There are two types of people reading this blog today.
- Those who can SEE and CORRECT their unwanted behaviors, and
- The rest of us.
I am going to open up to you—my devoted readers—about an unwanted behavior of my own in the hope that you can benefit from my experience.
Here goes … be gentle with me.
In 2007, Christy decided it would be a good idea to submit our house as a possible candidate for Fairhope’s annual Showcase of Homes Tour. I can assure you this was a unilateral decision because I knew what that entailed.
(1) More do-it-yourself projects than HGTV.
Problem: Both of us worked full time, meaning projects would occupy nights and weekends.
- Contract labor out (too expensive and difficult to schedule)
- Take time off work (already had Disney on the books, so had to save vacation)
- Use friends (by the end of DIY projects, would be referred to as “former” friends)
(2) Producing and sustaining a thoroughly cleaned house.
Problem: Three boys.
- Ship boys off to boarding school (Kerry = yes; Christy = no)
- Hire maid service (Kerry = enthusiastic yes; Christy = no, because she couldn’t let anyone see the house in its current state—how embarrassing!)
- Duct tape boys to a chair for three weeks (Kerry = bought tape; Christy = no)
For the first sixteen years of our marriage, I was able to hide my worst behavior from Christy. I am terrible finisher. I love the start of a
(Sorry, just saw our cat saunter by outside and it reminded me to put Meow Mix on my shopping list.)
project, but I get easily distracted. The only way our marriage had survived up to this point was that Christy was worse than me! She never got mad at me because, quite frankly, she forgot what I was doing or she got interested in something else. When we lived in Birmingham, I once painted the front of our house over a long 4th of July weekend, so Christy could see how the colors looked. She was happy. Good enough for me.
I finished the project sometime after school started when Britton’s teacher asked the students to draw their house. It was accurate, but hideous.
I admit it. I struggle to finish.
So when the committee accepted our home for The Showcase of Homes Tour, I not only came face to face with my inability to finish, but my escape route was cut-off—Christy was focused.
We got started the next day.
So as I lay there painting base boards, I let my mind wonder to keep from thinking about how much I didn’t want to be lying there painting base boards.
I remembered reading a discussion on self-motivation when we have to do something as simple as finishing a task we don’t want to do, or something as complex as changing an unwanted behavior.
The example used was a familiar one—weight loss. The question posed was simple.
Why do we gain weight?
Easy. Calories consumed are greater than calories expended.
Why do we lose weight?
Easy. Calories consumed are less than calories expended.
We know this intellectually, but 2 out of 3 Americans are overweight. So if intellect alone doesn’t drive our behavior, what does?
We are much more likely to eat that salad or go to the gym when we get emotional about our weight. And the emotions that motivate us can be either positive or negative.
- Fear – if I don’t do something, I might have a heart attack.
- Sadness – is that ME in my Facebook profile picture?
- Disgust – if my backside gets any bigger, it will have its own zip code.
- Anger – I know better than this!
- Joy – I want to play with my grandchildren
- Pride – at least I’m not as bad as _______________.
- Hope – I want to feel good again!
So when we are asked to do something we might not want to do, or to change a behavior, look beyond the actual task. Peel back a layer past what you know about the task and tap into the emotion that will motivate you.
Back to our story…
I had no sooner finished painting the baseboards when Christy asked me to paint the antique wood floors in the boys’ bathroom upstairs. She wanted it to look like this.
I wanted to groan. Instead, I watched as Christy sketched the pattern she wanted. She was giddy. She was already knee deep in her own HGTV reality show.
And there it was.
Intellectually, I knew the time and the effort to complete this project, and the others sure to follow. I was not motivated. I’m not sure I ever would have been. But seeing Christy so excited to be able to do stuff to the house provided the emotion—the fuel.
At the start of each project, I imagined her joy when it would be finished. And a funny thing happened. My behavior changed. Yours can too.
Want to clean out that shed? Focus on the joy of being able to find stuff.
Want to schedule that doctor’s visit? Think how happy your wife will be.
Need to clean out a closet? Imagine a poor child being warm at night.
As for me, I am calling our vet. The thought of paying for pre-natal care and then finding a home for all those puppies has made me angry!