Been thinking a lot about goals and motivational structures recently and I am not quite there when I express my thoughts. This is probably down to the nebulous way in which my brain works, there are not really superhighways of communication more a wool jungle that’s infested with kittens. But the area itself is a little flimsy.
Mostly, probably because of the yearly Nanowrimo competition, I have been thinking about how people face down a challenge or a goal that is an externally originated condition.
There are many people who crave structure, and even some who prefer an imposed structure no matter how abstract or arbitrary as it focuses them on a task. I look at this and think that they are using this to supplement, or maybe supplant, a different desire. It isn’t really a goal that this gives them as they themselves have constructed a different goal, that of completing a challenge. So it is an external challenge that forces them to perform. It always makes me think that this is more to do with an internal desire to combat an expectation.
This expectation might be a self imposed world view that they are unable to perform from some devaluation of themselves, or a perceived devaluation in the society they operate within. It is a combative approach to a challenge, it is about overcoming.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What are goals for if they are not for forcing us to achieve. Whether that is a placebo for the addressing of some other inner narrative or need is probably irrelevant.
Of course there are some darker emotional waters here. There are people who need to address a challenge not to satisfy internal structures of accomplishment but to rail against some perceived injustice or appraisal.
I see people who use a global competitive challenge, that is based in personal achievement, as a method by which to control others. I also see them manipulate people into seeing the goal not just as an achievement but as a challenge for proving their worth.
So they use an arbitrary goal of numbers as a method of distinction not by personal achievement but by the reduction of others. It is even veiled as friendly challenge. There is a certain value in being mildly competitive, there is value in supporting others and spurring them on. But for some people their cheerleading of others, whether conscious or unconscious, is actually being used to highlight their own achievement.
‘Don’t worry that you only managed two thousand words, there are still two weeks to go. I found the first five thousand words super hard and have struggled to get to thirty thousand so I know how you feel. You can do it. I think I will fail every year but somehow I manage it. So if I can do it you can.’
The above sentence is a commonplace style of this mentality. It looks supportive, but read deeper and what is actually being said is that they have turned their attention to how hard things are for them, how much they have achieved, how difficult it is for them each time, but yet they still succeed. It is a me-me focus statement.
The last sentence, which is more commonplace than you think is the painful twist of a knife. Put simply it tells the poor sod who is far behind in the challenge that you are going to complete, which means you have to now, if you don’t then you are not as good as me and I struggle every year.
Of course not everyone who enjoys sharing their numbers has this in mind. There is a certain buzz you get if you have achieved a good push with writing. I know lots of people who are just being friendly and sharing their hard work. That’s actually positive and I love seeing how surprised and happy they are. There are even those who are juggling multiple challenges and supporting others And many who are genuinely happy to hear what your word count is and to indulge in a friendly word sprint (word war).
Don’t confuse that with the harsh focus of the word-self who uses every opportunity to make the focus them. Also don’t assume they even know that they are doing it, it could be for deeply sad reasons. Maybe what we should feel is pity instead of anger at their desire to turn it all into their story.
Their goal, therefore, is perhaps to be recognised, maybe to be admired, maybe loved or respected. Or maybe they don’t care about other people as they see themselves as the principal reason that existence spirals around. The only shame is that this can be a drag on emotional equilibrium to those inside their social group.
So their goal is actually to give themselves attention. Again know what your goals are and how they fit with others. It isn’t wrong t want attention, respect or adulation, we all have an ego, it is just bad to achieve that at the expense of others.