Monday, June 28, 2010
- From Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
In Colorado we witness many types of storms this time of year. During the four days of my sister’s recent visit we offended her Californian sensibilities with vigorous thunder and lightning, sheets of rain, hail, and even a final hot day offering flurries of cottonwood tree cotton. Today the mercury will hit ninety-two degrees and the draining heat makes it difficult to meet the challenges of mothering – and almost impossible to face the larger troubles spelled out in newspaper headlines or internet news briefs. Natural disasters, ongoing wars, recovery efforts and partisan bickering leave me gasping for fresh air, looking for some mental and spiritual refreshment. In recent days I have found my “lemonade of the soul” in Daniel Pink’s book, Drive.
Pink’s work addresses the science of what truly motivates human beings. Studies dating back decades reveal that monetary rewards are not the best motivators. Beyond a certain income baseline, people are most fueled by autonomy, mastery and purpose. For a quick video overview, you can visit (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc&feature=player_embedded).
In the most recent chapter I’ve read, Pink focuses on the number of baby boomers reaching sixty. He offers, “at the beginning of the twenty-first century, anyone who’s healthy enough to have made it six decades is probably healthy enough to hang on a fair bit longer” (132) as in twenty or more years. (Are you reading this, Dad?) How does this relate to my heat and headline trauma? Read on . . .
Pink notes that anyone who has the accumulated wisdom of sixty or so years learns past to look past the profit motive and search for work with a purpose: work that will change the world. I can provide my father as an example; his work for his city and county takes him to meetings every day on a volunteer basis and he has enabled the local area to build a brand new food pantry to feed those living in hunger. He finds and writes grants, raises money, and educates himself and others to the need around him. Thanks to folks like my dad, I can sit here writing with a cup of tea and feel like the world won’t totally go to pot in my mental absence.
Here’s a thought: “the planet very soon will contain more people over age sixty-five than under age five for the first time in its existence, (and) the timing couldn’t be better.” (144) I promise not to abdicate my own volunteer responsibilities at the thought of vast armies of purposeful, talented and experienced individuals taking on the plight of the world, but I am grateful for the thought of these reinforcing armies. I am relieved to think that the science proves humans are intrinsically motivated by purpose. I am hopeful that – as summer heat and window-clogging cotton will eventually relent – the troubles of the early 21st century may be washed away in a thunderstorm of purpose.
Additional thought: In a follow-up to my post on the Tom Petty concert (Rocking Out - A Rare Late Night), I wanted to post this quote by Willie Nelson as written in Sunday (6/29) Parade Magazine: "Death is not the end of anything. I believe all of us are only energy that becomes matter. When the matter goes away, the energy still exists. You can't destroy it. It never dies. It manifests itself somewhere else."
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
is a jungle. Sometimes wolves
dominate. Sometimes wild hogs.
Be wary when you breathe.
At one moment gentle, generous qualities,
like Joseph's, pass from one nature
to another. The next moment
vicious qualities move in hidden ways.
In every instant a new species rises
in the chest - now a demon, now an angel,
now a wild animal, now a human friend."
- From "The Inner Workings" by Rumi
This poem broke through my hazy consciousness pre-dawn yesterday morning when my four-year-old inexplicably felt the need to rise hours earlier than normal. I was stunned to think that this poet, born 800 years ago, somehow knew me. Certainly in the first two weeks of summer my innards have resembled a jungle where peace and tranquility form a rare oasis as the children readjust to endless hours of togetherness and forced sharing - their toys, their snacks, my attention.
A lion emerged from my chest when the youngest fell into the baby pool during my volunteer shift at the older kids' swim meet. His ensuing screaming temper tantrum required my full attention, and my abrupt retirement from duties. He refused all offers of dry clothes and managed to draw the attention of nearly every adult in the pool and parking lot area before finally calming in the arms of my recently arrived husband.
Then again at a swim meet, I felt rather bearish when trying to watch my daughter swim in her final relay. The boys, who had been sitting calmly behind me, started to fight. Two lovely individuals called to me to address my poor weeping children (who were only fighting over a spot on the lawn chair), and one mom from the visiting team came up to my little one saying, "Oh honey, where is your mom? Are you OK?"
"I'm right here!" I offered through gritted grizzly teeth. "I have two crying and one in the pool, but it's FINE." She could obviously see the wildness in my face and quickly moved to the side.
I have been as stubborn as a goat, loving as a llama (I did not pick that combination for alliteration - after reading Is Your Mama a LLama? for years I actually think of llamas as loving), quick-tempered as a snake. Sometimes I despair that these negative qualities exist in me at all; in my working years as a single or newly married adult I never felt this range of emotional responses. Only young children (MY young children) seem equipped to bring out these reactions. Yet I have to own the menagerie that abides within, breathe out the various responses, and hope that once emerged from their cages, they have a hard time finding their way back.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
“ If you think that the Truth can be known
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening called the mouth.
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly laughing –
- The poet Hafiz, as quoted in Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao by Dr. Wayne Dyer
Today is the last day of school. For a child, summer vacation beckons wildly with orange flags, waving him on to homework-free days of swimming, park visits, sand and dirt wallowing, and tormenting his siblings. For a mom, this day indicates an end to rushed mornings and lunch-making, also the beginning of constant companionship, loss of structure, and a temporary end to personal time. As I sat in sun-dazed stupor on our porch last weekend I realized that writing will become a bit of a chore over the summer. It will be hard to wrest control of the computer or gather any time for thought. I sighed, picked up my book, and read above poem by Hafiz. Dare I think that I had anything meaningful to say? Dare I believe that my words have meaning? Ha! Someone should start laughing now, I read, so I did.
The poem comes from a section of Wayne Dyer’s book, Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. I really like the book, and it is unusual for me to say that about any self-help type of writing. (I gave up the genre after finishing my tenth book on childrearing and breastfeeding and realizing that none of it helped.) The section I read over the weekend deals with the 22nd verse of the Tao, focused on flexibility, a trait that I am short on both physically and mentally. In this section, I embody everything that can be wrong and have none of the traits desired. I started laughing with Hafiz and laughed the whole way through the chapter – not cynically or disbelieving, but because I am a freakshow of inflexibility.
Dyer writes, “to be in harmony with the Tao is to be free of goals, immersed in all that you’re doing without concern about the outcome” (106). Be free of goals? I spent Friday evening doing a sprint triathlon in 90 degree heat and Saturday morning at my children’s swim meet, shouting myself hoarse. By Saturday night I had planned a trajectory of age group excellence in my triathlons and team stardom for my children. I don’t actually think Dyer is wrong about goals and outcomes, but I am not sure how to detour my way over to that path from my current career of competition.
Next I read, “Let go of having to win an argument and being right by changing the atmosphere with a statement such as ‘You’re very likely correct. Thanks for giving me a new perspective.’” (106) Honestly, what a great thing to say. The only problem lies with getting those words to actually emerge from my mouth, particularly in any discussion that includes religion, politics, childrearing, athletics, etc. I will try to start small, perhaps with flavors of ice cream.
Lastly, I read the following pearl of wisdom and psychological insight: “As rigidity appears, notice that as well, allowing the wind to blow as you exercise the Tao in place of ego! Seek to uncover the root of your stiffness and achieve greater flexibility in the storms of life.” (107) This phrase was underlined three times, and not just for the phallic reference. What is the root of my stiffness? Why does rigidity appear the minute that my children bring toys up from the basement, fight over brushing their teeth, scream at me to turn on the television? Should I not just notice this rigidity and let it pass? That would be delightful, I’m sure. I think that my need for control arises from my ego, and well, from my need for control. I’d love to let go of that, but I’m not sure how to accomplish this goal without letting the children run wild, dirty, over-tired and sugar loaded. Tell you what, my homework on this summer vacation will be to uncover the root of my rigidity, let go my ego, and survive the process. I’ll let you know how it goes.