Understanding Clients and Their Motivation

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NAPO 2013 Annual Conference & Organizing Expo

I don’t know about you, but I’m really enjoying reading about the NAPO Conference highlights. It’s almost as good as being there – minus the networking and the food – okay, maybe it’s not quite as good. Today we hear from Nancy Borg, with her take-aways from Dr. Ari Tuckman’s presentation.


After recently returning from the NAPO 2013 Conference in New Orleans, I’ve had many opportunities to share my valuable take-aways.  But now, weeks later, I’ve actually been able to apply the wisdom to my client’s struggles and can really appreciate the riches that I’ve received.

Dr. Ari Tuckman, psychologist and conference speaker, presented “Motivation to Climb Mountains,” my favorite session of all. He spoke brilliantly and with engaging humor, impressing us with his key principles and strategies to help our clients  overcome their struggles.

I was particularly intrigued with understanding the complex mindset of our clients and how their thinking not only impacts their longstanding disorganization, but their motivation.  During Tuckman’s presentation, my thoughts wandered to one particular client, and I couldn’t wait to get home and see if these epiphanies would transfer to her.

Meet Lucy. She has ADHD, although she has not really acknowledged that she indeed has a different brain, nor has she been willing to share this information with others.  Dr. Tuckman inferred that “Diagnosis is a game changer and offers new explanations for one’s struggles.”  Moreover, it could lead to “less unproductive guilt and shame.” This busy mom is super intelligent, and volunteers for every committee imaginable for fear of disappointing her peers. She has difficulty with saying ”no.” As a result, she struggles to keep up with her chaotic schedule, frequently misses deadlines, appointments, and is overwhelmed and distracted most of the time.  The projects we start never get completed because she gets attracted to a new commitment and loses focus with all else. She blames herself for her failures.

Tuckman profoundly joked, “ As Organizers, we are not therapists, unless we are the only ones in the room.”  Couldn’t be truer. As a psychology major, I recognized the avoidance and procrastination, and was determined to address the anxiety management.  First, we needed to work on her active “acceptance” and then I could implement new strategies.  The challenge was that each time I worked with her, she was preoccupied with yet another event she was spearheading, She was wearing this kind of “busy” as a medal of honor, rather than to see it as over-committing and self-sabotage.

So now comes the masterful take-away. Tuckman advises, “Perfection is nice, but not necessary.  Sometimes even partial progress creates a significant improvement.” Lucy and I talked about accepting her ADHD and together, we would “work around” her struggles and noticeably increase her successes.  One major change was to decrease her endeavors, and set limits on her commitments.  No doubt she had the abilities, but the demands were consequential to her life balance.   I urged Lucy to commit to less and do more.  Learn to say “no.” It’s far better to decline early than feel the disappointment later. Together, we reached what Tuckman calls the “Magic Threshold,” where motivation increased and success is now more achievable.

FYI, to date, Lucy has just been sworn into a senior executive board position for her school district, and has resigned from all other present obligations. Now we can begin to organize her home office for this very prestigious new position.  Lucy is committed to moving forward with a new resolute.

Tuckman says, “Sometimes quitting is smartest.  To consciously choose to quit is a sign of wisdom and strength.  Give yourself credit for being smart enough to see it and brave enough to do it.”  Powerful stuff.

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Nancy Borg

Nancy Borg

Nancy Borg is a Professional Organizer, and owner of Move the Mess. She specializes in Residential and Home Office Organization. She is a proud member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) as well as a member of a local neighborhood group; Professional Organizers of Long Island (POLI). She has integrated her Psychology background with her acute organizational skills, and provides the essential tools for her clients to improve the quality of their lives.

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