Wow, three whole blogs on my triumphant victory over some dirty dishes.
I’ve distinguished a number of factors that made washing the dishes and tidying up the kitchen before hitting the hay a regular habit in my life.
And I talked about ‘reframing’ the task. Nothing changed, but how I saw it shifted. Or rather, I shifted it. Before, I saw a pile of icky, gooey plates and gummy, greasy cutlery. When I say my view changed, I don’t mean I stood on the other side of the counter.
I simply framed it differently. My words create my world, and in my head, I found a way to shift the dishes from a ‘slightly repulsive chore’ to an ‘opportunity to please my wife.’
Who wants a chore? Not me.
Who wants an opportunity to please someone they are about to crawl into bed with? Me!
Rather than focus on the unpleasant part of doing the dishes, which is, well, doing the dishes, I focused on the best part. The reward. Or rewards. Pleasing Ava. Coming into the kitchen in the morning to clean counters, inviting tidiness and no odor from pizza scraps which are coalescing into a new species.
Instead I focused on how good I would feel by what I’d done. And what had I done? Before I would have said, “I’m washing the dishes.” Now I would say I’m, “Making the kitchen look perfect for the morning so that I start my day off in an inviting and impeccable space.”
This happened because a few weeks back my wife, Ava, did the dishes late one evening, and even though she was tired, and wanted to check online and see what everybody else had thought of that evening’s episode of Mad Men, because she felt it was nicer to make breakfast in a clean kitchen.
Which is true. It is. But I’d never thought about that. I’d only looked at that pile of dishes is a slimy chore I could put off. Something that was imposing itself on me. Not as something I could get rid of to create a more inviting space to walk into.
Since I’m almost always the first person in the kitchen, I deliberately chose to focus on how pleasing it would be to prepare breakfast for everyone in a clean kitchen. I deliberately and consciously focused on how great it would feel to start the day with a clean space.
Don’t skip over what I just wrote. It’s the key. It’s what I’d never done before. And I did it without beating myself up, making a grim commitment to self improvement, adding all kinds of ‘stakes’ and pumping myself up with the kind of motivation you find at ‘boot camp.’ “Do those dishes you maggot! Clean them up!! What kind of man are you?!!”
I simply shifted my focus, deliberately and consciously on the rewards.
The Key is DELIBERATELY. And CONSCIOUSLY.
I stood there for a moment, after I’d finished and enjoyed the view. That pile of plates was an obstacle, an ugly monstrosity, an insult, a personal affront to me and my morning. Now it was gone. The space was pristine. Inviting.
If this sounds melodramatic that’s okay. Motivating yourself is all about adding emotion. Hey, if grown-men can burst into tears over a Super Bowl trophy, I can get righteous about the dishes. Emotion can power you into motion. Reminding myself how yucky it is to make the first meal of the day amid the wreckage of the discarded leavings of yesterday. It’s almost a metaphor for life. A new day. A fresh start.
This ability to reframe unpleasant tasks is something I’ve done for a while, even before I had a name for it. But I did it sporadically. Now I’m drawing upon it more and more. Even on things I actually enjoy doing but delay starting. (Such as working with my psychologist partner on a course that deals with Procrastination.)
What I keep discovering is that while I don’t necessarily have a lot of power around how long I can focus, I can have control over what I focus on. And when I focus on what I want, rather than what’s ‘wrong’ or what ‘chores’, I’m motivated.
I get to choose. And when I did, the dirty dishes didn’t stand a chance.
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