Last week I wrote about good feedback as a great motivator. I defined good feedback as timely and welcome. That does not mean it’s always pleasant, however. Sometimes we have to wake up and face the music in order to get motivated to change. Sometimes that takes a crisis. Other times that just takes the truth.
We’re more than halfway through this series on Ten Ways to Stay Motivated for Life. The series would not be true to my own experience if I did not include the advice no one wants to hear: face the music. This idiom means to accept the unpleasant truth about ourselves and our actions. It represents the other side but does not contradict last week’s Provision on timely and welcome feedback. In a word, welcome feedback is not always pleasant. We sometimes have to be disillusioned in order to get motivated to grow.
In 1998 I thought I had a heart problem. I certainly had a weight problem, although I didn’t “know it” at the time and had refused to face the music for years. Finally, my body decided to give me some welcome but unpleasant feedback. For several days, I had chest pains, numbness in my right arm and leg, neck pain, and shortness of breath. At times, when I was driving the car, the chest pain and shortness of breath was so bad that I had to pull over and stop driving in fear that I might pass out.
Did I go to the doctor immediately? No. Tough guy that I was, I figured it would pass. But my body knew what it was doing. Day after day, I experienced symptoms that said: pay attention to me, take care of me, and figure out what’s going on. So off I went for EKGs and stress tests. Eventually I discovered that I do have a heart problem, but it’s a congenital problem that was not causing my symptoms. As far as the doctors could determine, my symptoms were caused by my being overweight, out of shape, and stressed out.
Sound familiar? Many of us live that way all the time, but many of us live with the illusion (A) that it’s not so bad, or (B) that it will get better soon, or (C) that we can handle it, or (D) that there’s nothing we can do about it, or (E) all of the above. So we continue on our self-destructive path until one day, to no one’s surprise except perhaps our own, we self destruct.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can face the music and change our ways before we self destruct. I remember Gordon Cosby of the Church of the Savior in Washington, DC once speaking on the subject, “Tougher, Disillusioned Leadership.” That phrase has always stuck in my mind. What illusions do you live with? About yourself? About your relationships with others? About your work? Your problems? Your potential? Until we face the music, chances are we will not find the motivation to change.
Our bodies are wonderful storehouses of wisdom. They can help us find that motivation. I like Wayne Dyer’s now classic quip: “You are not a human being having a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being having a human experience.” (You’ll See It When You Believe It: The Way to Your Personal Transformation). In other words, we have these bodies for a reason. They are a gift, with all their limitations, obsessions, pains, problems, and, yes, even their deaths. They can help us face the music, if we but choose to listen.
Unfortunately, our bodies do not always speak as loudly as mine did back in 1998. We can treat them badly and they can suffer quietly for years on end. Then suddenly, at the age of 42 and with three young children, we end up dead on arrival. Wouldn’t it be better to face the music before reaching such a crisis? Wouldn’t it be better to be disillusioned and disabused of our life-denying and life-defying ways while there’s still time to make amends?
You probably agree, in theory. But in reality you have a lot to do and probably can’t bring yourself to think about this for very long, let alone to reorganize your remaining time and energy in life-affirming and life-supporting ways. That’s why I say we have to face the music. It may take a rude awakening, but if we can bring ourselves to face the truth, all things become possible.
Listening to our bodies is only one way to face the music. They are playing a salubrious tune right now, however quietly, if we but choose to listen. Another way to face the music is to bottom out socially or emotionally, as many successful people in 12-step and other recovery programs know all too well. After years of counter-productive, self-destructive, and addictive behavior which teeters on the brink of disaster, often supported by codependent enablers, it’s not uncommon for people to hit bottom, admit they have a problem, and then start the long, hard journey of rebuilding their lives.
Bottoming out represents the social or emotional equivalent of a heart attack. Sometimes it proves to be just as fatal, including suicide and homicide. Other times it proves to be just as motivating, as people get to the point of listening and responding to the dysfunctionality of their lives. But one does not have to wait for such high-volume, high-drama feedback. Our families, friends, and associates can see what we are not willing to face, long in advance of our ultimate demise. The question, once again, is, “Are we willing and do we choose to listen?”
Most of us aren’t and don’t. When the feedback is unpleasant, most of us just get obstinate and defensive. We’re going to do it our way, regardless. This can, of course, motivate us for a time with resistant energy. But pushing back on the basis of an illusion can only be sustained for so long and will not bring life to our lives. It will bring death, just as surely as if I had gone on in my overweight, out of shape, and stressed out ways.
Want to get motivated for life? Face the music. Listen to your body. Listen to your life. Where are the pressure points and the pain? What are they trying to tell you? It’s not impossible to get and to receive helpful feedback from your families, friends, and associates. All you have to do is to make yourself vulnerable and ask. Once in a while, they’ll even take it upon themselves to share their thoughts, uninvited. If the feedback is honest without being bitchy, if it’s true without being judgmental, listen up. Such feedback may represent the gift of life.
What will it be for you? Tougher, disillusioned leadership centered in truth? Or obstinate, intractable stewardship centered in self? Will you have to bottom out before you face the music? Or will you choose to hear the more delicate strains, which are playing each and every day of our lives? The choice is up to you.
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
This is an awesome service you offer! What a great way to reach tens of thousands of people looking to improve their lives. I look forward to using your site often. Thanks for your well thought out services.
Where can I get the Diet and Exercise Assistant? (Ed. Note: Go to http://www.keyoe.com. The handheld version works with the Palm OS only. The desktop version retrieves and stores data with every synchronization.)
Great provision as always. How about putting your book suggestions (like on your web site) as a category on the Palm version? (Ed. Note: Done. You will not be able to order from the Palm version, but you will be able to review the titles of our recommended reading list.)
Information on stress management, child development, and general family help matters as a routine would be helpful to many people.
Interesting how we are finally beginning to understand what we have been taught since the days of Adam … it’s not good to be alone.
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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