Apr 23, 201307:39 AMAfter Hours
with Jody Glynn Patrick
Why do we do what we do?
(page 1 of 2)
Most of us have wondered, at one time or another, why we do what we do. What is our “underlying motive” to eat when full, spend when broke, date a jerk or airhead, or stay in a job we’d trade in a heartbeat for a chance to appear on The Voice? And why do we continue doing those things, knowing the probable outcome of the extra dessert or of dating a misogynist?
The grace that aging offers is experience and the big-picture maturity it takes to discover and unravel our own triggers and responses. We can design the time left to us, rather than resign all future happiness to happenstance. That is the quest that like-aged friends and I are undertaking – to avoid repeating the mistakes that brought us so much misery in the past, and so move purposefully toward the positive acts that deposit us “in the zone” – or, in boomer vernacular, toward a groovy result.
Introspection isn’t rocket science. I started with a short list of my best and worst feelings and then linked those words to the most obvious prompts. My goal is to pull more of the good triggers this year and to install mental safety latches on those others.
Here’s what I’ve discovered so far: I am most inspired when involved in creative endeavors – writing, photography, fabric arts, poetry, and music. I feel the most nurtured when my husband and I escape from the rest of the world with only our dogs for company. And I feel the most revered when visiting with my now-adult children (finally!). Likewise, I feel most appreciated when mentoring young professionals or when engaged in nonprofit servant leadership.
I am perhaps the most delighted when breaking bread with friends, to hear stories of their interesting lives and to discuss current events with intelligent, open-minded people. I am moved spiritually and in balance when immersed in nature, reading, prayer, or working on our family genealogy. And I am utterly and completely fulfilled when spending time with any or all of our four precious grandchildren.
The choice of keywords is telling. I didn’t choose “successful” because feeling these other feelings is my definition of success. I won’t pretend not to appreciate money and professional awards, but the loss of either pales in comparison to sacrificing family time or losing meaningful work, worship, and play opportunities.
As for my negative words … the feelings I will most actively try to avoid this year are grief and sorrow, both tied to loss. I obviously can’t control loss, but I can mediate lost opportunities and so will not chose frivolous obligations or pastimes over family time. Anger is linked to being disrespected. I’m happy to follow or lead, as each situation merits, or to partner or collaborate, but I don’t appreciate a “boss” or a self-appointed “devil’s advocate” in the workplace, on a committee, at a volunteer function, inside a friendship, or at home. I am the only boss of me.
Frustration: If lost, and we strongly disagree on directions, I blame myself if I follow you around the wrong bend – it’s shortsighted to be too polite to follow my own counsel or instincts. I also get frustrated when I do something twice, expecting a different outcome the second time. Pain is linked to head-in-the-sand thinking, not being proactive enough about my health or a relationship blip. Fear is directly related to loss of control, and I don’t really fear much in life except things I can’t control, like my health or yours. I honestly experience the most anxiety on behalf of those I love, like my police officer daughter. The more often I can prevent lost opportunities, and stay strong as the appointed boss of me, the lower my own exposure is to personal fearful thoughts. (Continued)