We work for praise, and dawdle once we have it. – Mignon McLaughlin
What does that mean?
While this is a bit of witticism from a book, it still is far more true than we might want to admit. Whether it’s an approving parent when we take our first steps or a boss telling us what a good job we did, we tend to work for that bit of praise.
But then what? The praise comes, then the praise fades into the past. What happened to our motivation? The faint echos of praise long gone don’t provide a whole lot of motivation, does it? And that’s when the second half of the quote manifests itself.
We dawdle. We operate at a much lower intensity or drive for a while. At least until we find the next bit of praise for which we decide to strive. And then, once again, it’s on! That sounds a bit uneven, doesn’t it? Yet that is how so many people operate in so many aspects of their lives.
Why is evenness important?
In this case, the word evenness means an even level of effort and result. The opposite is what is described in the quote and the first section. Surge and then fall back. Exert and then coast. Triumph and then sit on your laurels. While life is full of cycles, I try not to make it worse, do you?
While it is inevitable that motivation will ebb and flow, that things will look good one day and noticeably less so the next, we can do things to help even out our lives. For me, it starts with attitude, and one form that it comes in is as self-praise.
Not necessarily as affirmations, although I know people who have had great results from them, but from setting goals each day, and praising yourself for achieving them. Even something as simple as remembering to get everything done, getting to bed on time, or getting up on time can be praiseworthy, right?
Do something each day for a week, and you can really feel good about giving yourself some praise. If you can do it every day for a month or two, it is likely a new habit, and almost automatic, right? That takes most of the dawdle out of it, doesn’t it?
Where can I apply this in my life?
I imagine one could apply this quote to at least some part of our lives on almost any day of the week. Think of all the things you did with great enthusiasm, and then you stalled. The energy, the spark, the magic, it was gone. Sometimes it’s because you got to the end, and it wasn’t what you’d expected.
But other times, you got the praise, you got the prize, you got what you wanted, and then the motivation disappeared. How well is that going to work in a relationship? Whether it’s a business partnership or a personal friend (or someone more intimate), how will that play?
If you put great effort into wooing them, into getting the praise, the ‘yes’, the commitment, and then walk away in indifference, that’s not going to work out well, will it? Yet that’s the way some people seem to operate through large portions of their lives. Perhaps you’ve met one, or been wooed by one.
So, what next, what do you do once you’ve managed to win the praise which motivated you in the first place? Or is that the source of the problem? What should motivate you? Is the praise of others a worthy motivation, or is it by definition fickle and capricious?
If you find yourself chasing the praise of others, I would question if you have an esteem issue. Do you value yourself, or do you require others to give you value? While a little praise now and then is nice, it is my opinion that it should be the icing on the cake, not a meal.
Like a bowl of frosting, praise from others tastes sweet, but it is gone just as quickly, and it often leaves a stomach ache or a bad taste in the mouth afterwards. Looking outside of yourself for happiness, for value, or for esteem isn’t going to work out well, is it?
So, to me, it is more important to work for ourselves, and to develop our own sense of value. Yes, the praise of others is a nice thing. However, I wouldn’t make it my primary motivation for doing something. In my mind it should be something extra for a task you already planned to accomplish.
For those things you may already have started, or recently abandoned due to lack of interest, are there other reasons to do this thing? Are there any reasons to continue to do, or even improve on, them? Going back to relationships, I imagine you can come up with a few, right?
I believe it’s all in how you look at it. Are you in it for the quick hit of sugar, or are you in it for the long haul? Your attitude will help set your direction, both short term, and long term. It won’t eliminate cycles, but it can help smooth them out a little.
What is your next step? Is there something you want to re-think in your life? Don’t dawdle, get busy now!