We’ve seen earlier in this series that motivation lasts maybe 2 or 3 days, that we have to stay motivated to be motivated, and that the way we usually practice motivation is to trigger the fight or flight wiring in our brains, which keeps the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol flowing. We can get short term results that way, but in the long run chronic stress hurts: eventually we exhaust ourselves trying to stay pumped up, lose effectiveness, deplete reserves, and impair our long-term health.
In other words, motivation practiced that way is like a well we have to keep filling in order to order to get any water out.
Hmmm… that’s not much of a well.
There is a better way. We can tap a spring instead, where the water comes up from way down deep, pure and refreshing. Do that, and we don’t need motivation anymore. Let’s go looking for that spring. Here’s our first stop:
Norman Doidge, M.D. introduces John Pepper this way, in his book The Brain’s Way of Healing:
“My walking companion, John Pepper, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder, over two decades ago. He first started getting symptoms nearly fifty years ago. But unless you are a perceptive and well-trained observer, you would never know it. Pepper moves too quickly for a Parkinson’s patient. He doesn’t appear to have the classic symptoms: no shuffling gait, no visible tremor when he pauses or when he moves; he does not appear especially rigid, and seems able to initiate new movements fairly quickly; he has a good sense of balance. He even swings his arms when he walks. He shows none of the slowed movements that are the hallmark of Parkinson’s. He hasn’t been on anti-Parkinson’s medication for nine years, since he was sixty-eight years old, yet appears to walk perfectly normally.
“In fact, when he gets going at his normal speed, I can’t keep up with him. He’s now going on seventy-seven and has had this illness, which is defined as an incurable, chronic, progressive neurodegenerative disorder, since his thirties. But instead of degenerating, John Pepper has been able to reverse the major symptoms, the ones that Parkinson’s patients dread most, those that lead to immobility. He’s done so with an exercise program he devised and with a special kind of concentration.”
Most people’s walking movements are unconscious. That’s why you can talk on your cell phone and walk the dog at the same time. For all his years of practice, John Pepper hasn’t gotten to that level. Instead, he walks and controls his tremors consciously. His mind has to stay on the job; if he gets distracted or takes a day or even a moment off, his Parkinson’s symptoms come back.
He must be a really motivated guy!
No he’s not. In fact, if John Pepper had to rely on motivation, he wouldn’t be walking at all. Motivation won’t help John Pepper, because it’s just not there. Parkinson’s Disease has taken it away.
Then how does he do it?
We’ll find out next time.