Second-Guessing Ourselves: A Mother’s Day Reflection

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I always knew I wanted to have children, and I think at one point, I thought I’d have a lot of them.

That was until my daughter almost killed me during delivery, and as well as from the aftereffects of said delivery. Honestly, if she had been born before my son, I would only have one kid. What happened during that delivery scared the living daylights out of me. I knew I’d never have another child after that. (Which actually, was quite convenient, as my husband was content with two kids: a boy and a girl.)

And yet that incident left me second-guessing, which starts to become the mantra of a mother. You’ve heard your friends and family members tell a story about their child and then add on, “I should have done this….” It’s true. We do it.  It’s easy to continually second-guess yourself about how you’ve raised (and continue to raise) your kids. Did I do enough? Have I been supportive enough? Honest enough? Loving enough? Understanding enough? Tough enough?

You get it, right moms? The list goes on and on. The truth is, we’re not perfect. No one is.

We can second-guess ourselves until the cows come home. (And I’m told, eventually, the cows do come home, but it could take a while).

So my thought for this Mother’s Day is a simple one: we have to stop questioning ourselves.

Hear me clearly:

You have done enough. You are doing enough. You are enough. Your kids love you despite your mistakes, your occasional bad moods, your tendency to say “no” sometimes for their own good, your chaotic schedules and long work hours, your incapacity to ride the big rollercoaster at the theme park, and your ability to always rise above any nonsense and always be able to hug them and tell them that you love them.

When I read what my kids wrote in my card today for Mother’s Day, I realized a couple of things: (1) they say sweet things—and they mean them, and (2) no second-guessing is going to stop me from being the best damn mother I can be, even when it’s hard, even when I don’t always agree with them, even when I see things differently than they do, and even when they say they don’t need help with something, but they really do.

Being a mother means we have that “mom radar”—we know when guidance is needed, when a hug is needed, and when lending an ear and really listening can make all the difference.

I’m not a perfect mom, and I don’t pretend to be one. I’ve lost my cool. I’ve yelled (I’m Italian—what the hell do you expect?) I say stupid stuff sometimes when they want to hear something else.

Nevertheless, I am a mother, and I know I am learning right along with them as we all continue to grow together.

And second-guessing our past decisions, tactics, and methodologies won’t do anyone any good. We do the best we can. Each. And. Every. Day.

Trust me: the kids are alright.

Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

 

 

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Understanding Intrinsic Motivators in Business & Life

BalloonFor a few years now, I’ve become interested in creativity and leadership in today’s ever-changing business world. Last spring, I presented a paper on the topic at our university’s conference whereby I used Malcolm Knowles’s book on the topic and helped relay what makes successful creative leaders. Knowles’s findings and suggestions state that creative leaders inspire others in business. There are many ways you can get members or your organization or team to become more vested in their jobs, but one particular notion that is propelling companies to—as Steve Jobs suggested in his Apple ads, “think different,”—is to allow intrinsic motivators to set the stage for business today.

In 2010, Coon & Mitterer defined instrinsic motivation as “occurring when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.” Brown (2007) defined it as “the reason why we perform certain activities for inherent satisfaction or pleasure; you might say performing one of these activities is reinforcing in and of itself.” In both business and education, allowing folks to engage for their own sake helps them find ways to express their creativity and contribute to an organization. Sometimes students or employees will define work as interesting, engaging, enjoyable, and just plain fun; if they do this, they have found some sort of intrinsic reward. They are satisfied with the work.

There are five factors that can lead to intrinsic motivation, and they have the potential to make people feel good about the work they do. These five factors include (1) a challenge: people become more connected to things that boost self-esteem or provide satisfaction when reaching a goal; (2) curiosity: if people are interested in things, they tend to become more stimulated by them; (3) control: people want control over their own lives and choices; they don’t want to be told what to do and how to do it all the time; (4) cooperation and competition: cooperating with others to solve problems and create things builds camaraderie. Likewise, a little healthy competition can push us to work better to complete certain tasks; and finally, (5) recognition: few people turn down a compliment, accolade, or general praise.text2mindmap

To better understand intrinsic motivation, look at each of the five categories and ask yourself what motivates you to do certain things. What motivates you at work, and do you find job satisfaction because of any of the intrinsic factors? What motivates you to pursue outside activities, such as a craft, a hobby, sports, etc? Why do you continue to participate in these activities?

When we are not forced to do things, but rather feel that we have some control over our own satisfaction, we typically become more vested in the tasks at hand. Look at creative companies such as Apple, Zappos, Google, Amazon and Starbucks. These companies did not get where they are today because they didn’t value their employees’ creativity; they got where they are because innovation and a willingness to allow time for creativity was important.

Whether you work independently or in a larger group, you still need to understand your own intrinsic motivators. What motivates me as an educator? I can answer that: seeing students secure internships; watching them present their ad pitches well at the end of the semester; seeing students grow into confident writers. As well, personally, I am motivated by time spent writing and researching to fulfill that side of my personality and professional goal. Now, as an independent author, different things motivate me than perhaps would do so as a professor. Being a writer is an autonomous job, but at the end of the day, a reward I get is satisfaction, especially if someone reads one of my books and enjoys it. I also enjoy the challenge. I like the control I have over my own project (which is why I enjoy being an independent author so much).

If you don’t already know what motivates you, make a list. I had my students in internship preparation class today make a list of what will motivate them one day when they get a full time job. For some, it was money; others said flexibility; others said working in teams with others and enjoying a team spirit. These are all good motivators, and for each of us they are different.

You just need to learn which ones speak to you.

Random Thoughts on a Gloomy Day

When I put a call for help out there last night—WHAT SHOULD I BLOG ABOUT?—I got an answer from a friend of mine. She suggested that I write down random thoughts over the course of 24 hours. That’s a big challenge and a lot of hours, but I came away with these random thoughts and thought I’d share them with you on this very gloomy April day.

My thoughts are below, but I also created a mind map–creativity and thoughts in action–and included it here.

Steph's Mind Map

Golfer Ben Crenshaw’s wife looks amazing…Jordan Spieth’s poise and command was incredible to watch at this year’s Masters…I’m proud of my son for making the tennis team and he’s still working hard on his golf game…I love that I have a bike with a basket…As long as Kelly Clarkson and Pink and normal folk are comfortable in their own skin, that’s what matters…I’m happy that April showers bring May flowers, but winters in Maryland seem to go on and on, and we are incredibly thankful when we have a burst of warmth and sun like we did yesterday when it hit 80 degrees…I’m not at all ready for bathing suit weather…My students did a great job on writing their memoirs; I’m very proud of them…Opening Day was great, but I look forward to going to a game and sitting in seats when it’s sunny…I wonder if Sara Gruen’s new book will be as good as Water for Elephants…Will I ever write and publish another novel?…The Girl on the Train was very good, even though I’m typically not a thriller reader…Four weeks of school left until summer break…Can’t wait…Went to the doctor and got some medicine for my sinus infection, a bad one this time, and she gave me a steroid, too. Maybe I’ll be able to hit a home run or two after I finish this round…I miss traveling and being carefree like I was in my twenties…Dealing with a pre-teen girl is not always easy, is it?…Can’t wait to see how this textbook on event planning that I’m writing with colleagues turns out; I’ve never tackled anything like this before…When I read old poetry that I’ve written I can get very melancholy, but I think that’s the point of poetry to begin with—to get our inner-most feelings out…Why is it so difficult to market your own, independent novel?…My friend Jenny got a puppy and I can’t wait to meet her. My daughter will be thrilled, too!…Why don’t my clothes fit like they used to?…Why does gravity seem to work double-time as you get older?…Why do people rely on text messages so much?…Why can women be unkind to other women?…How does an act of forgiveness free you?…Who is the most important person in your life? Who has done the most for you? Who loves you unconditionally?…What am I going to make for dinner?

It’s All About Love

BBGirlAd
Yet another marketing piece I’ve created: an ad to help promote Baseball Girl.

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One of the things I’ve had to come to grips with lately is that if you have created something that is independently yours, whether it’s in the role of author of a book, director of an indie film, or maker of lovely art, you will always be working, always promoting. Additionally, you have to believe that you are your own brand and must act as the innovator, marketer, branding expert, and salesperson of the work you have created.

That’s a lot of responsibility to put on one mere person who probably can’t afford to do this craft without another full-time job or source of other income.

So those of us in this arena must learn to be our own best marketers and promoters, similar to P.T. Barnum, that harmless deceiver of the circus all those many years ago. “Without promotion, something terrible happens—nothing!” he mused.

P.T. Barnum, the harmless deceiver
P.T. Barnum, the harmless deceiver

He also said, “Whatever you do, do it with all your might. Work at it, early and late, in season and out of season, not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring a single hour that which can be done just as well now.”

The truth of the matter is, once you’ve created something that took you years to finish, you actually do want someone to enjoy it, read it, watch it, love it. The problem arises with promotion—how do we get someone to read our work, see our film, admire our art? And furthermore, how do we hope those people will spread the news?

When I launched Beneath the Mimosa Tree three years ago, I found myself rather on the ball. I wrote press releases, sent the book out to local media, made phone calls, donated complimentary copies, and promoted the hell out of it on  Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and this lovely blog. Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly busier, both at work (and writing a textbook) and with my family, especially my children who are involved in many sports and activities. There are only so many hours in the day. There is only so much time I can devote to spreading the word about Baseball Girl.

You probably feel the same way if you are similarly an independent artist. It’s exhausting. I sometimes scratch my head and ask myself why I do this? Why this hobby of mine so important? Why I want people to read my work and like my stories?

P.T. Barnum was also known to have said, “Literature is one of the most interesting and significant expressions of humanity.”

I think he may be right.

I can’t explain my need to do what I do and exhaust myself in the process except to say that both my novels were my expressions and they were made with love.

So in the end, I suppose it is all about love.