I vividly remember instances of being very timid and apprehensive as a young child. There were times I would hide behind my mom when strangers were around barely making eye contact. I remember my dad bringing home this old go-cart that he had to add wooden blocks to the pedals for us to reach them. I only took a few (very slow) laps around the yard. My brother and sister loved racing around on it, but it scared me. That same feeling stayed with me even as I got older with four-wheelers and wave runners. To this day, the joke is that “Janelle is just along for the ride.” I love being a passenger, I just don’t want to operate the machine. Well, going way back, there is a similar instance when I was learning to ride a bike. I loved my training wheels. Yes, I wanted to ride a bike like my big sister, but I didn’t want to give up the security of those training wheels. It didn’t matter how my family encouraged me, I was perfectly happy having those babies on my bike. Finally, my parents did what all good parents do…they bribed me. I remember my mom taking me to the grocery store and letting me pick out whatever kind of candy bar I wanted. I got a Baby Ruth (isn’t it funny how we remember those details?). But I didn’t get to eat it. It went home and into the refrigerator for me to look at longingly. It was my motivation for finally getting rid of the training wheels. The funny part is that I don’t remember the actual moment of riding my bike without them for the first time. I just remember the feelings leading up to it, and the necessity of an extrinsic motivation for me to take the leap.
In general, I’m not like this at all in life now (outside of four-wheelers and waverunners). I’m excited by new challenges and probably say “yes” to new things a little too frequently. That motivation is intrinsic, and comes from a desire for continuous growth. How will I learn something new if I don’t commit? This is what feeds my fire. Meeting new people, pushing myself professionally, taking risks…those are the drivers behind my personal growth.
Let’s be real, though, there are definitely days when I’d rather curl up in a chair and read a good novel instead of picking up that professional book I’ve been working through. It’s easy to put off writing to another day. There are times that even my extroverted-self needs to be alone to regroup. Those times are okay, as long as they don’t become the norm. I need the other experiences to continue to fuel my fire and fan my passion for life.
I’m reading a post by my friend, Kristen Nan, right now. She is a fabulous third-grade teacher in Pennsylvania. You know what I have found over my many years in education? Most of what we teach children, we need to employ more regularly as adults. In Kristen’s article, she shares that she passed out sticky notes to her students and told them, “Today we are going to take time to give ourselves credit for all of the things we must hold ourselves accountable for to be empowered and productive learners.” Wow. Do we, as leaders, hold ourselves accountable for being empowered and productive learners? Driving my own growth is vital to me. How important is it to you? It’s okay to find your motivation in both extrinsic and intrinsic places. The point is to do it. Take that leap and be bold. How do you keep your fire lit?