Dating after my husband moved out was an intriguing learning experience. I’ll never forget the sheer curiosity and amazement I felt toward men at the time. I remember my first official coffee date. He arrived wearing a cute hat and just the right amount of facial hair. We had known each other as acquaintances for a few years, but that day sitting in the sunlight, his eyes seemed to sparkle a little extra. We chatted easily about love, loss, kids, books, traveling, life’s challenges and bonuses. It blew my mind that a man could talk to and connect with me for over two hours. I hadn’t experienced that kind of man/woman communication since my 20s. I called one of my best girlfriends right afterwards and shouted into the phone, That was awesome!! Eventually, I began to explore physical affection and sexuality with a few of the men I dated. I enjoyed flirting, experimenting and the adventure of it all. Again, it had been twenty years since I’d participated in man/woman connection on that level. Now in my 40s, I was more comfortable in my own skin and at ease with my body. I was open to learning and deeply engaged in the experience. We had fun! It was a whole new world to me. I found so much satisfaction in my relationships for those first two years. I was never without a date. I was perpetually intrigued. Then my mindset shifted. I dated one man for six months and started to think about settling down for the long-term. I truly cared for him and didn’t have a desire to be with anyone else. We were great at learning and exploring together. I wanted a future with him but this was not meant to be. He was not interested in a commitment. After him, my dating experience changed. I wasn’t as interested in exploring and learning about each man. I wasn’t as in awe of their masculine qualities. I wasn’t devoted to expanding as a person through relationships. I wasn’t looking for new skills to master. I wanted commitment. I wanted what I’d had with the other gentleman but with the big finish. I am not even talking marriage, just long-term dedication. I was looking for an end result rather than enjoying the ride.;) My number of dates dwindled and the relationships I started didn’t last long and ended in disappointment and frustration. I started to be gun-shy about dating. I started to doubt myself and the male species.
What motivates you?
The actions you perform to accomplish a mastery goal or a performance goal might be the same, but your motivation and your mindset will be quite different. When you’re focused on improving your own skills, rather than on demonstrating them, you’re less likely to get discouraged by obstacles, time pressure, or other unexpected challenges. You’ll believe that you can still improve and do better next time. You’ll have a growth mindset. — Edmond Lau
Computer science engineer and writer, Edmond Lau’s, post titled, How a Small Change Can Boost Your Motivation and Performance, provided this week’s revelation. For most of my life I was not motivated by mastery goals. I was motivated by the ‘typical’ goals or performance rewards:peer approval, money, prestige. My work and efforts were primarily tied to end results rather than improving my own skills.
In school I was the ideal student. I studied, complied and regurgitated — all for good grades and social acceptance. I did not raise my hand to gain knowledge or fulfill my curiosity. I raised my hand to show my intelligence and please the teacher. I often think about how much more enjoyable school would be now. I’d ask so many questions and befriend the instructors. I’d pour my heart into the learning and work hard to be really good at what I love. I may have even married for the wrong reasons. I wanted security, status and social acceptance. Those were my motivators for a long-term relationship, not that I was at all conscious of them at the time. I was in love because my husband made me laugh, he was loyal and I could see all of my dreams (performance rewards) coming to fruition. My ex-husband and I were great planners. We had a solid family network, lovely home and were ensconced in the ‘right’ circles.
Ideal motivators for introverts?
Daniel H. Pink in his book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, determines the three true motivators to be: autonomy, mastery and purpose (making the perfect acronym – AMP). We want to be ourselves and direct our own lives/projects. We want to improve our skills and expand our knowledge. We want to be useful and provide meaningful service. These are what motivate people to complete long-term projects that require mental effort and ingenuity.These intrinsic goals keep us focused and engaged for the long haul. These motivators seem ideally aligned with the introverted personality.
- We love autonomy, yes? Working alone without others interrupting and telling us what to do.
- We have the ability to concentrate deeply for long periods of time, so mastering skills is right up our alley.
- We prefer meaningful work. In fact, it energizes us. We can get on board with a project more easily if we feel it is valuable and offers the opportunity to make the world a little better.
Short term projects with clear goals and little opportunity for mastering new skills, like chores around the house or returning emails, do respond well to performance rewards such as treating yourself to a nice dinner or a nap, but have diminishing returns or even a negative effect if used for more complex undertakings.
Are you aiming for short-term or long-term success?
Lau’s article and the studies mentioned therein, made it clear to me that if I want to stay motivated and engaged in long-term endeavors and relationships I need to focus on learning and growth, not just rewards, winning, accomplishments or commitment. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to see if you are using mastery or performance goals to motivate yourself: Are you studying in school to learn and grow or to prove your intelligence? Are you training for an athletic event to improve your own time or to beat the competition? Are you staying late at work in order to gain knowledge and skills within your field or are you only interested in overtime pay and a possible promotion?
How to apply motivational insight to your love life
When I was dating for fun and personal enrichment, I was easily satisfied. If obstacles arose (like logistical problems or a lack of interest) I was better able to take them in stride. We worked through them or I figured it wasn’t meant to be. I was grateful for the experience and lessons learned while with that man. I didn’t take it so personally. I didn’t feel defeated if the relationship didn’t go the distance. My focus wasn’t on the commitment but on the experience and growth. I enjoyed myself without gunning for the elusive carrot of long-term devotion.
I’m employing that mindset now as I lightly enter the dating arena again. I’m investing in the experience and the learning. I’m enjoying the ride rather than focusing on the destination.
What is driving you in your work and in your relationships? Where have you used a mastery goal to achieve? Have you had any relationships flop because you focused on obtaining a commitment?
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**Bonus benefits of giving up the goal of an end result: As I adapt this mindset again I have noticed how it applies to so many other areas of living. For example, my writing practice is never more alive and faceted than when I take classes and delve into the craft of writing. I am open to feedback and take the time to really go deep into the senses and reflection that inspire pure intriguing thoughts and words. When I invest in the honesty and craft I connect more intensely with readers which gives me a true sense of purpose. My fitness level peaks when I take on new exercise routines. I try something different and accept the fact that it will take time to master and show results. I am thoroughly engaged because it’s novel and I’m learning. I don’t know what to expect for results but I’m having fun working at it and keeping my body and brain active. I ask questions of others, make interesting friends and get excited about exploring the new opportunities. My body and mind benefit without specifically assigning a goal weight, distance to bike or dream jean size. Even cooking is more joyful if done creatively and with slow attention rather than solely for sustenance. I thoroughly enjoy engaging the senses and sharing a glass of wine with someone as we take our time preparing a beautiful meal. Weekday meals are a drag because often I have to throw something together before one of the kids has a sports activity. There is little joy in that except ‘mission accomplished’ and even that is fleeting.