pull Motivation is being pulled toward something good: a tasty dessert, the feeling you get from a satisfying workout, the love energy you get from a partner. In this type of motivation, we can’t wait to engage in the activities it inspires and often do not waiver in our pursuit of them.
For me, getting to the gym had become a form of push motivation. I didn’t like being overweight, but I wasn’t doing anything about it most days. I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror, yet I kept thinking about all the work it requires to change my physical appearance.
I realized that in order to get back to a pull motivation, I needed to change things up.
That’s why doing the work can no longer come first
In my case the work is writing and creating. You’d think that I’d elevate it to the highest priority but what I’ve found works best for me is the opposite.
If I want to get myself to the gym on a very regular basis (which I do), then I have to make that the priority. But the problem is that since doing the work is writing and creating, my tendency is to jump right into this first thing in the morning and get into the flow that I feel when I write and create. It’s like a runner’s high from engaging in my most meaningful work (MMW).
But…because I want to be in the best shape of my life when I turn 60 in November, getting my biceps to the gym is the higher priority.
Starting today, my new order of activity is to:
- get up
- have a cup of coffee
- put on my work out clothes
- get to the gym and do my thing
- come home and have breakfast
- do the work
I’m making doing the work my reward. It’s the only way I can accomplish both goals on a daily basis. Of course, at age 59 I won’t be going to the gym five days a week, but if I can do four mornings per week, I’ll reach my goals.
What’s in the way of your doing the work?
If you know what your most meaningful work is, I’m asking you what gets in the way of you doing it every day? If you’re actively engaging it every day, congratulations!
If you don’t know what your MMW is, then my free book is your first step. In that book (a free PDF download), I guide you through understanding the role of your MMW and then how to uncover it.
If you know your MMW and you’re letting something get in the way, is there something you can do to make doing the work your reward?
If you feel so inclined, please tell me in the comments. Or just say hello and share this post using the social media button below -it’s really good karma-. Thanks ! 😎