Sunday, February 23, 2014

Where does MOTIVATION come from?

I have been feeling a little funny about my latest idea to get my family moving.  Is it appropriate . . . honorable . . . a good parenting/spouse practice to use the promise of ice cream to get them to exercise?  I can call it motivation, but let's be honest - I'm bribing them!  The fact that I have been not been feeling good about the project has been making me question whether it is a good idea or not.  So this week, I did some informal research about what motivates people by reading some articles online and asking those around me what motivates them. 

From my discussions with various people, I discovered that there are many different sources of motivation:

1.    Other people whom you love  The main theme here was not wanting to "disappoint" the people in their lives - parents, spouse, children.  People also want to provide the best they can for their families.  "I want my mom to be proud of me."

2. Proving something to other people  It's an "I'll show them" attitude.

3. Themselves  There is an internal push to be better.  The emotional high from the sense of accomplishment is addicting.  "Yesterday I did 17 push-ups.  Today I am going to do 18!" 

4. A prize or reward  "I want that promotion so I'm going to work hard until I get it."  "If I lose ten pounds I'm buying that dress!"

5. Fear  "I don't want to have to use a walker, so I'm going to physical therapy even though I'd rather stay home and watch TV."  "I don't want to lose my car, so I'll volunteer for overtime to catch up on the payments."  "I don't want to get grounded or yelled at for bad grades so I'm going to study."

6. Faith  The desire to please God.  Gaining strength through scripture.  An act of praise or thanksgiving for all that God has done for you.

7. Passion  Enjoying doing something so much that you'll do whatever it takes to get to do it.  I can ask my son ten times to unload the dishwasher and he doesn't move.  As soon as I say "You can't play video games until the dishwasher is unloaded," he's right on top of it.

Several people gave me more than one answer when I asked them what motivates them.  There are different sources of motivation for different aspects of life.  The reason I strive to do well at work is different from the reason I lace up my running shoes. 

From my reading, I looked to answer the question "Is a sense of motivation something we are born with or that we learn?"  The conclusion that I came to is that motivation is learned, but - as in all areas of life - some people will have to work harder at it than others.  Some people are very easily self-motivated while others will need to be pushed a little harder. 

Motivation comes from two internal perspectives - seeking success or avoiding failure - that we learn early in life.  Wanting to be the best - "I want to be the one asked to stand up in class because I got the highest grade on the math test."  Not wanting to be the worst - "I'm going to practice throwing the kickball up in the air and catching it a hundred times so that my team doesn't get mad at me and tease me for dropping the ball and losing the game ever again." 

My research leaves me with several questions to think about: What kind of example have I been for my kids?  What kind of example am I now?  What have they observed motivating me?  How do I handle success and failure?  What kind of motivator have I been for them?  What other examples do they have around them - their dad, extended family, teachers, friends?

I obviously have a lot to think about.  In the meantime . . . back to the project that prompted all of this thinking about motivation . . . the Ice Cream Challenge.  After one week it is going well!  My kids are marking their physical activity on the charts and playfully competing with each other to see who will earn their ice cream first.  However, I've been happy to observe that ice cream does not seem to be the main motivator in getting them moving.  The main motivator is FUN!

Yesterday, for example, I asked both kids if they wanted to go out and play catch with me.  JJ said yes. Ellie said no.  JJ and I had been outside for about ten minutes when Ellie came out and joined us.  She had been watching from the window and knew she was missing out on something.  When we were heading back inside I asked both kids, "Did you have fun?"  They answered yes.  It wasn't until later in the evening that Ellie asked, "We get to mark a day off on the Ice Cream Chart, right?"  Absolutely!!  It wasn't the promise of ice cream that pushed them to come out and play with me.  It was the simple desire to have fun.

I'm feeling better about my idea of using ice cream as a reward to motivate my kids to exercise.  It's not bribery.  I'm teaching them to work toward a goal - I will exercise (defined as a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity) five times.  Their reward for meeting that goal?  Ice Cream.  There's nothing wrong with that!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tapping Into the Power of Ice Cream

Another basketball season has ended for my fourteen year-old son.  He's coming off of three months of two-hour workouts six days a week.  I'd pick him up from practice and he'd get in the car with sweat dripping off his ear lobes and his hair as wet as when he steps out of the shower. Over these past three months he's lost over 20 pounds and gained visible muscle.  Friends, family and teachers are commenting on how great he looks.  I can tell that he feels great.  This is the first time in his life that he has physically seen the impact of his hard work. 

The challenge now is how do I keep him motivated.  I know how easy it is to fall back into old habits.  I also know that it is one thing to have your coach getting on your case about pushing harder versus your mother!

As I contemplated my next move in keeping me family active, I thought of the one thing that surprised me during our Family Fitness BINGO challenge last month . . . the extreme power that the promise of ice cream has on my children.  It was the prize of an ice cream treat for the first couple of BINGO's that excited them to participate in my little game.  The coupons I made were barely in their hands before they were lunging for the freezer. 

I guess that it shouldn't have surprised me too much.  My husband and I both come from a long lineage of ice cream lovers.  There is always a carton of ice cream tucked somewhere in our fridge.  does not like to eat the same thing too close together, but he could eat ice cream every single day!  My kids ask for ice cream constantly.  So why not use that to my advantage?

Bribery?  NO!  Motivation?  YES!

It's been five days since the last basketball game.  I haven't bugged my son for five days.  He's laid on the couch and played video games to his heart's content.  We enjoyed a fun weekend with friends filled with snacks, meals out and pop.  Now it's time for me put together my game plan for keeping him - and the rest of us - motivated.

Starting tomorrow in the Jenkins' Household: For every five workouts (30 minute minimum) you will earn an ice cream treat.  Charts are created, hanging on the wall and ready to go!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Encouragement from a Dusty Old Hymnal

When my husband and I bought our first house fifteen years ago, my parents quickly hired a moving company to bring me my piano (more out of their desire to get it out of their house than my desire to have it in mine!).  Since then we've moved the piano four times.  Every time, my husband asked if we could sell it and every time I adamantly said no.  Fingers rarely graced those keys until our daughter began taking piano lessons two years ago. 

This past weekend my level of stress and worry were so great that I wished I could just disappear (no judging - you know you've had those moments!).  It is impossible to be prepared for how much fear and anxiety comes with being a parent.  And when I got married being a caregiver at the age of 40 was not in  the plans.  Work . . . money . . . house repairs . . . check engine lights . . . it felt like the list of worries was never-ending.  The weight of sadness made me so tired it took all my energy to not crawl back into bed.  At the same time the jitters of anxiety made it impossible to sit still.  I found myself sorting through bins in our overstuffed garage.  In one bin filled with random items of mine, I found an old Presbyterian hymn book given to me by my grandma. 

Wandering up to my beloved out-of-tune piano, I began to leaf through the book pausing to peck away at the keys when I came across a more familiar tune.  I eventually came to one of my all-time favorites - He Leadeth Me.  I propped the book on the piano and began to play.

As I finished the song, I noticed the hymn on the next page.  It was one I did not recall ever having seen or heard before -- Far Off I See the Goal

Far off I see the goal - O Savior guide me;
I feel my strength is small - Be thou beside me;
With vision ever clear, with love that conquers fear,
And grace to persevere, O Lord provide me.
I set personal goals for all areas of my life - my kids, my house, my job, my health . . .  In this moment, though, my goals felt impossible.  It was too much.  Too hard.  Too overwhelming.  
I found comfort in this old hymn written back in 1925.  My goals felt extremely far off, but I could still SEE them.  They hadn't disappeared.  I hadn't given up on them.  And who is there to walk beside me and guide me?  My Savior.  How encouraging! 
Should earthly pleasures wane, and joy forsake me,
and lonely hours of pain at length o'er take me,
My hand in thine hold fast, till sorrow be o'er the past. 
Finding this prayerful hymn of guidance was just what I needed to regain my focus and be ready to jump back into life.  The moment of sorrow has passed . . . Let's go!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Turning an M&Ms OOPS! into an M&Ms YUM!

I caved.  I had been strong for SO long, but yesterday I caved.  Walking into the drug store to pick-up a gallon of milk after work yesterday, I was attacked by the pinks and reds of the Valentine's Day candy display.  Then there was the big yellow SALE sign hanging right below my favorites - M&Ms.  As I was reaching for the bag and placing it in my basket my mind was racing - "Put those back Lisa."  "What are you doing Lisa?"  "Lisa, you know how you are when stuff like this is in the house."  What can I say other than I was tired and hungry and stressed?

I didn't even make it out of the parking lot before I ripped open the bag and filled my mouth with a handful of the crunchy candies that slowly melt into smooth goodness. 

Arriving at home, I tucked the store bag containing my secret stash behind the paper towels on my kitchen counter.  As I cooked dinner while endlessly nagging my kids to practice their instruments, finish their homework and put the clothes away that had sat in laundry baskets in the middle of the family room for the past two days, I could escape the chaos by popping a few seconds of amazing in my mouth.

STOP!!!  WHAT WAS I DOING?!?!  I tied the store bag in a triple knot and stuffed it on the top shelf with my canned goods.

This morning as I was preparing our lunches, that hidden bag of M&Ms was burning a hole in my conscious.  I wanted some really bad.  But I had eaten too many already.  But I couldn't just leave them there.  One of the kids would find them and they would definitely eat the rest of the bag.  Wait, my kids wouldn't be rummaging through the canned goods shelf looking for an after school snack.  Or would they? 

Then I remembered a former elderly client - Miss B (not her real name or initial) who's weight had ballooned to over 400 pounds.  Miss B was confined to a wheelchair at that point due to her weight.  Her daughter was needing to do more and more of her care because she simply couldn't do it.  Humiliated by that, Miss B was determined to lose weight.  One of her greatest joys in life was jelly beans.  She would consume them by the pound!  Miss B's son continued to buy her the big bags of jelly beans; however, what Miss B changed was how she ate her treat.  When he brought her a new bag of beans, Miss B would divide them into baggies of ten beans. Everyday she allowed herself one bag.  Some days she would throw all ten in her mouth at one time.  Other days she would savor each jellybean individually making the treat last all day long.  Overtime, Miss B lost nearly 100 pounds.  She did a lot more than stop eating jellybeans by the pound, but what a great example of self-control and not depriving yourself of something you love.

For me, the problem wasn't that I had bought the bag of M&Ms.  After all, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with enjoying a chocolate treat!  The problem was that I lacked the self-control to not eat the entire pound bag in under 12 hours. 

So I got out my box of snack baggies and my 1/8 cup measuring cup.  I divided the remaining M&Ms into the snack bags.  I added pretzel snaps, raisins and mini-marshmallows to several of the bags making a fun snack mix.  Two of the bags I left plain. 

When I got to work, I sat the baggie next to my computer.  Throughout the day I popped one or two M&Ms in my mouth.  Sometimes biting into the crunch.  Other times letting them melt on my tongue.  With every enjoyable moment, I thought of Miss B, her jelly beans and how her example helped me turn my OOPS moment into a victorious YUM moment!


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Regardless of who wins tonight, I'll be in tears at the end of the game.

I love big sporting events.  The World Series.  The Stanley Cup.  Wimbledon.  The Olympics.  The NCAA Final Four.  The Super Bowl.  I don't necessarily follow all of these sports on a regular basis, but I'm there for the big game.  And when the game ends, regardless of who reigns victorious, I'm in tears.  I love that moment of accomplishment.  That moment when the dream often dreamt by a young child becomes a reality for the adult.  That moment when all of the hours of hard work pays off.  That moment of intense joy and uncontained excitement and raw emotion. I love it!

Even though a majority of people will never win a Super Bowl, everyone CAN have that same victorious moment.  That moment of intense joy and uncontained excitement and raw emotion.  Sadly, a lot of people will NEVER have that moment.  Why?  The two pieces that are missing from most people's lives that is robbing them of that moment are the DREAM and ACTION. 

I find that a lot of people are just going through life going with the flow and living one day at a time with no real direction.  That's how I was at one point.  My daughter's soccer season started and then school started and then it was Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my son's Basketball Season, birthdays, Easter, the end of the school year, my son's baseball season and then it was time for soccer again.  Where had the year gone?  I wasn't paying attention.  I was just drifting along from one thing to the other. 

So I started thinking . . . started dreaming.  What did I want to do?  What did I want to accomplish?  What did I truly want my life to look like?   Some of my answers were small - I'd like my family to do more together.  Some were for just me - I'd like complete a 5k.  Some dreams were bigger - I'd like to publish a book and move to a bigger house.

Simply answering those questions wasn't enough.  I had to do something with the answers.  I had to take action.  That was accomplished by turning my dreams into goals.  I started blocking off time on our schedule for fun family activities - bowling, hiking, trying the new frozen yogurt place.  I set a goal for myself and achieved it by training for and completing a 5k.  I'm working toward my bigger dreams step by small step. 

It may be a stretch to compare watching my kids jump up and down after getting a strike during a game of Bumper Bowling with doing a Super Bowl touchdown dance.   And raising my arms above my head as I cross the finish line of a 5k may not be the same as lifting the Lombardi Trophy in a downpour of confetti.  But these are MY dreams and I'm going to cherish that moment of intense joy and uncontained excitement and raw emotion . . . no matter how small or insignificant they may seem to others.  And yes - I will even shed a happy tear or two just as I will tonight as I watch a group of men I don't even know live the dream they've been dreaming of since they were boys.