Are you doing it for the coffee?

Is your motivation internal or external?

Can you recall feeling like you couldn’t wait to jump out of bed? Was it yesterday, last month, several years ago? For me, it had been awhile. Most winter mornings I motivated myself with the thought of fresh coffee. Those days, I didn’t get up because I felt an internal desire to. Coffee was my extrinsic motivation. Something outside myself drove me to the behavior. I did it for that hot cuppa.

When we choose a behavior because it satisfies us, our motivation is intrinsic. It feels natural.

That’s the feeling I rediscovered when I joined a cycling challenge this Spring. There was no promise of prizes or applause. I wanted to ride for the freedom I feel moving through the world by the power of my own two legs. Although I continued drinking coffee, it wasn’t my reason for rising anymore. I could hardly wait to get on my bike. Feeling powerful and independent motivated me to go farther, crank harder. I wasn’t competing or training for an event. Riding for sheer joy was everything.

When I biked to work or social events I was in integrity with my values. Choosing sustainable transportation felt right. And then there was snow. In April. Did I mention this is Minnesota? On those frigid days I wanted to stay in bed. Coffee wasn’t enticing enough. The taste of those first fair weather Spring days was fresh in my mind. Biking through snow was not appealing. Thankfully, I found motivation in an unexpected place. Social media.

The 30 Days of Biking challenge began in Minneapolis and spread around the world. Through hashtags and online groups, I connected with dedicated cyclists sharing experiences. Some were getting back on bikes after recovering from accidents. Others never before believed they could ride everyday. One couple had been cycling for over a thousand consecutive days. Their stories inspired me and I was motivated by people who said they were inspired by me.The longer my consecutive days of cycling streak became, the stronger my internal desire to keep going grew. Through rain and snow, I rode because I wanted to.

The challenge ended, but I’m still riding. Letting the power of pedaling move me toward new people and experiences feels natural. It’s who I am, a cyclist. It’s okay, even necessary, to depend on extrinsic motivation sometimes. Working for a paycheck lets us pay our bills. Rewarding ourselves with dessert can motivate us temporarily.

Ultimately though, intrinsic motivation defines who we are, what drives us from within.

When our actions light a fire inside, the reward is the act itself. Coffee, money, and cake become perks. Are you teaching for a paycheck, or are you a teacher? Do you cook to pay the rent, or are you a chef? The lines get blurry. Even when we’re doing what we love, there will be days when we do it for the coffee, and eat the cake too.

Learning to wait in a world of instant gratification

We are living in a world of instant gratification, instant publication, instant notifications. Now, now, now… WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG?!

I’m practicing by watching coffee drip into my mug one drop at a time…

If you’re creating online content, you’ve probably been advised to share strategically, at a time when you’re most likely to get views. Scheduling posts to publish later on WordPress, Medium or Instagram to maximize audience exposure sounds like a good idea. Until I finally finish editing, adding photos and hashtags (and hashless tags) and realize I don’t want to wait. I want the satisfaction of pushing the button and seeing my story published now. I want the instant instagram experience. I want WordPress readers to start reading immediately. I want my YouTube video to go viral in the first thirty minutes. Even amazon two-day prime shipping isn’t enough. Hence, amazon now. Have you experienced this?

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As an educator and nanny I often notice children aren’t learning how to wait. Screen time addiction, various parenting styles, and a culture of nowness don’t model patience. Afterall, if adults can’t wait for gratification, how can children be expected to? Although I strongly believe in the importance of modeling patience for children, I also empathize with them. It is hard to wait regardless of age. The thing is, people often describe me as an exceptionally patient person. How can that be? When it comes to interpersonal situations, especially with children, I can model and even exude incredible amounts of patience. I know that about myself. I can wait all day long for a toddler to put on their own shoes or calm after a tantrum. I can offer my friends and family patience and compassion. Why is it so much harder to be patient with myself?

As a writer in days gone by I would have typed my story, maybe passed it by an editor, and waited to see it in print when the newspaper or magazine was published. On paper. While that still happens today, much of the writing we consume is now digital. We can instantly share our words with audiences around the world. I want to hit that publish button without delay. And it doesn’t end there. It’s hard to wait for the comments, likes, loves, claps and shares. It’s hard to wait for new fans to fall for me and hit that follow button. I want an authentic, organic following and I want it now. I want to go from two hundred to ten thousand followers now. And when I’m hungry I can not wait patiently. I go from zero to hangry in 5.2 minutes. You get the idea. I want it all and I want it NOW!

Taking time for self-care and learning to offer myself the compassion I so freely give others requires practice. As a passionate cyclist, I can’t resist the obvious cliche… Just like learning to ride a bike. Some days I move forward, some days I fall, and some days I don’t even have the energy to practice. In this culture of insta-this and insta-that, patience is rarely exemplified. It’s take practice, and I believe it’s a necessary practice, for ourselves and for the next generation.

Does anyone reading schedule posts rather than immediately publishing? Please share your experiences in the comments and inspire me to practice waiting. But do it NOW, because I’m still learning!