Overcoming “Motivation Malaise”
“The call to simplicity and freedom is a reminder that our worth comes not from the amount of our involvements, achievements, or possessions, but from the depth and care which we bring to each moment, place and person in our lives.” – Richard A. Bower
Winter is a challenging time for maintaining motivation in the northern hemisphere. Living in Canada generally means very cold weather, icy sidewalks and roads; drab landscapes with browns and dirty whites…unless there is new snow and a clear blue sky. It makes us feel like hunkering down and hibernating like so many astute animals do. COVID19 has heightened our lack of drive with long periods of confinement, an absence of in-person visits with family and friends, and a lack of interesting things to see and do outside our homes. No surprise then that motivation issues are very widespread in the population right now.
In pondering my own drawn-out motivation malaise, I reflected on what I could do to improve my state of mind. I decided to start by making a list of things that I love or bring me joy, e.g., talking with loved ones and friends, helping or inspiring others, creating art, reading, walking, volunteering, new experiences, observing nature and taking photos. I decided to start writing down a few things that I am thankful for each day. This has really helped me in the past and makes me realize that it’s the little things that create the colourful threads of a meaningful life tapestry. On challenging days, one can look back at previous entries and remind ourselves about what really matters. So I bought an attractive 2021 agenda (half price because I waited until mid January!). It had space to write something daily. I keep it close by so that I remember to record my feelings of gratitude regularly.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle
I have found that sticking to a routine helps so that when a lack of motivation hits, one can just “do” some tasks without thinking. Our biological needs drive a lot of our activities and our days are largely managed around what we need to do to survive (eating and sleeping rate high with me!). How we carry out the “must dos” and what we spend any free time doing is what adds richness to our lives. Most of us have a busy lifestyle and don’t have much extra time to devote to thinking about this. I have always had “to do” lists, both at work and at home. Some people like to have these on their phone these days, but I still like written lists that I look at on a daily basis. These lists have changed according to my needs at different times. Currently I keep “to do” lists for personal and business purposes. I try to make communication with my loved ones and friends a top priority. On motivation deprived days, it can feel very productive to check off even one low priority item!
“Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” – “Up” the Movie
There are things that we all have to do to keep our lives in some semblance of order: laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc. Doing these tasks usually takes little thought and can give one a sense of control that may be lacking in other areas of life. Spicing these tasks up with music or listening to podcasts can make these necessary chores more tolerable. Bigger tasks can be really daunting, and unpleasant if approached with the wrong attitude. My mother would occasionally become upset with the mess of toys in our basement and we would be sent down to clean up and organize “our junk”. I resented the job and her lack of participation. One of the problems was a lack of proper storage. Ever since, I have been a big proponent of smaller labelled boxes and bins, preferably transparent enough to see the contents. It is much less daunting to go through things…one small box at a time!
“…do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest thing in life.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Mental and physical self-care is really important at any time, but especially during challenging times like this. I have always found exercise helpful to meet both needs. A bad mood or sadness can often be lifted by a walk, yoga practice or an online class. My local walks often lead to creativity because I just love taking photos. It also makes me notice unique or interesting scenes or perspectives, which I love to share with others. I feel very connected to nature; for me, this is a form of spirituality.
“To live spiritually means to be on the look-out for things our spirits desires. Things like serenity or peace, love, truth, harmony, and reverence for life.” – Richard Wagamese
During a difficult winter years ago, I spent time in an indoor garden in Edmonton, Canada. The Mutant Conservatory has several glass pyramids, each with a different theme. I would often spend precious lunch hours sitting alone in the restful temperate pyramid, breathing in the scents and listening to the cheeping of little birds wandering through the vegetation. It was a wonderful escape for my tired psyche and I drank in the tranquility thirstily. Finding places where we can find some peace is very soothing.
“A day out-of-doors, someone I love to talk with, a good book and some simple food and music-that would be rest.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
Small acts of self-care can also make a significant difference. I thank my mother for making napping an acceptable pastime. She napped regularly on a Sunday afternoon and we children knew to keep quiet. As a result, I have never suffered from guilt if I need to lie down to catch up on sleep or to just refresh my outlook. A warm bath is another wonderful way to unwind and release stress. Adding a good book, music or candles to the mix can provide an escape to another place. Thinking of creative non-routine things to do can also spice up life. Extra effort made to cook special meals or bake treats; finding any excuse to dance (alone or with a partner); watching comedy shows…are just a few examples of things that can perk up a dull day.
“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” Winnie the Pooh
Other people’s learning can help us to make sense of our own experiences, or at least realize that our circumstances are not unique. It can also provide ideas for handling difficult times. It is important to reach out for help when you need it. Pride has sometimes got in my way and I missed out on receiving the comfort that I needed from willing supporters. Everyone has different needs and it’s important to take time to reflect and understand what works for us. It’s also important to give oneself the permission to do what we need to, to stay healthy and be present for our loved ones.
The freedom to be creative in our work and in our personal lives is an incredible opportunity and blessing. Many do not have that luxury and toil to sustain themselves and their families, often with gruelling ill-paid work. They do this in the hope that their children will have opportunities that they never did. Those of us who are able need to reach out to support the disadvantaged, both physically and emotionally. Helpful actions provide motivation and value to the giver as well as to the recipients.
People find creative ways to help each other, sustaining each other through these times. In Canada we are fortunate to have the means to communicate electronically with loved ones and friends at a distance…and actually see their beloved faces if we choose to. Regular calls add structure to our lives and are a welcome delight for those who participate. During COVID, I have reconnected with people that I haven’t seen in years and have found a way to volunteer online. It has been very rewarding.
“True happiness is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” – Helen Keller
I am so thankful that I have the means and energy to write down my thoughts. It has reminded me of things that I could do to address my own “motivation malaise”. I hope that you will share your thoughts and ideas about what has helped you too. Stay safe and be kind to all.
“Sharing our love and our gifts; With any who join us on our roam; Enlightenment comes to let us know; We are just walking each other home.” -Trina Graves