We all have tons to do, don’t we?
And most of the time, we’re up and going, alive, alert, awake, and enthusiastic. (Note: if you’re not most of the time, then now is when you sit down and reexamine your life. Because something is truly missing.)
But we all have those points, whether now and then or once a week, when we just don’t feel like doing whatever lies in front of us to do. Be it due to the blues or the blahs, lack of sleep, irritability, or well, we just don’t want to, for whatever reason, sometimes motivation seems scarce indeed.
For the self-employed among us, or those otherwise paid solely on production, this can be somewhat distressing. Because we just don’t have the luxury of succumbing to the ‘don’t wannas.’
So what’s a person to do? How does one get that mojo back (and quick!)?
Okay, as a lover of books and literature, it should come as no surprise that I find motivation in the wonderful words of others. And although I have to be somewhat careful here (as I can pick up a written piece, budget 10 minutes, and before I know it hours have passed . . .), perusing even a short passage of fabulous literature just jump starts me.
Leaves of Grass sits on my writing desk. I find it almost impossible to read Whitman without soaring. And quickly. Take just this one passage from “The Ship Starting”:
Lo, the unbounded sea, On its breast a ship starting, spreading all sails, carrying even her moonsails. The pennant is flying aloft as she speeds the speeds to stately—below emulous waves press forward, They surround the ship with shining curving motions and foam.
My own engines are revving!
We all know we feel happier when we laugh. And happier people are more motivated.
An article in Psychology Today says that an abundance of heartfelt laughter is the hallmark of effective brainstorming. Laughter makes it easier to think more broadly, and helps foster greater inspiration.
In other words, we’re more productive when we laugh. How motivating is that?
It should come as no surprise, again, that I laugh most at other people’s words. Especially Dave Barry’s. Often when writing a novel, I read a snippet of Barry in the mornings before I begin.
I mean, you know how this gets you going, right? But we even know the reasons for it.
Mark Fenske, co-author of The Winner's Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success, an associate professor in neuroscience at the University of Guelph, lists these points of music motivation:
Of course, we already knew all of that, but isn’t it cool when scientists prove it?
Okay, since I keep listing things that do it for me, and since I’m still on my Johnny Lancer kick (don’t judge me! Lol), this short Hero video gets my blood rushing and my mind and body ready to tackle any task. I mean, truly—if this one doesn’t get you going, you’re already dead!
Because as you know, that Nike commercial of Just Do It was so successful for a reason.
There really is a psychological giant slayer to procrastination, to lack of motivation, to the don’t wannas. And that is to just do one thing toward your task. One thing. Even if it’s writing out a to-do list about it.
Dr. David D. Burns, a clinical psychiatrist, explains why in his book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
“When you take action, you prime the pump for motivation. Motivation does not come first, action does! You have to prime the pump. Then you will begin to get motivated, and the fluids will flow spontaneously.”
So, watch the Johnny video and then go write something. Okay, so I think that one was directed to myself.
If you’re just flat tired, burned out, or any litany of negative emotions due to over-work, stress, etc., sometimes it’s really tough to put that foot in front of the other one.
And sometimes, that means you truly need a break.
So, what do you do if you can’t have one of those right now? Or even tomorrow?
And here’s the kicker: It doesn’t matter if that means an entire vacation, or a walk in the park. But plan a break, big or small. For some time soon.
Just the act of doing so stimulates those feel-good hormones. Because the brain can’t really differentiate between what is real, and what you think about. So visualizing that pause in your action, feeling the soft breeze on your face, even if it’s not physically going to happen til next week, reaps many of the same benefits as actually doing so.
And you come back to the task at hand rejuvenated.
You know—when you succeeded spectacularly, far exceeding your dreams. We all have those moments, when something just went fabulously well. Whether in the sporting arena, the job or career path, a relationship occurrence, whatever—remember that time when you just did something oh-so well.
A peak moment is when you were at the top of your game. When you stretched the farthest, when you were the most you—authentic, in the zone, when you truly did your best and it showed.
Once you recall one of these, use it to motivate you to succeed again.
There’s a reason why you’re doing what you’re doing, no? A reason why you started your insane path in the first place?
You wanted the dream, didn’t you? Don’t you still? Even if it’s hard to see right now.
But spend a bit of time remembering why you’re doing this in the first place.
Often, while buried under mounds of work, my 5-year plan only passing the 2-year mark, I can get a bit tired. Sometimes, spent. And now and then, motivation doesn’t leave in a huff, but rather, seeps out the corners of my life until I didn’t really notice it missing until it’s far, far away.
That’s when I take myself by those bootstraps, and dig back deep into the bones for the why I’m doing what I’m doing.
It’s what brings meaning to my life.
Oh, yeah, that.
And that kicks me in the butt more solidly than anything else.
I have a dream. And by god, I’m not about to give it up.
That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.
What about you? What’s your dream? What keeps you motivated during the hard times?
Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.