Grappling with my motivation

If I was asked to describe myself, one of the carefully selected words I’d offer up is motivated. I’m naturally very motivated, it’s as though it’s in my blood. I was once asked in a job interview how I motivate myself, and I had a absolutely no clue how to answer that, because I’ve never had to try. “How do I motivate myself?” I asked. “Well, I wake up in the morning, and that’s it. I’m motivated.”

That’s just how I am.

Quite often on a Saturday if Luke and I are at home for the weekend, I’ll get up, unload the dishwasher, clean the kitchen counters so they smell good enough to eat, exercise, shower, throw on a load of laundry, do some writing, and run some errands in town, all before Luke’s opened his eyes.

I just get up, and I go.

And I’m the same at work. I love nothing more than getting my teeth into a project, setting myself some goals, and ticking them off one by one.

Until recently, that is. Recently, I had a bit of tussle with my usually-reliable friend, motivation. The friend I could always count on. Because when Coronavirus made its grand entrance into our lives like the giant wrecking ball it is, my motivation went, well, kind of flaky. It had turned into that friend who always cancels at the last minute. The one that rarely texts back. The one you tell to bring dip to the party, but who arrives with three bottles of prosecco. Which is all well and good, but you can’t dip Doritos in prosecco, can you?

To summarise, it’s no longer shatterproof. Some days, rather than waking up and jumping to it as though I’ve been attached to an intravenous soy flat white all night, I’m required to give myself a pep walk. Something to fire me up a little and get me excited for the day ahead.

Once I’ve successfully navigated getting out of bed and I’ve fed the two demanding (but very cute) cats we share a house with, I give myself yet another pep talk. I’m like one of those jewellery boxes that you have to wind up before it plays a tune. Suddenly, exercising, writing, getting things ticked off the list, they’re no longer appealing.

And it’s not that I’m sad, or feeling down, necessarily, I just don’t feel like I want to do anything.

It’s taken some time for me to wrap my head around it. At first, I was panicked by the fact that my get up and go and got up and gone. It’s such a big part of who am I, and without it, I don’t really feel like me. Plus, I still wanted to feel strong and healthy, still wanted to eat nourishing food, still wanted to write… I just couldn’t face doing the exercising, chopping the veggies or thinking about plot lines and character development.

I beat myself up over it for a while, but then, over time, I made my peace with it. What we’re going through right now is something we haven’t experienced before. There’s no “right” way to handle the psychological impacts of it, you’ve just got to do what you feel like and wait it out (whilst adhering to the guidelines, obviously. I’m pretty sure having a holiday on the agenda would see the instant return of my motivation as I sought to find flights, accommodation, hiking routes, quiet beaches and vegan restaurants in our chosen destination, but that’s not an option right now).

When my Dad passed away almost three years ago, I felt hopelessly lost. And I gave myself permission to do whatever I needed to do to get through each day. If it was ordering takeaway and watching Gilmore Girls, so be it. And that’s pretty much what I’ve decided to do now, too.

Some days are better than others, of course. And sometimes I’ll have a really motivated morning, and then a really unmotivated afternoon. I’ve learnt to accept it. To take the rough with the smooth. To make plans when I’m feeling motivated, but know that I need to adapt and be flexible if all I want to do is go for a nap or sit on the sofa and read my book.

Since I’ve accepted my fluctuating motivation levels, I’ve felt less stressed, less frustrated, and less annoyed at myself. So it seems that’s the way forward for me for now. And I’m quite positive, that once we’re looking back on this strange and scary time, my motivation will be back to full force. But if it’s not, I’m okay with that too.

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