January 16, 2012

Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

For the past few months my posts have been a bit skimpy. That's because I have a lot on my mind that has been quite private. Yes, there is a private side of Amy. I've been thinking a lot about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, something my students and I discussed at the end of last quarter in Executive Leadership. We had a good conversation about what exactly this means - I equated it with extroversion-extrinsic and introversion-intrinsic being personal touch points. The exploration encouraged me to again ground myself in the Year of Being Present.

What I am recognizing is that extrinsic motivation keeps me from being present. It is that desire for recognition which often leads to my fantasizing about past scenarios that did or did not "go my way". Of course this is primarily love, near-love, imagined-love, and lost-love. I noticed that I have a physical "tell" when I am in this lala love zone - my eyes tighten, my brow furrows, and if pursued long enough, I get a headache and heartache.

A new technique I am using to pull back to the present is to relax the inner corner of my eyes and my inner ears. Two yoga instructors inspired these exercises - Gay White and Vickie Russell Bell. I equate them with Neuro-Linguistic Programming - and they work instantly to pull me into the here-and-now.

Intrinsic motivation is highly abstract for me. What I've discovered is that focus on my breath keeps me in the present. Yes, fantasies sneak in and pull me outward but then I realize that my head and my heart are all wrapped up in an emotional soap opera far from the current reality. It is like searching for little points of pain that I can massage for meanings that were previously unclear. But wait, that's not living in the present. I release my eyes and ears, notice my breath and then I am back to the present moment.

Grounding in the present is new for me. I suppose that being a pisces somewhat explains my fluidity. Focusing on anchoring my breath in its full pathway, through the diaphragm, is helping me have internal touch points. Also, recognizing that this is a process of new-learning is helpful in giving myself permission to be present without judging. I am also taking the time to make deeper contact with people by really looking them in the eyes, listening with focused ears, pausing to give them space to talk and for me to listen, and feeling their touch.

On Saturday I had two interactions with Michaels who gave me opportunity for grounding. One is a Michael from yoga. He and I have been in yoga classes together for years. At our regular Saturday morning class we assisted each other in preparing for bridge pose. As he put his hands on my triceps and helped me stretch, and vice versa, I closed my eyes and noticed the touch instead of worrying about being touched. I felt the release of muscles, the fluttering of fingers and the intention of being supportive.

Later that evening I was at a play in San Francisco and ran into another Michael who has been part of my arts management life for years. We do not see each other very often and when we do I instantly feel his calm and warm presence. He is solid, grounded, joyful, smiling, and supportive - by being present and in-the-moment. In the few minutes that we talked he recalled exactly the last time we had seen each other six months earlier - me in a red convertible riding through the Mission yelling and waving "Michael!" He told me on Saturday, "I got the point". That made me laugh. What was the point?