For whatever reason, whenever I think about motivation, I think about the Sprite commercial from the late 90’s that had some very macho-looking basketball players named Freight Train, Pablo, and Mo-T, with hard-hitting dialogue, interrupted by the director calling, “Cut,” to say that the Sprite can is upside down. Mo-T tells the director off, saying he’d played Hamlet at Cambridge, Pablo complains that once again the director has ruined his concentration, and Freight Train asks the question, “Excuse me, what’s my motivation?” The commercial ends with the tagline, “Image is nothing. Thirst is everything. Obey your thirst.”
Now, clearly, the marketing folks knew what they were doing because I remember this commercial almost 20 years after the fact, and it’s stuck with me. This is somewhat disconcerting because I don’t like to think that I fall prey to marketing because, well, I’m too smart for that. Apparently not. To top it off, all they were trying to do was sell some drinks. So what does this have to do with me, as a Registered Clinical Counsellor and more importantly, what does it have to do with my counselling or coaching clients or anyone else who might be reading our blog this week?
I started thinking about this article over the Christmas break because I knew that the New Year’s resolution discussions were inevitable. Clients would come into the counselling room with all sorts of changes they wanted to make, blogs would be full of articles titled, “How to Make Your New Year’s Resolutions Work in 2018,” and inevitably, products would launch promising to make our dreams come true and help us stick to all of our newfound resolutions. Well, research has shown that New Year’s resolutions don’t stick, and they don’t work for most people. There’s plenty of opinions as to why this might be, and certainly a plethora of articles suggesting how to make sure yours works this year.
My opinion, however, is that most of our resolutions fail because they are tied to an image of ourselves that we want to attain. If only I shed those 20 pounds of weight; if only I was in better shape; if only I could sing better; if only I made more money; and so on and so forth. In other words, if only I could make these changes, and project this image, I’d be a better person, or perhaps more like, and then I’d feel worthwhile.
I have one question for you at the start of this year – and that is, what are you thirsting for? But not in the sense of your image, like how you want to look, how much you want to weigh, or how much more money you want to make at your job; rather, I want to know who you want to be. See, I believe resolutions fail because they are aimed at images of ourselves that automatically tell us we’re not good enough, rather than being aimed at who we want to be and how we want to interact with the world, informed by the knowledge that we are good enough just as we are.
So what are you thirsting after? Who do you want to be this year? How do you want to be defined as a human being, and ultimately, as one who is worthy, and deserving of being loved? I have an exercise for you. I sort of stole it from Mike Mawhorter from Ladner Baptist Church, and I’m not sure who he stole it from. I’ve changed it a bit to fit our purposes here. I’d like you to pick one word that you want to define you this year; to define your pursuits and to define how you interact with the world and ultimately, to define who you are. I’ll give you an example from my own life.
Last year, I picked the word integrity. I decided that I wanted everything I did in 2017 to be defined by and to flow out of integrity. Being a perfectionist by nature, I’m well aware of my shortcomings and areas I’ve failed at this. All in all, however, as I look back on 2017 I am surprised by how helpful this exercise was in three key areas, and I hope they are helpful to you. Picking a word to represent who we want to be, and how we want to operate, allows us to:
- Have a metric by which to make decisions. It’s simplistic but effective. As opportunities come up, or decisions are to be made, we can ask ourselves the question, “Does this get me closer to who I want to be, or further away? If it’s the former, go for it; if it’s the latter, say no and don’t do it.
- Keep the focus away from the image and toward our intrinsic values and desires, or the things we are thirsting after.
- Be motivated by the things that truly matter to us. If we are thirsting after something, our motivation is high. If we simply want to maintain a particular image or lose 20lbs because it’s a good idea, we’re probably not going to stick to it. If, however, we want to lose 20lbs because we want to be healthy, treat ourselves well, and be there for our kids as they grow up, we’ve got a better shot at it.
As I reflect on 2017 and move into 2018, I’m excited. I’m excited for what we’re doing here at Alongside You, I’m excited that we’re going to help more people this year than we have in the years combined since we opened, and I’m excited because if this works, those of you reading this will become closer and closer to a self-definition and motivation that is focused on who you want to be, rather than what you want to do, and reinforcing of the truth that you are valuable, worthy, and deserving of love, just as you are.
“IMAGE IS NOTHING. THIRST IS EVERYTHING.”
So, pick a word that you want to define who you are in 2018. Thirst after it, be motivated by it, and I wish you all the success in the world as you journey toward a deeper sense of self-compassion and self-love this year. You are worth it.
If our team at Alongside You can be of any help as you forge ahead in 2018, please contact us, we’d love to hear from you.