Owning Motivation

A few blog posts back I spoke about the necessity of writing down your thoughts as a way of re-evaluating your emotions and goals. Unfortunately, one of the most difficult obstacles I have experienced in counselling and casework is asking someone to commit to change, even if it’s doing a basic homework exercise. Let’s be clear. If a client comes to see me, they are looking to change something and I want to assist them with that. I won’t be taking a passive role. Talking through a list of your weekly events from session to session may help relieve some of the tension that you have been holding as a result of those experiences, but how do we reduce your distress, or dare I say it, have you consider some of that distress worthwhile if it is a means to a very personally valued end. 

From all of my study and experience when I assist bringing a client’s values more clearly into view, that is when someone will invest in change. This is very simply explained by the difference between intrinsic motivators and extrinsic motivators. Research has shown that time and again, if a motivating force lies outside of your values (i.e. an extrinsic motivator) then it won’t be as effective a motivating force for change. The most obvious example of an extrinsic motivator is the pressure you perceive from social expectations or from a person close to you. I am here to help you decide whether the goal that you feel pressured toward is in line with your own personal values.

Imagine a client is speaking with her mother and she can just feel her mother is not comfortable with that client’s pursuit of her career, and thinks her daughter should “settle down” and have children. The client trusts her mother, she is close to her and respects her opinions. However, the client wants to continue with her career. Believe it or not, the story here is not the problem. It is how the client resolves the values she has regarding family (her mother and her own future family), and the values she has regarding work. Is the answer really that simple!? Yes. Untying the complicated story and emotion around that answer is the difficult step.

Let’s wrap this up with a simple example that brings us back to where we started. Are structured writing exercises a successful step toward achieving clarity? Undoubtedly. Do you want your life to be clearer? I would imagine so. Can you keep that goal in mind while you are experiencing the anxiety that comes along with trying something new? Can you trust in the process of writing more than the thoughts that you have that say this won’t be useful, or this is too hard?

These questions are not just about the process of writing, but the process of trust.