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Are you a mom struggling to find motivation to do all the tasks you need to do? Read on for tips on how to use intrinsic motivation to improve your life.
Remember Groundhog Day–that movie from the 80s where Bill Murray wakes up at 6:00 over and over to the sound of Sonny and Cher singing “I Got You, Babe”?
Motherhood can often feel kinda like that. Except the day usually starts lots earlier than 6:00. And it begins with the sound of kiddos crying instead of Sonny and Cher.
- We sweep the floor and find new crumbs there five minutes later.
- We make dinners that nobody eats.
- We do a giant load of laundry and find that somehow, the kids still don’t have any matching socks.
I don’t know about you, but the lack of appreciation (or even acknowledgment) for my hard work really bugged me for a while. Then I made a major shift in my way of thinking.
I shifted my motivation from extrinsic to intrinsic.
What the heck is intrinsic motivation?Intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from inside us. It’s that intangible feeling of joy, satisfaction, or pride we feel when we know we’re doing a great job or helping someone else. Using intrinsic motivation means striving to treat doing a task as its own reward rather than relying on family, friends, or society in general to recognize what you do.
Extrinsic rewards, on the other hand, are all those accolades many of us have sought our whole lives, such as trophies, high grades, and monetary bonuses. They are the literal and figurative pats on the back from other people that we get for doing good work.Unfortunately, they don’t give out many of those for momming.
This is why learning to be intrinsically motivated is so essential for moms. It takes us out of the reward-seeking rat-race. We no longer rely on anyone else’s opinion or approval to feel good about our lives. The best part? We can use intrinsic motivation any time to make all those crappy mom tasks more pleasurable.
So how do we use intrinsic motivation to make mom life better?
How, specifically, can we use intrinsic motivation to make mom life better? Well, I typically try to focus on one of three intrinsic motivation tactics for making any unpleasant task seem more enjoyable.
When I’m faced with something I don’t want to do (which, honestly, can happen several times a day) I try to:
- Find pleasure in the task itself
- Find satisfaction in the result of doing the task
- Find joy and gratitude in my reason for doing the task.
Find motivation by making the task itself pleasurable
Sure, some of the jobs that often fall under ‘mom’s work’ like cleaning toilets, picking up toys, and wiping butts aren’t the most fun things in the world, but there are several ways to make tasks like these a bit more pleasurable.
Use Great Tools
Moms often spend a lot of time on physical tasks such as scrubbing, wiping, and tidying. Why not try to actually enjoy the process, particularly with the things you do all the time?
Invest in tools that are a pleasure to use to make this work more enjoyable. I love the scent of lavender, for instance, so many of my cleaning products are lavender scented.
You might also try to practice mindfulness while doing a task. The next time you’re washing dishes, really pay attention to the feeling of the warm water in the dishpan. If you’re reaching up to dust a high shelf, savor the stretch that your body makes.
Try focusing on pleasant physical sensations like these and see if it doesn’t make you feel calmer and more cheerful. For me, it makes ‘drudge work’ feel much more bearable.
Use the task as a mental escape
You might also find pleasure in a task by doing exactly the opposite of being mindful. Try using the time as a mental escape, bundling the task along with special treats that you only give yourself when doing that specific thing.
When I used to breast feed, for instance, I made that the only time I could play mindless games on my phone. When I fold laundry, I listen to podcasts. I’ve even got a special Spotify playlist of some of my favorite songs that I only play when cleaning the house.
Find motivation by concentrating on the end result of doing the task
On some days and for some tasks, all the lavender soap, mindfulness, and Pixies songs in the world couldn’t make a task enjoyable. On these days, I remind myself that I might hate the process, but I like the result.
For example, I live in a house with two little boys who manage to get pee all over the bathroom. Cleaning up that pee is a daily, dreaded task.
I love the way the bathroom looks and smells when it’s clean, though. I’m relieved when a guest asks to use the bathroom and I’m not not worried about sneaky pee dribbles. Concentrating on the fact that the bathroom will be sparkling clean when I’m done makes the process of cleaning it a little easier.
Find motivation by concentrating on the reason for doing the task
It sounds a little hokey, but sometimes, when I’m feeling extra un-motivated to do a job, it helps me to reframe my complaint about a dreaded chore as a statement of gratitude.
- “I have to go to the grocery store,” becomes “I’m grateful we’re able to buy healthy food.”
- “I hate vacuuming these ☠@✴#ing stairs,” becomes “I’m grateful we live in such a large, comfy home.”
- “If I have to pick up these Legos one more time I can’t be responsible for my actions,” becomes “I’m so grateful that I have vibrant, healthy children that are home with me all day.”
Just a small shift of perspective reminds me that even if I hate the process of doing the job and can’t get totally jazzed by the result of doing the job in that moment, I’m grateful for all the reasons that my life can be so delightfully messy, busy, and complicated.
Start Using Intrinsic Motivation Today
- How can you make the process of doing your chores more enjoyable? Do you need to download some new podcasts to listen to while you work? Slow down and be more mindful? Grab some new equipment?
- Think of a job you hate to do. Now think of at least three reasons why having it done makes you happier. (If you can’t think of any reasons why you’re glad you do it, consider whether or not you should actually be doing it at all.)
- Consider another job you hate to do. Try reframing this pain in the ass as something for which you’re grateful.
Alright Mama–hope these tips for exercising your intrinsic motivation muscle help make your mom chores (or anything else you really don’t feel like doing) a little bit more bearable. Because, if every day is gonna feel like Groundhog Day, at least you should enjoy it, right?You got this, babe.
Looking to clean up your space? I’ve got loads of practical and fun resources in my Mama’s Lounge, including a Daily/Weekly/Monthly Cleaning Checklist, a list of chores kids can do organized by age, and a list of 150 Things You Can Get Rid of Today. Click here to gain access. You’ll also be subscribed to email updates from Mama Goes Beyond.