Subtitled: Why it took me 25 years to quit biting my nails.

As I started looking back on the last year I was amazed at what I was able to accomplish. Losing weight, planning a wedding and honeymoon, moving to a new part of town, starting a blog, and many other accomplishments great and small all got done completely and in the time I had allotted for each of them.

I have always been a major procrastinator. For most of my life I have just whined and sighed and wondered why everything was always so hard for me and why I never got the things in life that I wanted. I really thought that I was working hard enough and that somehow the whole world was just always fighting against me.

I know now, that I was just being lazy. But the truth is, even if I had realized then that I wasn’t doing enough to get the things I wanted in life, I probably still wouldn’t have done any better for myself. I would never motivate myself to make the changes because back then I had no idea what would motivate me, and then I would just feel bad all the time that I wasn’t doing what I should be doing.

Last February, I figured it all out. Believe it or not, the thing that taught me how to motivate myself wasn’t learning how to read, write and speak a new language or even learning how to exercise for basically the first time in my life. It was teaching myself how to quit biting my nails that illuminated to me exactly what my motivators are and just how to apply those same motivators to even bigger problems to get the same results.

I have been trying to quit biting my nails for my entire life. I could never go more than about 2 weeks before I would suddenly realize, too late, that I had just chewed off every nail on my hand all the way down to the painful quick. My cuticles were dry, thick, and ragged-looking. I was embarrassed to get fake nails put on for special occasions because the nail techs always made fun of me and scolded me. I did not have pretty hands, and I was always self-conscious of them, but I just couldn’t stop biting.

I wish I could tell you that I discovered some secret quirky little technique I employed to psych myself out of biting my nails for good. The fact is though that I really didn’t do anything special, I just decided to stop and I never started again. I found the transition completely effortless this time, unlike the hundreds of times before where all I could think about was biting. So what made this try different? Why was I able to do it so easily when I never could before?

The answer is that I was being motivated to succeed by my two biggest motivators at once: swiftly approaching deadlines and shame, specifically shame from people I care about.

I had very little time before my wedding to get my hands looking nice before immortalizing them in pictures and before they became the focus of attention as Jeff slipped the ring on my finger during the ceremony. So there it was, I had an exact deadline to accomplish something by and I had the shame of sporting trashy ragged hands on my wedding day in front of my family. Bingo, recipe for motivation.

Before then, I had never had a greater reason to stop biting my nails than just because I wanted to have prettier hands. That wasn’t good enough, there was no sense of urgency in that, and so I never succeeded. This time, with the correct motivators in place, I was able to do something I never thought I could and I’m still going strong. I no longer desire to bite my nails because I stopped doing it long enough to shake the habit.

Many of the other things I had to accomplish last year were affected by the same motivators, and so they got done with the same ease and efficiency without having to think too much about them. But towards the end of the year, those motivators disappeared. I no longer had deadlines to make and no one was holding me accountable, it was up to me to figure out what would make me push myself.

Now that I know what motivates me though, I can apply it anywhere. When I really need to get something done I either give myself a deadline, ask Jeff to hold me accountable, or both! It has really helped me to push myself to do things I don’t really want to do.

I think it’s great that I can take something negative, like feelings of shame or guilt, and use them to make positive changes in my life. I feel really guilty when I disappoint people, even people I don’t know. I used to not like that I put so much pressure on myself to perform well, and of course those are feelings I need to keep under control, but now they have also become a constructive force for change in my life.

So what motivates you? Do you put forth your best efforts when you get a reward, when you get lots of praise or affection, or when you have someone holding you accountable? Do you accomplish things better as an individual or as a team? You have to be really honest with yourself, it may be embarrassing to realize that you do your best when you know you’re getting a present, but if you’re accomplishing your goals then maybe you deserve one. For me, figuring out my ideal conditions for completing work has been a life-saver, so I’m no longer embarrassed by my true motivators.

I think……I may get my first manicure ever this year. I deserve it!

What is it that inspires you get up and get things done?