There is an NBA player, who I believe is on the spectrum. For people who are not knowledgeable with spectrum related issues, this guy may appear to be an all or nothing kind of player. One minute he is making and following through with picture perfect plays, the next minute he has unintentionally made himself the butt of a meme joke. I can tell that he is on the spectrum, because he works hard to hide his social oddities during interviews. A skill he will most likely perfect as time goes on. This is common among people on the spectrum, due to a marked difficulty in a being able to read and interpret nonverbal cues. “It’s hard for you to mimic something you don’t notice.”
One common issue people with Asperger or ASD diagnosis struggle with is perfectionism. This becomes an issue because of years of experience in trying to learn set of rules to compensate for the lack of intuitive rapport neurotypical people have in reading nonverbal cues. An unintended consequence of this is developing a subconscious tendency to be perfect. This is because the person on the spectrum has become accustomed and resistant towards critical feedback from others regarding how he isn’t doing most things to standard. So, to prevent any more critical feedback, the person takes an all or nothing approach to life. They are either doing it to perfection or not at all.
As you can imagine, perfectionism kills motivation, as the perfectionist becomes easily overwhelmed by the nuts and bolts of the intended activity he is required or desires to perform. So, in the absence of clarity, nothing gets done.
Overcoming perfectionism, is a process of coming to peace with rejection, real or perceived. Specifically, it is about coming to peace with rejection from yourself. You see, rejection from others is an illusion, as we are often not privy to the intents fueling the actions or words of others. So, if someone rejects you, you really don’t know why, unless that person is tells you and you believe them. It boils down to if you are at peace with the rejection in of itself. Being at peace with rejection, means that you often regard yourself unconditionally in a positive light. So, if the rejection is real and warranted, you don’t come to see yourself as a bad person but instead you see the situation as a learning experience.
Developing this mindset, requires a lot of effort and practice, but will help you move past the stuck mindset perfectionism creates in people. For clients I have worked with, who have made steady progress in overcoming their issues with perfectionism, they find themselves more motivated to get things done, and they find themselves doing things more quickly. It is not to suggest that minimum standards for activities be ignored, but is more to highlight the joy of liberation people experience when they allow others to be themselves towards them.
What motivates you? Have you ever experienced a sense of determination to get something accomplished? You knew what you were going to accomplish, also you knew how you would benefit from your accomplished work or project.
It could be something as easy as cleaning a room in your home, performing a repair on something that you use, or creating something entirely new. Recently, my seven and four year olds made thirteen dollars a piece from selling lemonade and brownies at the park with their mother. They had both approached us about their desire to bake the brownies, make the lemonade and sell for some profit. My wife obliged them, and it was a success.
While the idea for the sale was borrowed from one of their teachers, what I found amazing is the drive they each had for the sale. They were both extremely motivated to accomplish this sale, and were also very confident that they would make sales and be rewarded for their hard work. All things considered their lemonade and brownie sale was a success. So if two children can find the motivation to follow through on an idea, what happens to us as adults when we experience routine bouts of poor motivation and in extreme cases, lethargy? Especially when we know we have the competency to follow through on the idea?
The answer lies in the narratives we have come to believe in ourselves.
“Though the brain is enclosed in a single skull, it is actually made of two separate lumps…which are designed to disagree with each other.” —Jonah Lehrer
In the field of neuroscience it is generally accepted that the left hemisphere is responsible for constructing positive narratives of our existence, while the right hemisphere is responsible for bringing the more pessimistic aspects of our lives into perspective. I would argue that a healthy mind is where the negative traits of a person can be taken at face value, with the addition of a positive narrative that does not corrupt the integrity of the negative narrative, so long as the negative narrative is accurate.
In other words, even if I find my feelings hurt by the number “2”, I will always agree with myself that “1 + 1 = 2, and not 3”. Therefore as I go about constructing a positive narrative, rather than ignoring or negativing the number “2”, I will bring myself to accepting “2” for the number it is.
When working with clients on increasing their experiences with motivation, the most common issue they experience are their feelings of hurt towards the scarification of their personal time towards achieving their desired goals. A common reason for this is that over the years they have come to believe in a narrative that negates the investment of their personal time towards achieving their goals. This is a very subconscious but powerful narrative, and always take precedence over the conscious narrative for achieving their desired goals.
So in other words, a common reason that adults struggle with poor motivation, is a conflict of narratives. This is due to the development and implementation of a previous narrative designed to cope with an acknowledged negative, which now interferes with the implementation and follow through of a new idea. Old narratives can be especially difficult to change, especially if they were originally put into place to cope with difficult negative narratives. Such as narratives for coping with rejection from society in various facets of our lives.
You can learn to tell yourself, believable and reality based narratives that will truly inspire you towards bringing your ideas to fruition, with an experienced therapist.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and Life Coach