Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Dead Ends

I recently picked up a book called Nothing Daunted.

In it the author tells the story of two society women who at the turn if the 20th century left behind their lives of luxury for adventure teaching school in the wilds of the Colorado frontier.

While attending school at Smith College, the two women in the story recalled the school president asking his students, "Are you a lifter, or a leaner?" That got them thinking--and moving.

It got me thinking too. For a long time--the better part of my coming-of-age years--I struggled with leaning. Sure, I was a nice girl, smart and helpful. I always had  a job and paid my bills. I took care of my obligations--but nothing more.

I leaned.

What I mean by that is I needed a lot of support to keep moving in a forward direction. Still do. I need cheerleaders. And that's not all bad. But what I've found is that for a long time I needed someone to tell me to do things and the keep cheering me on or my motivation would wain. 

For me, everything had to have a purpose. I wanted someone to validate my choices for me, fearing that if they didn't see the point in what I was doing, didn't give me their approval, then I was wasting time and would fall out of their favor. It is/was true with my parents, friends, husband, children. I didn't want to put them out.

I thought I was being considerate of others, letting them take the lead and meet their needs before trying to meet mine. But what I was really doing was self-sabotage. And everything became a dead end. I found myself feeling resentful. Other people seemed to find the time/money/ability to do things. They took dance lessons, participated in activities, joined teams...and I never did.

And then I realized that other people didn't seem to need that validation. They just did things. Because they wanted to. What? That's when I learned what is meant by the expression doers do. It's not that I was lazy. I lacked confidence. But if you never try anything--on your own, under your own power with your own motivation--you gain no strength. You do not grow. You are a dead end.

It's called called Esteem and Self-actualization and it's right at the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs--a psychological theory to outline the general motivational patterns behind human behavior.


So a while back I decided to run. Not because I was training for something. Not because someone asked me to. Not because I needed to exercise. I just ran because I wanted to, because I enjoy it. And nobody died.

Believe it or not, I had never done that before. My mind was blown. Suddenly I realized I could do other just because I liked them. I could certify in Pilates just because I wanted to. I could start a blog just because I wanted to. And I didn't need anyone's approval.

You know what? Once I started meeting my own esteem needs and self-actualization needs, I stopped leaning and started lifting. It's a wonderful feeling!  Why on earth did it take me so long to figure it out?

Are you a lifter?
What have you done just because you want to?

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