The Interplay Between Goals and Motivations

We all have goals. They are as diverse as we humans are: that’s a good thing. Our goals may be to graduate from university, get a job, move to a new city or any other desire. And similarly, our motivations for achieving our goals are just as diverse. Comparing and contrasting the goal with the motivation will lead to some incredible personal insights into one’s desires and expectations.

Sometimes goals and motivations can be the exact same thing. The more basic the motivation the more likely the goal will match. Take hunger for an example. The goal and the motivation align perfectly. The goal is to eat and the motivation is to fill your empty stomach. When goals and motivations match one can then focus on the means, or solution, to achieve the goal. Though knowing what the solution is just the first step. One has to put forth effort on the solution. For me, knowing that the solution for the long grass in my lawn is to mow it, doesn’t take the place of actually mowing it. (Note: I hate yardwork).

Sometimes goals and motivations differ in slight ways. They still align, but are not perfect matches. These are harder to understand and harder to solve. An example could be the goal of a clean house. Yet, the underlying motivation is to have a tidy home free of clutter and disorganization. Just cleaning the house will not achieve tidiness. Recognizing that fact requires more thought and care toward the solution.

Sometimes goals and motivations don’t align well at all. These situations represent the most complex of problems for they require considerable abstract thinking and painstaking thought to solve. Sometimes we don’t understand the interplay between what we do and why we do it. It requires introspection.

To further complicate things sometimes there are surface motivations and then there are deeper, underlying, motivations. Deciphering these different layers of our desires takes effort. Effort we avoid because we’re tired or sad or feeling stress or have to household chores. In the modern world, at least for most of the time pre-COVID19, we didn’t have time to reflect on ourselves. With many nations having lock-down directives perhaps now is a perfect time to contemplate on what you want and, more importantly, on why you want it.

My goal is to be a published author, to earn an income from my writing. It’s as good a goal as any. My underlying motivation for writing is something I realized only recently. It’s not to be famous. Not to be rich beyond imagination. Not to be respected. Though I do want these things to varying degree. My ultimate motivation is to leave behind something tangible for my children. Something, that long after I’m gone, they can look at and nod, “My father wrote this.” Not just look at it, but like it. Perhaps, even cherish it. Though that is for them to ultimately decide.

It’s hard to quantify this deeper motivation. It’s love. It’s hope. It’s legacy. It’s a want to be remembered. It’s a need. It’s me.
It’s want any parent would want, I think: to be cherished and remembered by his/her children with love. I want to achieve that, in part, with the words I leave behind.

Goals are the what. Motivation is the why. Effort is the how. Knowing what each variable is, is important. I’ve come up with an equation that sums up my thoughts: (Goal + Motivation) x Effort = Success. Now what this equation shows, at least to me, is that when the goal and motivation are joined together it’s easier to apply effort to them equally to achieve your success, whatever you’ve defined success to be.

Writing that equation is easy. Thinking about each step, forging a path from left to right, understanding each stop along the way, is hard. I think it’s worth exploring. For me, even if I don’t become famous, don’t become a respected author among the masses, don’t become rich, at least I’ll have my writings for my children to read. In the end, that reward is priceless.

Photo by Mischa van Lieshout from FreeImages

On the Matter of Patience and Kindness

COVID-19 prompts a lot of feelings to circulate within our minds; anger, fear, and frustration, to name but a few. All of these came to bear with the recent passing of a COVID-19 denier. All of these feelings are understandable, perhaps even justified to some degree.

Anger that he potentially infected others. Fear that others will follow his lead by refusing to physical distance from others. Frustration that his death could have been avoided. They have led some people to say and do things that are regrettable. While it’s important to understand our own feelings and how or where they arise, it’s equally important to channel them through positive means. Through what perspective are people acting on these thoughts and feelings?

A lot of things have been said of the gentlemen who passed away. That he deserved it. That others like him should suffer the same fate. This helps exactly no one. All it does is feed the virus of division and hate. It separates lives and devalues life. All life is important. All death is a loss.

If we look through the perspective of compassion and empathy we realize there is a hurting widow who suffered the loss of a spouse. Friends and family who suffered the untimely passing of a family member or friend. How does attacking her save others, exactly? Do we not think she has a ton of regret upon her shoulders? That she will have guilt weighing on her for the rest of her life? That she will in turn work, in her own way, to help flatten the curve?

I am not perfect. My anxiety over COVID-19 has led me to be short with my family when they ask if I washed my hands for the sixth time. It led me to become frustrated with the cashier at the grocery store who, when I merely leaned forward to count if I had 20 items or fewer and wasn’t actually moving forward, yelled so everyone within the store, and perhaps a few walking down the street outside, could hear the new battlecry “Stay back sir! Social Distancing PLEASE.”

To say I was annoyed at being accused of jeopardizing someone’s life so frivolously when I knew I hadn’t, is an understatement. I could feel my face turning red and my core body temperature rise as if I’d just finished a marathon in a sauna. I bet my butt blushed because I was so embarrassed. I wanted to lash out, to defend my wounded honour.

At any rate, when I realized the cashier probably dealt with a lot of people that day, some likely quite belligerent, I stepped off the ledge of righteous indignation and sauntered back inside the room of understanding. She has anxieties and fears too. She has frustrations and anger as well.

I attempted a smile. Though my face muscles did not fully co-operate with my brain’s orders, which resulted in a weird tug of war that made my cheeks twitch. I probably looked like I was losing a battle with an involuntary bowel movement. I, nevertheless, kept my voice light and cheery. At the end I thanked her, not for making me feel like a villain in my own life, but for doing her job.

My family is not perfect, either by the way. We, each of us, have accused every other member of chewing with their mouth open, whether that person was actually eating or not. Is this how the madness begins?

If one thing is clear to me it’s that we rely on and are connected to more people than we ever thought. We rely on and are connected to more people we’ll never meet than we can possibly fathom. We relied on each other during the great depression and came through it. We relied on each other during WWII and came through it. We’ll get through this, too; together. It would be a lot easier though, if we all remember to be patient and kind.

Photo by Sherine Chuah from FreeImages

The Gift of Reality Calibration

The hardest part of parenting is to step back and allow your children to fail at something. It takes a fortitude that hurts. You want to just reach out and hug them and tell them what to do. All so they don’t feel pain. But, if your children are teenagers, or like my kids in general, telling them what to do is a sure fire way to get them to not do it.

Failing at something, or what I call a Reality Calibration, can be helpful. It can spur focus, determination, or simply more effort.

Reality Calibrations come all the time and aren’t failures per se. They’re reminders. You think you’ve done enough work on a school or work project only to find there’s far more work needed. Usually, at least for me personally, Reality Calibrations strike when I’ve made too many assumptions about something. I may have missed an important perspective. They can be humiliating, embarrassing, or just a plain nuisance. Either way the real culprit is you and your unrealistic expectations.

People need Reality Calibrations because they can teach something that success cannot; that life does not always work the way we want it to; that adaptability, to be able to respond effectively to changing circumstances, is vital. Children should be allowed to fail at relationships and other personal decisions. How else are they going to learn to navigate through society? Or respond effectively to school or work problems? If a parent always provides answers for their child then what does the child actually learn? They learn to rely on their parents for everything rather than to rely on themselves.

We’ve heard stories of parents accompanying their child to job interviews (if the child doesn’t get hired does the parent feel rejected, too?), or recently, parents paying others to write college or university entrance exams. If the goal of parenting is to raise children who can meet the demands of society (which I believe) then these types of actions are setting those children up for some overwhelming Reality Calibrations. Is there a link between helicopter parenting and increasing rates anxiety? Perhaps.

Sometimes Things Need to Be Difficult

Challenging your children will make them stronger, mentally and physically. And by challenge I do not mean constant haranguing and yelling to get them to push through the pain. Excessive pressure like that does no one any good. When I say challenge I mean getting them to question their assumptions and thinking. Our kids challenge our thinking and assumptions so, I think it only fair to do the same to them.

All three of my daughters play travel soccer, or Rep Soccer, as it’s known in Ontario. I’ve tried many little pithy sayings to get them to work harder. “Good things happen when you hustle.” Or my latest one, “The harder you work at practice the more fun games will be.” Mostly I try to highlight the positives in their games and practices.

The common denominator of my talks with them is that underlying everything is effort. Without effort you’ll stagnate. But, sometimes that lesson needs to be learned the hard way. Failure is a harsh teacher who’s lessons will be repeated until one learns. And that leads to the second part. If you don’t actively evaluate your mistakes, you won’t learn from them and you won’t grow. We need to learn not just what the mistake was, but how it came to be.

My Own Eye Opening Experience

I recently had a huge Reality Calibration and it has affected the way I see the world. After years of my wife and daughters constantly bugging me about getting my eyes checked, I did (only after 11 years). The optometrist advised I need glasses. Not just any glasses, but bifocals. Apart from suddenly feeling a little older I see everything clearer, crisper and more in 3D now. It was a needed Reality Calibration because I’ve not had a headache in months.

As a father I’ve made plenty of mistakes and I will make more. I hope to show my daughters that I can learn from those future mistakes. How else can I be a better father to them?

Photo by John Boyer from FreeImages

Listening is Half of Good Communicating

It’s no secret that there is a lot of anger in the world right now. There are many causes of anger: lack of education, hunger, not enough sleep, misinformation designed to elicit hate, lack of opportunity, and others. I’m specifically going to write about one possible cause of today’s societal anger; no one is listening anymore.

Perhaps that’s too hyperbolic, yet when a person does not believe they’ve been heard they will feel frustrated. If the situation persists they will likely begin to feel angry. I know I do. And when groups of people feel their concerns are not being heard we get societal level issues; global issues. Angry people make angry choices. That’s how wars start.

We are a communicative species. The acquisition of language had a huge impact on human brain development. But, to be communicative one also needs to listen. It’s a small thing, but if we listen more I think the world’s anger may be reduced. I’m not saying that the mere act of listening will solve every problem. However, without listening you can’t even start work on any solution. The only way we’ll understand the position of the other is by actually hearing their side of the issue. But listening isn’t just about hearing what others are saying. It’s also about being in the moment. Being aware of your surroundings.

I recently went to one of my daughters’ end of school year talent show. As I sat there, listening to the performers, some of which were talented and some of which were not, I started to get embarrassed for those performers who struggled. I felt uncomfortable. I started to tune out. I came to an understanding, an epiphany, if you will. These kids had worked hard for this moment, the very least I could do was listen; to be there. I didn’t necessarily have to like or enjoy it. I didn’t have to agree with it. I just had to listen; validate their efforts with my ears. That change in mindset made the show better because I appreciated their hard work and effort. Isn’t that what anyone would want? Their hard work recognized.

My New Year’s Resolution is to try and listen more. Sometimes that’s difficult, especially if my attention is elsewhere, or I’m tired, or I’m a little bored with the conversation. I’m going to try to listen intently, actively, and engage with the speaker. I’m going to try to listen, knowing that what the other person is saying is important to them.

Now sometimes people do say ridiculous things with no other purpose other than to be funny or weird. I say this because, I am one of those people. Just look at my Wallis and Willard stories (more to come for them BTW).

My idiotic utterances are well known to those who know me well. About 4 months into dating my girlfriend my mother picked me up from university to bring me home. On the drive she got quiet and eventually asked, “Does your girlfriend know that what comes out of here is garbage?” She pointed to her mouth.

“Yes,” I replied. I was in 3rd year university. My girlfriend and I have since been married for almost 19 years. And she’ll be the first to attest that I still need to work on listening.

Listening is actually more than half of good communicating, because by listening you not only hear what the other person is saying, you are also reinforcing a connection with them as well. It’s the human connection that feels lost in today’s shuffle.

Here’s to listening, and connecting, more in 2020.

Photo by J. Henning Buchholz from FreeImages

The Slow Inevitable Change from Daddy to Dad

My eldest daughter started high school today. It happened to coincide with another change I noticed in her. She has started calling me ‘dad’ more often than ‘daddy.’ It’s surprising to me how much I think about this minor shift in language. It perhaps means a change in her view of me; a change in our relationship. Daddy, with it’s cute ending, denotes a certain closeness, a certain childlike affection. Dad, in comparison seems adult in its usage.

The younger two girls still call me ‘daddy’, but I know the end-life of the word ‘daddy’ is closer because as the older one uses it more so too will the younger ones. It’s not just word usage that the younger two copy the older one. Anything the older one does the younger two push to be given the same rights. This is good. All three are expanding their individualism, pushing boundaries, challenging authority and growing, as all children should.

When the eldest was allowed to stay up later the younger two revolted. I reminded them that when at their age their older sister went to bed at the same time. Think I was successful? Nope. The unfairness of it all bolstered their anger. Finally, I asked when she turns 16 and learns to drive should you two be allowed to drive at the same time? At ages 14 and 11? That gave them pause. With age comes more perks, but it also comes with more responsibilities. That is something my wife and I are trying to instill into our daughters.

It’s All in The Demographics

In a sense the age demographics of my household have shifted. Yes, I know each year the age demographics change, but with the threshold of adulthood on my eldest, and the middle daughter going into grade 7, junior high, and the youngest now into grade 4, the change seems quite palpable this new school year.

Their likes and hobbies are changing. This is good, too, as their experience and education expands their mental horizons. What this means, and I’m going to be a Dad here, is our household expenses are going to go drastically up, especially for beauty products. Oh boy. Lego was expensive, but electronics and phones are nuts!

I Remember When…

I find myself comparing how I was at 14, 12, and 9 and trying to relate to my daughters. This is easier to do now than when they were in kindergarten. All I remember at that age is the first blurry day sitting on the floor and that’s it. Now that they are older and I remember more of my life in grade 4, 7 and 9 I can compare what they are going through with what I did.

Of course the comparison is not one to one. There is FAR more technology in the school than when I was their age. In grade 9 computers where just starting to become a thing in my high school. They are girls and I was a boy. But, there are universal truths to adolescence. It is a time of change, of yearning, of failing, of trying to fit in, and of trying to figure out who you are and how you fit into this world.

I know parents always beam about how their children are better than them, but in my case it is true. (I know parents say in their cases it’s true as well, but no really, in my case it is… {I know parents say that… must get out of feedback loop…})

At any rate, they are all in french immersion (I wasn’t), they all play the piano (I don’t), and they all have more experience playing high level soccer than I ever did. They have more confidence than I did at their respective ages. And they are far more witty than I was. It is a house of mirth at times.

We are blessed and fortunate.

Photo by denise Clark from FreeImages

Culture Under a Siege of Change

August 27, 2019 Update: An interesting article I came across recently spoke of how tablets and phones are now making skim reading the new norm and that is affecting how we humans can digest and critique the information we read:

Culture is the means by which individuals have an understanding of the norms and practices, or customs, of a society. It encompasses language and non-verbal communication, world view and history, religion and spirituality, and the arts. Cultures are now experiencing crises after crises. Why?

Within any culture there have always been sub groups. Post-modernism has seen societies further fracture into a myriad of ever smaller, ever more specifically defined, sub-cultures and groups. The more fractured the groups the less cohesive the overall culture is. Add in the loss of common language and communication norms and an inability to debate ideas rather than personalities, societies have further disintegration. This is tribalism.

What is causing this fracturing?

I hypothesize that it is the frantic pace of change.

Change is not limited to any one country. It affects the whole world. Changes in one country can have tremendous impact on other countries. Changes in technology, in language – slang and new words – and in generational perspectives all create cultural friction. We’ve seen this in the past. Where an older generation will denigrate the following generation as lazy or too interested in the wrong things.

Three hundred years ago the difference between two generations was relatively minimal. The 1690’s were not that much different than the 1710’s at least technologically. Yet technology did make itself felt from time to time. The industrial revolution and the advent of the steam engine brought unprecedented change, causing strife when people in the manufacturing industries lost their jobs. Luddites are the prime example of this era.

Rebelling at new cotton and woollen mill technology these English workers destroyed machinery, which they believed jeopardized their livelihoods. Sound familiar? Now the term ‘luddite’ refers to someone who is against new technology or new ways of working. I think this is incorrect. What a Luddite is really against is change. There is a lot of change right now.

Culture Changed More Slowly in the Past.

Cultural evolution, as a measure of the acquisition of knowledge, emerging trends, and technological progress was a slow process. Cultures did not change very quickly because external and internal forces for change were minimal. At least from a population wide perspective rather than a smaller tribe perspective. In the 60,000 plus year history of modern Homo sapiens we’ve only been living in permanent settlements for the last 10,000 years or so. That’s how slow technological change happened. Today that is not the case.

Each day brings new technology, new advancements, and new improvements. Roy Amara once said ‘We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the affect in the long run.” Ten years ago broadband internet service was considered a luxury, now it is considered a basic human right. The difference between haves and have nots are now measured in ways other than just from a financial perspective; healthcare, education, food and water, and technology have uneven access.

Cultures cannot compete with this constant rate of change. When an individual, who feels secure in their world, experiences a sudden shift, creating great change, there is stress. Typically, this would be the death of a loved one, or a loss of employment, or the birth of a child. These changes have occurred through out human history and have provided friction in a person’s life. But, changes are now occurring all the time on top of these ‘regular’ events. What happens when everyone feels stress? Culture experiences upheaval.

Some attribute this upheaval to societies moving away from the religious centre of past generations, but that is only a symptom, not the cause of cultural distress. It’s the constant aggressive sharing of opinion, of technology advance, of desire for improvement, of negative news, of climate change heating up the world and causing increasingly turbulent weather patterns, all rolled up into one package. Through all of this there are those who push forward and there are those who push back.

Individuals Face Instability

An individual can experience culture shock. Anyone traveling to a foreign country has experienced this to some degree. My issues with culture shock in Japan revolve around the cicada, or semi in Japanese. Here in North America you can occasionally hear the cicada; it’s loud monotonous buzz, slowly diminishes to nothing after a half minute. You may hear one a day. In Japan at the height of summer you hear thousands upon thousands of them. Everywhere. That is when I landed in Japan.

This buzzing cacophony did not cease at night. The extent of this sound, which I was dropped into, is like a drill bit turning in each ear every minute of every day. To the Japanese this is a sound of summer. To me, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t think. I thought I was going insane. For weeks I struggled to keep up during the simplest of conversations. It was as thorough a disruption to my life as I’ve ever experienced.

Contrast that experience to my last summer in Japan. This time I was there for the beginning of the cicada season, when it started off slowly. By the height of the cicada buzzing, several weeks later, I was used to it. I didn’t notice it at all. The gradual change allowed me to more easily adapt to the change itself. Cultures no longer have gradual changes, and they are fraying as a result.

I wish I had the answers for how to deal with society’s ills. But, I do believe that if you accept and admit that there’s an issue to begin with, it becomes a little easier to manage.

For me personally, something will happen and I feel this growing bubble of frustration in my gut. It gets bigger and when it pops I get angry. Sometimes I don’t even know why, exactly, I’m angry. The issue is that I don’t know what caused the frustration initially. Was it my child dropping the drink on the floor? Was it something at work? Was it something someone else said? Something I read?

I need to take a moment and analyze why I’m feeling the way I am. But in this fast paced society we have there is little chance for reflection, to assess the situation, and to try to understand the wellspring of that emotion. When we all experience this how can society cope?

How do you deal with the constant change you face? Let me know in the comments below.

Thank you for reading.

Photo by joe murphy from FreeImages