Motivation is an inside job

Engagement, self care and a lot of gratitude will do

6 min read

Motivation is an inside job

I’ve been juggling a lot lately. Work stress, all types of chores and pending projects that need to get done, a lot of parenting and relationship tending. This is my life right now and I’m quite certain it reminds you of something. There are obviously variations but the struggle in this pandemic situation is pretty consistent among us.

It feels like a balancing act and I can imagine that even for the most privileged, it’s messy and annoying.

I know also that this 2nd round of lockdown is so much harder to endure. A year ago, when the first lockdown started in Berlin, I accepted stoically the so called new norm. The reality of having less time led to slowing down and stopping working so much. I kept telling myself that this is it right now, I can’t control the situation. Hey, I might as well make the best of it! And I guess I did for a while.

However what started as a genuinely stoic approach, accepting a situation I can’t control mindfully, evolved and led to laziness and passivity. I’d sit down to write my blog and I’d end up watching makeup tutorials on youtube or cats on kayaks on tik tok.

The truth is I wrote a couple of texts I wasn’t happy with and it felt like too much work, too much energy, to go back at it and try more. I kept repeating the same phrase, “I don’t feel like it”. With all this trauma, all this injustice going on, it only seemed fair to stop pushing myself and let go.

This internal voice, you know which one, the disempowering one, kept telling me that I deserve a break. With so much external pressure and all this collective sadness and grief going on, I should just chill and take it slow.

Luckily somewhere between Lisa Eldridge and suki cat I stumbled upon Seth Godin and his new book, The Practise. And this amazing guy said something that really resonated with me.

“Creativity in an action not a feeling. Your work is too important to be left to how you feel today.”

This was such a powerful reminder. It inspired me so much and helped me snap out of this situation and find the proper words to describe what’s been going on. I gave up and I thought I had a good reason for that. The pandemic is undoubtedly a rough, challenging situation. It’s all around us, I don’t even have to explain and highlight the details. This is why it worked so well for me. It’s a universally understood excuse.

Now don’t get me wrong. This time is weird. It is. It’s probably not what we’d choose if we actually had a choice. I’m not arguing that we should execute all our tasks full of energy and positivity. Also no one expects the perfect results from us. But instead of giving in to this negativity, I advocate for searching the power in ourselves to give something back. To contribute to the world using our resources and our talents.

And most importantly to stay true to our commitments, regardless of the current circumstances in our lives.

One of the biggest aha moments in my life was when I realized that clarity and self awareness create the path to a happy, meaningful life. Being clear and specific about what I want to achieve, where I want to be, with whom I want to be etc. helped me accomplish things that were totally out of touch at the time. Writing those aspirations down felt more than daydreaming and less like goal setting. Even so, small and big miracles happened in my life and it was a combination of my good luck and my strong commitment.

All these goals that emerged from this fascinating journey of self reflection, are my promises. My postcards from the future. My mission and my purpose.

I can’t give up on them because there’s stuff going on. Even if a pandemic madness shows up, I got to keep on moving.

And how do I move on?

Do the work

What I was also reminded of is the power of consistency. Showing up, doing the work, is not about creating small works of art on a daily basis. Consistency is about practising and getting better. It’s about walking that extra mile, writing that extra paragraph, giving it another try. Sometimes we’ll produce amazing work and other times mediocre work and this is ok. It’s still work! Let’s be gentle on ourselves. Let’s relax with the high expectations.

You know that there’s no one out there judging you harder than that critical inner voice that you always carry with you.

If you’re feeling discouraged about your work, because the results don’t measure up to your expectations, don’t give up. Focus on working and planning your next steps. Do the writing, designing, researching, networking, learning, whatever the task includes. Also think proactively about those expectations and how realistic they are. Instagram or whatever social media platform you’re on is full of images of successful people. But how much do you know about the time and the energy these people invested in their projects till they reach their goals?

Your work, your contribution can have a tangible impact to the world. The power you need to overcome any obstacles is within you. And to generate your own motivation and keep a strong dedication you need to stay engaged.

Take care of yourself

You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup, right? Being inspired and motivated sounds like a luxury when you already feel burned out and mentally exhausted. Start by giving yourself permission to practise self care.

Establish a routine around your well being and schedule some time for yourself. Whatever fills your heart with joy, or brings you serenity or refuels you in some way, plan it. Jot it down in your planner. 20 minutes, an hour, one afternoon, a day? A specific non negotiable time for whatever makes you feel rejuvenated and recharges your batteries.

Make it intentional

1. Recognize that you need some time only for yourself.

2. Find what serves you. What gives you joy! What do you need right now? It could well be doing nothing.

3. Plan it. Write it down in your planner, make the necessary arrangements with the people around you to make this happen.

4. There you go! Enjoy!

Say thank you

Gratitude is a great motivator. The Smart Plan includes a daily prompt to list three things you are thankful for and start your day with positive vibes. One good trick to make this practise even more powerful is to reflect on a specific event. You can shift this from being a simple mental exercise to a process that can fill you up emotionally, only by going into detail.

Here’s an example of how this tweak can make a difference:

“I’m grateful for my partner” 

“I loved it yesterday that my partner planned an excursion with our daughter, so that I can have the whole day for myself. I’m so grateful that he thought about this.”

Among other things this works because we learn to notice and appreciate the little things. A smile, a gesture, a sunny day, a nice cup of coffee and so on.

There are other ways to express gratitude, like the gratitude jar, keeping a gratitude journal etc. What helped me through these difficult times, and I can only recommend it, was saying thank you to someone each day.

This is so powerful, because you start your day with the feeling of connection and gratefulness!

So start your day with some appreciation! To your spouse or your neighbour, to your friend or your mom, to someone that needs to hear this, say thank you and mean it!

That said, dear reader, thank you for being here. I hope you manage to have the courage and the resilience to overcome these difficult times and to keep creating!