I spend a lot of time thinking about motivation. At the restaurant, I’m constantly pondering what makes people stay, work hard, leave, work less than optimally, choose to complain, choose not to complain, and generally be part of two categories: people I remember after they’re gone and people who drift off (or, occasionally, go up in dramatic flames) that I forget about completely. A recent read, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, has challenged me to stop confining meaningful employee communication to the bi-annual formal evaluation, but to begin asking staff thoughtful questions as I interact with them on a daily basis. If you’re responsible for people within your organization, I recommend this book, and not just because it has pages with giant font that almost count as pictures: “Raw, real human conversation can be the most direct path to greater awareness and stronger relationships, even when it’s unrehearsed and clumsy – perhaps especially when it’s unrehearsed and clumsy!”
At home we’re just starting to develop willpower, and I say that for my husband and I as well as the 16 month old Bean. The Bean is realizing that if he arches his back just so, or goes completely limp right as you try to stuff him in the stroller, or flings certain food items in the air at certain times, he can perform acts of non-violent protest when he doesn’t want to comply. I rue the day that he realizes he can just as easily perform acts of actually violent protest; it won’t be long now.
The Hubs, on the other hand, has recently turned over a new leaf of productivity. The man has become a monster, and it’s all thanks to an app called Habitica. Habitica gamifies all the things you don’t want to do in your life. It is vaguely based on the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons (D&D, for the uninitiated, like me) and my understanding of D&D consists of the following: there are cards, there are really big lumpy die that you roll, and there is probably a renaissance faire or sword replica purchase in your future. In Habitica, you enter into your profile all the actions you don’t want to do every day but must – flossing, taking out the garbage, washing dishes, going to bed on time – and when you accomplish each of these things, you win a Bag of Gold. With the Bags of Gold that pile up, you can purchase things like Cotton Candy Blue Lions as pets; Yellow Sweaters and Horned Viking Hats for your character to wear; Super Sneakers and Delicious Honey Snacks for your Baby Pink Tiger pet to wear; and much much more. I may have mangled some of the details, but I swear those are pretty accurate. As you advance through The Course (aka daily life) you can band together with other friends on a Habitica team to fight bigger and bigger bosses – VERY bad guys, worse even than a tired wife who had a rough day at the restaurant, accidentally sampled too many cocktails for the new bar menu, and is now mad at you for not helping prep dinner – gaining more Bags of Gold and higher status in the Habitica realm. BUT if you forget to do any of your daily tasks, your slovenliness will damage the team’s health and all your friends will be mad at you. I’m not sure if your Baby Pink Tiger gets taken away, but you probably lose a sword or something equally drastic. If your friends are really mad, they might even text message you in the real world to tell you to get in there and brush those teeth!
I should not make light of Habitica. “This app”, I was quoted as saying one week in, “has revolutionized our marriage. You write and tell the programmers I said so!” Habitica has transformed my husband’s attitude about household chores, motivating him to perform tasks that used to require my strained and angsty reminding. Motivation by pixellation, I am now calling it. By sharing the load of household chores, we’ve both found more time to do the things that we like: songwriting, sleeping, reading all 601 pages of Steinbeck’s East of Eden in a week – if The Hubs has his gaming addiction, I have my own in heavy beautiful books that make me feel a requisite degree of sadness, contemplate my own mortality, and wrestle with the glory and meaninglessness of life.
“What does it say about me” I said to my husband last week “that the Steinbeck character I find most fascinating is a sociopath who spends 9 months murdering her fawning adopted mother with one drop of poison a day?”
Hubs: “I JUST GOT A GOLD SHIELD!”
Me: “Do you ever wonder why we are placed on this earth to love those who can most easily break our hearts?”
Hubs: “My Baby Panda now matches my Super Sweater!!”
Bean: “Ma ma ma MA MA MA MA!!” [flips bowl of soup upside down and splashes gleefully in the puddle]
And so it goes, one foot in front of the other. We make messes, we clean up messes, we love each other, and we try to overcome our attraction to doing nothing because it feels good in the moment. The writers of Help Them Grow… seem to understand this plodding toward mindfulness: “Your employees’ ability to take satisfying and productive steps toward career goals is directly proportionate to their self-awareness.” At home and at work, hindsight and foresight, those lynch pins of self-awareness, remind me where I’ve been and where I want to go. And as I ponder the various personalities in my life, and each of their inspiring fights to make their lives meaningful and true, I’ve found myself wondering whether I too should mount a Purple Pet Dragon to get there.
Quotes from Help Them Grow or Watch Them Goby Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni
Megan Lindsey is an owner and founder of Franktuary restaurants in Pittsburgh, PA, a new mother, and, whenever possible, a writer, homemaker, and musician. Follow her adventures as #RestaurantMom at franktuary.com/blog.
See what you missed:
Restaurant Mom 6: Home Purchase Is Not An Emergency
Restaurant Mom 5: To Save The Earth
Restaurant Mom 4: Let’s Do Laundry
Restaurant Mom 3: Trucks and All Ten Fingers
Restaurant Mom 2: New Parent Brain
Restaurant Mom 1: Beginnings