I hate cleaning the bathroom. I like to clean the kitchen so I have a clean space to make delicious food. I like to put away the clutter in the living room so that my mind feels serene as I look around. But I seriously.don’t.like.to.clean.the.bathroom. 

I cleaned the bathroom today. As I was cleaning, I asked myself, “What made you clean it today?” Sometimes I clean it because we have company coming over – my parents, my sister-in-law, our recently married friends joining us to celebrate the last day of their honeymoon. That really motivates me! But motivation driven by others is temporary and vanishes the next weekend when I know it’s time to clean it again. When there’s no external motivation, it tends to be pushed to the back burner. I’d rather see friends or take a long walk with my husband or enjoy relaxing with a great movie or book. “Isn’t that what the weekend is for?” I ask myself as I pretend not to notice the toothpaste in the sink or the dust on the baseboards. So what finally motivated me to do it? Was it because of my husband? No, he could live with an, ahem, ickier bachelor pad-esque bathroom than I could deal with. No one else was due to visit. Nobody would see the ick.

I did it for me. I cleaned because I wanted to walk into our bathroom and have it feel like a welcoming place to get ready in the morning and a calming place to wind down as I brushed my teeth before bed. I cleaned it because I was tired of feeling like something was getting left on the back burner. I finally felt, well, motivated. I was tired of putting it off and I didn’t want to have to do it during the week. I cleaned for the sense of accomplishment that something so minor can give. It was just, well, the right time.

Many times we a have laundry list of reasons to change a behavior – a loved one wants us to, it’s the “healthy” or “right” thing to do, it will make us feel better or live longer. The possibilities are endless. But at the end of the day, it has to come from us, from what we want and from why we want it. Why was I even contemplating cleaning the bathroom? Why didn't I adopt my husband’s oblivious bachelor pad mentality and just ignore it? What little bit of motivation was lying in wait until I could find it and bring it to life? Once you find that little ember of motivation, it’s time to flame it. Imagine that you’ve already done what it is that you want to do – how does that feel? What does that look like? And how does that connect to what you value and how you see yourself? What might come next for what you’re interested in changing?

I didn’t go through all of those steps with myself, but I did try to figure out my underlying motivation for cleaning the bathroom in hopes that next time it’s ready to be cleaned, that I can reach for that ember and flame it just a little more, so that instead of putting it off, I will dive in and scrub away.

(Thanks to Michael Pantalon’s book, Instant Influence, for the inspiration!)

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