There’s a young man at work that I’ve been talking with quite a bit. He’s a rambunctious, obnoxious sort who’s more inclined to have fun than worry about the consequences, but he’s got a sharp mind and is a lot more self-aware than most people I know. (He’d make a great magician should he decide to focus on it someday. I’m casually prodding him in that direction. Because I can.)
One thing that he never expects is when I make a simple observation into his nature that explains why he is experiencing discomfort with a certain situation and suggests how he will likely deal with it. And I’ve explained the process to him, because it usually is really simple: what is he motivated by, what are his typical behavioral patterns, and what is he afraid of? How do those play together?
And so, since I’m doing that self examination thing, I decided to turn those insights onto myself.
What are my motivations? What are my fears? What are my typical behavioral patterns?
My motivations are fairly easy. I am motivated by mental stimulation. I like puzzles. I like games. I like creative expression. And I am also motivated by a desire to achieve mastery and perfection in whatever skill I pursue, and to receive recognition for that mastery. I want respect and honor. I want to be loved and looked up to.
What are my behavioral patterns? I analyze things. I counsel people. I lecture and show off my knowledge and skills. I tell stories.
Oh, and I procrastinate and am lazy as fuck.
So we now have a disconnect.
There’s a little thing floating around the internet that says something to the effect of: people procrastinate because they are perfectionists and have a fear of failure. Yup, that’s me.
My biggest fears are failure and disappointing people. (Well, and being abducted by aliens. But I’m not going in to that one.)
I’m a quick learner. So I tend not to give myself a long time to master something. Or I will dabble with something and not demonstrate my abilities to others (if I play my guitar in front of you, I am very comfortable with you, because I’m not very good and it embarrasses me). And if I don’t feel I can master something quickly enough, or I encounter a block or limitation that is extremely difficult, I will either give up or avoid the project.
I’m not avoiding blogging because I don’t have the time. I’m avoiding blogging because I’m afraid I won’t come up with enough interesting content. I’m afraid that I will be just another self-serving voice on the internet, and that people will not find any real value in my words.
I am afraid of being mediocre. And so I avoid trying extraordinary things, because to fail is to be proven inadequate. And in the end, I am mediocre because of it.
This is why I never started my own business. This is why I haven’t published any books yet. This is why I don’t play any instruments.This is why I haven’t had any apprentices. This is why I haven’t gotten out of the restaurant industry. This is why I haven’t lost weight and gotten into shape. This is why I’m single.
Because if I can’t be perfect at something, I’d rather not do it. And the few occasions where I do take a risk and fail impact me far more than the cases where I try and excel.
I hate being in ruts. But they’re cozy. Change is scary. Change has the risk of failure. So all too often I stick to what I know.
And know this doesn’t help. Having the information does no good unless I make use of it. And therein lies the problem — it is the taking of action that brings about the risk. It is the motivation to take action that is lacking. And I’m back to that question of how to motivate myself when my problem is a lack of motivation?
And try as I may to convince myself that perfection is unattainable, and that I’m really not that kind of person, I can’t escape it. It’s a big part of who I am. And I will sabotage myself until I can change that.
I suppose it’s a good thing I’m a wizard. I’d better start actually wizarding, then.