Most people surmise that self-motivation is something I don’t struggle with. As much as I hate to refute those assumptions, I have to honestly say that, like most folks, I do grapple with personal initiative every single day. We all have that list of things that we know need to get done (or even started). And for most of us, the tasks we find mundane, boring, monotonous, and frustration inducing are the ones we try avoid at all costs. I mean, who willingly puts themselves through excruciatingly dull, uncomfortable, or painful experiences without a bit (or, days) of internal dialogue first. (In my case, this process has to happen every time I have to do housework, make a dental appointment, do the taxes, clean-up the DRC art room, start writing a grant, or, the really big one, dealing with, despised and preposterous, “officialdom.”)
No matter who you are, anything that does not immediately elicit that feeling of joy or pride is going to be automatically met with distaste, skepticism, distrust, discomfort, or outright rejection.
On the other hand, there are those chores that we take on with relish (no talking to required) - the ones we find the most interesting, exciting, and pleasurable. These are the endeavors that provide that sense of satisfaction and instigate that desire to do more. Yes! This is what self-motivation looks and feels like.
Ah! Therein lies the conundrum. How do we as mentors, help young people find the things that light their fire, when their internal reference point for personal fulfillment has been obliterated by all they have previously experienced in a system that uses coercion, as well as reward and punishment to make them do those things they find stultifying, irksome, and without meaning? They have never had the opportunity to explore the world. Therefore, they don’t know what brings them joy except for the empty diet of instant gratification provided by video games or social media. Which, by the way, I am not condemning as evil, or “the problem with society (kids) these days.” What I am saying is that as with anything, moderation is key.
Once they leave that system, they have no idea how to negotiate the world of free choice. They are afraid of anything that seems like “work” and will avoid the things they associate with their previous experiences. The “white” or “blank" page syndrome is very real, not only for those of us who write, but for anyone who is faced with the seemingly empty imaginative and creative space inside their heads.
Fear is a motivator unto itself – through avoidance, it gives us the false illusion of “safety.” It is that thing that allows inertia and ambivalence to become the strangling forces on our creativity, and it also makes it harder and harder to reckon with, the longer we allow it to rule our emotions.
When I say, “imagine the possibilities.” Or, “you are in charge of your education and life,” between the fear of the unknown, making mistakes, looking foolish, and the false impression that once they make a decision they are “stuck” with it for eternity, they, quite simply, have no idea where to begin.
Oftentimes, they need a gentle nudge – a jump start – something to break the bond of static energy. But, what does that look like within our non-coercive, safe, and supportive environment? As with anything, it is different for every single person. Some require explicit permission to be their authentic selves and a “look in the mirror” to recognize the masks they present to the world. For others, it includes surrounding them with tons of action, resources, and opportunity – people (other kids) modeling creativity and engagement for them to easily (with no initial commitment) get involved with. There are few who need to screw up royally and be faced with either learning how to make positive and productive decisions or be asked to leave. And, then there are those kids, for whom, absolutely, nothing works, except for a brief explanation of inertia, an open invitation to discuss anything (ideas or concerns) at any time, a reminder of the old axiom, beginning is half finished, and (lots and lots of) time and space.
We are excited to announce that Deep Root Center is officially a partner with the Central New York Food Bank. What does that mean? We are able to access provisions from the Food Bank and it's other partners, at little or no cost, for our kids to use to make their own lunches or breakfasts, as well as for cooking and baking classes. Stay tuned as those initiatives take off.