Motivation, Momentum, and Play

I’ve been inspired lately by someone who works tirelessly to grow and change. She wakes in the wee hours of the morning practicing new skills for hours at a time. Everyday there are profound differences from the day before. It sounds quite tiring, and it is (occasionally naps are required). But since she is not quite a year old, we call this dedication to change play. Play. That’s right. Learning new things and forming new neural networks in our brain to support these changes is the very stuff of child’s play.

So if my infant daughter has this much ability to change, to work, to be dedicated to new tasks like walking, talking and feeding herself, is this true of all humans? Or do we out grow it? It appears that we actually get a little complacent. Once we have tasks that we’ve mastered and routines that we have developed in life, these neural networks (patterns of how brain cells fire and work together) go on autopilot. A lot of times, we just go with it. We have tendency to forget that we created these patterns in the first place. 

For us older (and more tired) adults we need a bit of push to make changes. Really this means that we need to focus our attention on what we want to do differently and intentionally make this change, going against old patterns that fire off automatically within our brain. So yes, there is the work part of it: intentionally saying, “I will do this thing differently” and following through.

It’s January 3rd. There are a lot of folks out there embarking on some sort of life change. Right now, you need to build momentum. You need to practice doing what you want differently. Lots of times. That takes conscious effort. Each time you do it, your brain works differently. You are creating new patterns. If you do it more and more, it becomes easier. I would call this momentum.

There is a mistaken belief that you can wait around and you will find the motivation to make a change. FALSE. That’s not how motivation works. It works in combination with its friend momentum. Motivation is the reward you reap from making the change and enjoying the new things you are learning. It’s noticing that you did something different and now feel different. Then you want to do it some more. That’s how motivation works.

If there’s a change worth making in your life, how might you approach it with the tenacity and playfulness of a child? How do you see exercise, cooking, spending time with family, or any other goal as a playful and fun part of your life?


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