Dear New Shrink,

I have this issue with self-motivation. I am extremely busy with my work schedule, so when I have free time, I like to spend it with my friends, family, and my boyfriend since I am most often working. However, I constantly mope about wishing I took piano lessons, read more, took a photography class, etc. I also always say I wish I had time to work out, and even though I recognize it is not my first priority, I really don’t have time given my schedule during the week, and then it becomes an issue again on the weekend when I would rather be with people.

Does this mean I really don’t want these things and I just say I do, because I feel like really I do? How can I better manage my time, priorities? Thanks.

Signed,

Am I Kidding Myself

Dear Am I Kidding Myself,

This is an interesting question, actually it’s several questions in one.

Your idea that you are looking at this as “self” and motivation makes me wonder what motivates you. Is it truly your “self?” Or are you working so hard because you need the money or does someone else have this expectation of you?

If its financial, then that is really financial motivation and perhaps, basic need and survival. Many people find themselves struggling with this in today’s economy.

If you are working away in someone else’s image of you, I think you might want to step back and think this over. When people truly love us, they usually want what is best for us. It is often a loved one that sets expectations that we try to meet. However, sometimes we imagine that if we just do more and more, we will bring happiness to someone or that they will love us more. If this is the case, after you have really thought it through, had a conversation with yourself, you may also need to have a talk with that person you are trying to impress.

Life goes by pretty quickly and it is very important to think about what you want, who you really are and what is meaningful to you. Happiness does not come from forcing yourself to be something that doesn’t really work for you. It also doesn’t come from money or the acquisition of material things. This mistaken idea is and has been the illusion of many people. This is not to say that having money doesn’t make life easier and certainly you need enough to survive. But if you make it your God, you won’t be happy.

It also sounds like you might be a tad too hard on yourself. If you need to be working right now, then give yourself a break and take those classes later.

If you a workaholic then yes, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.

Also, being with the people we love and care about is very important. We need it for the social support it provides and research has repeatedly shown that it has health benefits as well.

I have the feeling from your question that you do want these other things and that you just need to decide your priorities and put some of these things aside for now. Photography, reading and piano lessons are not going anywhere and neither is work.

If you are someone who has problems with self-regulation, this may be something you need to work on or see a therapist for. Self-regulation has to do with managing our own behaviors and emotions. If you are truly out of balance, consider this as a serious question.

Some quick suggestions are 1) take some alone time to evaluate what you are doing and what you want as priorities and then 2) given what is possible, try to make some small changes toward that end. For example, maybe take one night a week, or a few hours on a weekend to be alone and do something you really want to do. Give yourself a little bit of time off. Being alone some of the time is actually good for your mental health.

Finally, if there is someone that you feel pressured by, either have a conversation with that person or learn to say “No!”

Good luck.

Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Please send your questions and responses to newshrink@gmail.com. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.