Push and pull

This post owes its existence to the super-smart Jen Hoffman from Inspired Home Office, who asked on Twitter about negative self-talk and alternative ways to inspire action, which got me thinking. Thanks, Jen!

One of the things my middle school history class studied was immigration. And pretty much the only thing from that class that stuck with me was the idea that there are two kinds of things that encourage people to immigrate: push factors and pull factors.

Immigration — moving from the country where you were born, maybe where you grew up, fell in love, have a family — is a change that’s almost unimaginably big to me. But if these things can motivate a woman to up and move across an ocean, it makes sense to think that they might also motivate us to make smaller changes.

Push factors are the things that push you away from the status quo. Maybe there aren’t enough jobs or food in the country you’re moving from. Maybe you’re afraid or in pain or fed up. These are the motivations we are most used to, but they put us in the unenviable position of depending on our pain or anger to fuel change, even change that we hope will make us happier!

Pull factors are the things that we move towards. They’re what’s in play when we move because we’ve found our dream home, rather than because the ceiling in the last place is falling in, or when we reach out to make a connection with someone because they are so very smart and interesting.

You’re getting the idea, right? Fear and pain are push factors; joy and affection for ourselves are pull factors. And I bet you already know which of them sounds better to you!

The challenge of changing to move towards something is inertia. We are willing to be nibbled to death by ducks because no single duck-nibble hurts that much, and we’re used to thinking of the world as a place of scarcity, where stepping away from those pesky ducks would take energy we’re not convinced we have to spare and probably don’t really need to use anyway….right?

Moving towards the things that pull us also takes energy, but it takes the kind of energy that comes from abundance, from patience and compassion and treating ourselves the way our best friends or imaginary perfect lovers would treat us. We can devote our resources to moving towards the good things when we feel safe.

There is so much more to say about this — and especially about how we get to feel safe — that I’m not going to try to cram it all into this one post. It is coming, I promise! In the meantime, tell me about how or whether you see this working in your life.

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