Check if any of this sounds familiar. (I have a hunch it will. I just can’t believe that I’m the only person who has this.) It’s what I call the Musician’s Motivation Dilemma.
Here’s how it works: there’s the thing you know you should do. The thing you said you’d do. The thing you really need to do.
And yet . . . somehow you’re just not getting down to doing it. In other words, your motivation isn’t in it.
Maybe the thing you’re avoiding is your meditation practice. Or your yoga, or your gardening.
It might be working on your marketing materials, upgrading your website, or moving ahead on a fundraising campaign. Or maybe it’s really your practicing that you’ve been avoiding.
If you’re like me, on a bad day, you tell yourself “I’ll do it later.”
But of course, that “later” never comes. You conveniently run out of time because you’re busy taking care of a zillion other urgent (as opposed to important) things on your to-do list.
And in the back of your mind you’re building up resentment. You catch yourself asking, “Is this all there is to life? One unending to-do list?”
It leaves you feeling like:
In fact, just thinking about this kicks up my resentment—and then I’m off to the races with what author Steven Pressfield calls Resistance with a capital “R.” It’s what’s behind the inertia, the fear, the procrastination. Resistance is the force that tries to keep us playing small and “hiding” instead of doing the scary work needed to live up to our potential.
Resistance in action
Resistance can show up in a lot of forms. There’s the “don’t feel like it” when the alarm goes off so you roll over and go back to sleep. That’s how you forfeit the precious morning hour when you’d be able to get your best creative work done.
Or there’s the “I’m not in the right headspace” for a project and the next thing you know you’ve squandered two hours scrolling your socials and looking at ads for crap you don’t need. For me it might be shopping online looking for the “perfect” [fill in the blank] or binge watching Dame Edna interviews (that happened last night).
I’m not proud—I’m just calling myself out on my own sh*t.
What I hate about all this is that I might have chosen to give myself a real break and get outside or call a friend.
But nooo. Instead, I play hooky from the tyranny of my to-do list by going down a rabbit hole watching cat videos. And then I just feel guilty.
It’s not a recipe for a happy camper.
So what can you do?
How do we resolve the age-old musician’s motivation dilemma? Take a page from my business coach, Dallas Travers. She’s been on a kick lately to question assumptions.
So it got me wondering if the real problem is that we expect that we should feel motivated to do the thing we need to do. Why do we believe that we need to “feel like it” in order to get the work done?
Let’s face it, it’s rare to feel like doing the scary things that require getting outside our comfort zones.
When we consider what we need/should/ought to do, it’s more like . . .
That important project I committed to? Not in the mood.
The yoga, meditation, or qigong practice? I’m not feeling it.
The marketing project that’s due this week? Not right now.
What if we took a different approach and agreed that . . .
Motivation is NOT a prerequisite for taking action
What if we simply admitted the truth. That we’ll have to push past our Resistance to get going. That to make sure I follow through, I may need an accountability buddy.
And that to make the time I spend worth the hour I designated for the work, I’ll need to be super focused. I’ll shut off all other distractions and set a timer for 20 minutes and do the “Pomodoro technique.” Because I know I can get myself to do pretty much anything for 20 minutes.
And you know what? Whether it’s exercise, drafting a marketing piece, or practicing, after that 20 minutes my curiosity is usually engaged — and so doing the next 20 minute chunk is easier.
But the absolute BEST part of all this is . . .
At bedtime, when I take a moment to review the day, and think about what I’m grateful for, I have the marvelous sensation of being legitimately proud that I did the scary thing I’d been avoiding. That’s the best answer to the Musician’s Motivation Dilemma. Because when I get used to doing the scary things regularly, then I AM motivated.
If you want tips on getting more of your best work out into the world, let’s talk on FB live in the FREE MusiciansMakingIt FB group Tuesdays at 12 noon ET.
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