Lesson #8: Check yourself before you wreck yourself

In Thailand there are no consequences. As an American who is used to living under a long list of rules that I have to adhere to this is a pretty strange shift. As a foreign teacher I can literally get away with hardly ever teaching if I don’t want to, and to be honest there are plenty of days when that sounds like a great idea. At home the reality is if you don’t get out of bed and head to work you may loose your job, aka get your lazy bumm out of bed, slap on some mascara so it looks like you’re awake, and buy the largest coffee that the change in your pocket will afford you. In Thailand, however, hitting the snooze button for the twelfth time starts to seem like a pretty realistic option. So what’s a girl to do?

In order to be successful I have had to make a big switch. I have had to abandon my old tendencies to let external forces teach me right from wrong and instead rely on myself. I have had to create my own list of do’s and don’ts, and here’s the real kicker I have had to motivate myself to actually follow the guidelines that I have laid out. Easier said than done. It’s almost like strengthening a new muscle, doing things simply because I have decided that I need to and not because something will happen to me if I don’t.

It’s strange because at home I would have said that my ability to motivate myself was already quite strong. When I think about how often I did the “right” thing it is without a doubt the majority of the time. However, now I think the real question is not how often do you do the right thing, but how often do you do the right thing when nobody is looking? When nobody is telling you that you have to? When you are not afraid of the punishment or enticed by the reward? I think a lot of it is cultural and that as an American I have been taught to feel successful when I adequately cut corners, to take pride in manipulation, and to give myself a big old pat on the back when I am able to get away with something sneaky. Pretty petty things to be proud of when you stop and think about it.

Here I am realizing that external consequences may keep us in line but at the end of the day they should not be our sole motivation. Instead, we have to determine our own expectations for ourselves, follow them with fierce dedication, and rely on ourselves to monitor the process (not anyone else).