In this blog, I’ve occasionally written about how I’ve been slowly developing myself in the direction of non coercive self motivation, or unjobbing. Unjobbing means I try to remove any voice from my head that tries to push me around, and instead only motivate myself with positive forces such as enthusiasm or a genuine desire to work.
In the process of doing this, I’ve found that I’ve had to become much more aware of what my mind-body-spirit is telling me. Previously, I might have used coercive motivation to force myself to work when I was too tired. Now that I’ve chosen not to use it, I often find that I just can’t work in those times; my mind-body-spirit wants me to stop working for a reason, and it’s just not going to give me a source of energy to work with unless there is something really urgent at hand.
I’ve slowly learnt to find a more healthy attitude to rest. When you’re using coercive motivation, restful activities are usually treated either as treats, given in return for good work, or as a rebellion against the coercive voice in your mind. You see, some part of you is always fighting against the coercive voice. When that part is stronger you do restful activities or whatever else constitutes a rebellion. When your coercive voice is stronger you do whatever you think you should do, though not joyfully.
A healthier attitude to restful activities is to do them when you need rest. This might seem obvious, but putting it into practice is not so obvious. I’ve found that previously, I actually couldn’t tell when my mind-body-spirit needed rest naturally. I was so entrenched in the coercive motivation system that I had never learnt to engage in rest consciously, intentionally, without guilt. Rest had always been a rebellion for me.
As I’ve become better at non coercive self motivation I’ve first discovered that I needed to learn to rest; and then I’ve slowly discovered how to actually do it, and how to know when to do it. It has taken time, and a real sense of trust in myself.
I’ve had to discover new activities that I considered restful, as I simply didn’t engage in many such activities before. Going out with friends didn’t necessarily count; it wasn’t work but it was a sort of self care and was fulfilling a different need to rest per se.
I discovered that going out for walks is good for me; watching series is good for me; and playing video games is good for me. The latter has been particularly interesting because I had to make a conscious decision to let myself get back into them after years of not playing, despite some part of me thinking they were a horrible waste of time. Now I find that they are an essential part of my self care.
Now, I feel into my body and work out what I want to do. Sometimes I feel a craving to work or do something productive, and sometimes I feel a craving to do something restful.
Yes, I get cravings to do work. That is the basis of non coercive self motivation. When you know that some part of you wants to work, you don’t need to force yourself to work anymore, you just need to harness that desire.
But it’s also interesting to see that some part of me genuinely needs to rest and to do restful activities such as playing video games. It’s not just a guilty pleasure, it’s a need. I can feel it there when I go into my body.
I can feel both the need to work and to rest now because I’ve gotten used to feeling them. I had to learn to distinguish those feelings, because after a whole life of coercive self motivation they were just alien to me.
So now at different times of the day I feel the desire to work, and the desire to rest. I flow with them, and try not to interfere with my judgements about what they should be. Some days I need to work more, and some days I need to rest more. Interestingly, I rarely get days when I feel I only want to work or rest. Usually, there is some element of both, even if I think of them in my head as a “work” or a “rest” day. Those times when I’ve been more in the space of coercive self motivation and have tried to make a single day only about work or rest, I’ve usually ended up feeling depressed. If, on a rest day, I don’t even clear up my room a little bit or wash the dishes, I feel slobbish and awful. If, on a work day, I don’t rest at all, I burn out.
I especially seem to need to do something to disconnect before going to bed, if I’ve been working late. Otherwise I have work thoughts in my head and just can’t sleep. I usually spend an hour playing video games, or at least half an hour, to avoid this.
In general, I’ve found that my relationship to series, books and video games has become much less addictive than before. Before, I’d want to spend an entire day reading a book, just to see what happens next (and I’d feel awful afterwards). Now, I’m happy to spend an hour or two and leave finding out what happens next for later. This is possible because I have a finite, measurable purpose when reading books or playing video games; I feel the urge in my mind-body-spirit to rest and my intention is to satisfy that urge. I periodically check the feelings in my body, and when I see the urge has been satisfied, I’m done.
I think I enjoy series, books and video games much more now, actually. I’m not using them like a drug; so I actually have the chance to appreciate them. I don’t get video game burnout; whenever I return to a game my attention is refreshed and ready to really be present with it.
This all is an ongoing learning process for me. I still get times when I lapse back into coercive self motivation, or simply don’t notice when I’m craving work or rest. But I’m definitely getting MUCH better at this. Well, I can say that I’ve actually started to really engage in conscious rest. I didn’t do that at all before – and reaped the consequences. So, despite how much further I have to go, just starting and making some headway is really meaningful.
Learning non coercive self motivation really feels like blazing my own trail. I don’t know anyone who has written about these things, at least not in the depth I’m discovering them. I hope one day I can call myself some kind of expert and write a book about it. I have a long ways to go, though.