I’m not sure if it’s an automatic response, something that has been told us so many times that now we believe it, but do deadlines really motivate us?
I think that deadline motivation is primarily fear based motivation. A looming judgement day rapidly advancing on our psyche with strict punishments. Can this be healthy?
This isn’t to say that I don’t believe in goals and deadlines. Sometimes they are incredibly necessary. Thinking about it, deadlines are similar to limits, and both help define the borders for which we can operate within. Understanding these deadlines and limits, we can act accordingly. For instance, when I’m driving to another city. I know that the city is along a 100 km/hr road, and it’s 50 km away. So, understanding my deadline is 1 pm and my speed limit, I can define another deadline of leaving prior to my deadline of arrival to get to my destination in enough time. Understanding I must keep within my limits, I’ll probably effectively find success.
However, when deadlines become vague numbers pulled from the air in an attempt to motivate myself to do this or that task, I wonder in the first place if this is a task that I should be doing. What possible purpose could I have for doing something that I have zero motivation for? Is it for money? So that I can drive the car that I have to mortgage to the work location I don’t like to be at, doing tasks I don’t like to do away from the home I also have to mortgage? So I can buy the groceries that feed me because I can’t grow the food myself at the home I resent paying such high mortgage for since I need to be close to work hard at the job I don’t like to do?
If I don’t have the motivation and inner fire to do the task in the first place, then why am I doing it? Further, if the only form of motivation I’m inviting into my life is fear based, doesn’t this breed more fear? Fear then becomes my closest friend. My mentor standing above me yelling in my face telling me I gotta get this done, I can do it, get those fingers working, don’t rest!
The Chinese have a philosophy called qi (pronounced ‘chee’, also known as chi, or ki). Qi is understood as the life force within us. That is, the entire mental, physical, and biological systems within and around ourselves that contribute to our will in life. A healthy qi leaves us feeling strong and in control of this world. An unhealthy qi shows up as lack of motivation and lethargy. Everything, from the food we eat to the exercise we give ourselves to the conversations we have has it’s due place in qi.
In ayurveda, an Indian variant of qi, it is well understood that the types of foods we eat and the types of liquids we drink heavily effect our inner fire. The term ‘stoke your fire’ comes up frequently. Ayurvedic medicine also relates body symptoms to diet and exercise. Yoga is heavily connected to ayurveda, which involves mental and physical exercises.
Are you motivated by fear?
Some people get high off of fear. Some people face fear like warriors and never turn back. Maybe fear is a good motivator for these people. Do you like focusing on fear? To me, fear gives me the image of a scared person cowering into a darkened corner too afraid to look up, and this definitely doesn’t give me the impression of a person with strong qi, with their inner fire stoked so powerfully that they will dispel the fear simply by a hand wave, charging forth into the night with a blazing sword yelling: I AM HERE.
I believe it’s not actually the fear that’s motivating these people, it’s something else.
Ben Harper has a beautiful song, Lifeline, that I very frequently reflect upon. Lifeline is such a beautiful word, and perfectly epitomizes qi in my mind.
Lifeline is the thing that we do that is our life’s meaning. The thing we do that causes us to forget everything else. The thing we think about, the thing we love and hate sometimes at the same time, the thing we do not need deadlines to work on, because the work flows so naturally that setting a deadline would be rather meaningless. It’s the waltz down the street, or the alarm clock in the morning. And yes, it may be multiple things.
If there are more things that contribute to the lifeline, it makes sense to me that qi will become stronger.
Our lifeline then changes the conversation from: “I must clean 3 washrooms in 20 minutes,” into, “I will clean 3 washrooms because cleanliness is fertile ground for vibrant qi.” “I must cook supper by 5 pm,” into, “I will make the most delicious meal I can design for my family with ingredients from the fridge tonight.” “I must paint three paintings by end of week,” into, “I cannot go to bed tonight because I am possessed with art!”
If we can effectively identify our lifeline, I should think we can find the substance that stokes our inner fire to nurture our balanced qi. It is precisely in this place that fear dissolves, deadlines become irrelevant, and our purpose in life clearly becomes the source of our good health, positive attitude, and will to live.
Every day while out walking, Old Man carried with him a pocket full of seeds and a carrot in the chance that he should meet an animal to make friends with.
While wandering through his favourite pasture, he paused and held his breath as he saw a fawn with it’s mother silently munching grass. Excited, Old Man rummaged around in his pocket for the carrot and held it up in the air for the deer to see. The noise in doing this alerted the deer, and when he held up the carrot the deer were easily spooked and bounded off into the forest.
He smiled widely the whole rest of his walk, thinking about how proud those deer looked as they hopped away.
A few days later, Old Man was walking along his favourite path through his favourite part of the woods, and came upon 3 little squirrels. Excited, Old Man rummaged around in his pocket and produced a handful of seeds he thought that the squirrels might enjoy. However, with all the noise, each of the three squirrels quickly ran up their trees and started chattering at Old Man to hopefully let him know he was getting too close. Old Man, excited he had seen three squirrels, left three little piles of seeds for his new friends and was back on his favourite trail in his favourite part of the woods.
His heart beat rapidly as he quietly walked away.
The next day, while sitting on his favourite bench in his favourite spot in the park, Old Man watched a flock of chick-a-dees hopping around from here to there looking for seeds and little insects to eat. Excited, Old Man rummaged around in his pocket to find a few seeds he had been saving for the small birds. He sat there for three hours, holding those seeds in his hand so tight, hardly noticing he was making them all sweaty. His excitement jumped around just as each bird he watched hopped from this place to that.
Finally, after sitting nearly motionless three hours, one bird came close to him and hopped all around him looking for food. It hopped close to his left foot, then briefly between his legs before it went under the bench he sat at. Old Man dropped a few seeds onto the ground for it, which momentarily scared the poor little bird, but then it smelled the food and all fear vanished as the little bird excitedly flapped its wings and the hair on the top of it’s head stood straight up and the little bird jumped happily over to the food, then onto Old Man’s shoe, then hopped up to the bench and enjoyed the seeds Old Man fed it.