Ironwood Maine Web Update

Motivation is a class of tools crucial to success, yet tricky to utilize. The tools most indispensable to a person are those which originate and flux in the mind, as they cannot be snatched away like a material and derive mostly from one’s own cognition. They are perpetually within the scope of the thinker’s influence. Yet, being figments of the mind, they are easily manipulated. This makes healthy motivation so elusive and so deceiving that many people grapple for months, years, to find it in its optimal form.

I’ve observed this search for mental fortitude throughout the stages of Ironwood, both in my peers and in myself. When one arrives at Frye, a student must find two things first–direction and motivation. Simply enough, the direction is offered by nature of the program’s incremental structure, but kids often fumble when searching for motivation. Their external control systems–their pleasure, their environments, their objects of abusive manipulation–taken way, one finds themselves with no will for forward motion. There they stay, until finding this fuel. It is crucial here that family and staff guide the resident towards acceptance and self-realization. This often means pushing him/her to follow new standards and rewarding them for doing so. It might look like long, supportive talks in the snow; it might mean taking a step back and letting the process work itself out. Regardless of approach, this is a special moment in the program when the resident must find ourselves by our own power.

All people need this skill to thrive in the modern world. One must rely on their own motivations to overcome obstacles. This process of self-realization can only be properly put into place with practice and experience. I’ve noticed that the object of motivation is easy to misconstrue. It’s common, for example, that we residents spend months motivated by the desire to misbehave without reprehension. Ideally, the desire should be to improve oneself, to embody, eventually, the traits fostered by the vigors of Ironwood. But without accepting their placement in such a situation, as well as their need to change some part of their lifestyles, residents are consistently motivated, if at all, by something other than positive growth. (This is often referred to as “faking it”) One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard from a peer who struggled in this war is to “find your thing.” Many of us come here with little ambition, with nothing to make excelling worth the effort. To have something to aspire towards, a passionate hobby, a great school, gives us a reason to move forward. Right now, I think many of those struggling to find motivation would benefit from this. 

Forward motion can be so intensely hard to sustain during such a long, taxing experience that is the duration of the Ironwood program. But I’ve found that the right motivation is powerful enough to unveil my cloudhead and give me the muscle to climb upward. It’s development is a discipline necessary to master, a profound window into self-control, and I hope parents and residents alike can learn to embrace it.

*Today’s update comes to you without edit, from a level 4 resident who has recently returned from his home visit. He has plans to graduate soon from our Morrill campus, then moving on to our Lakehouse in South China, Maine.  His reference to motivation and struggle is something that he can relate to without question in his journey (so far).  His points relating the early months of struggle at Frye are also relevant in that this week was extraordinarily busy with newer residents “fumbling” to find motivation and healthy purpose in their lives. 

So, from a parenting and family perspective, please consider this young man’s thoughts, relating them to your own child and how you might influence their transition toward greater acceptance, motivation and mental fortitude (if relevant).  In the perspective of a lifetime, this Ironwood journey is a short period of time…let’s make the most of it, in partnership.

Have a nice weekend and we look forward to seeing many of you very soon!

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