I know, I know, it's the start of a new year and we're all supposed to be really hyped up and excited about it. What about when you're not, though? What about when you have all these goals and things you want to achieve but your inspiration and motivation well is looking pretty dry?
When I was younger, I used to think the whole New Year's resolution thing was daft because if you want to make a change, you should make it whenever. I still think that's true to an extent but the fact that a lot of people get a few solid days off over Christmas and New Year means they head into the new year rested and ready to tackle a new challenge. And for some people, the feel of a clean slate inspires them and gives them an extra boost.
Part of the reason I'm motivationally flagging is because I was working all over Christmas and New Year (January is our kind of holiday because no one wants to go out or spend money, yes!). I had Boxing Day off (we were shut anyway) and the 27th, and then I got battered by the flu for over a week, so there was no chance to rest.
If you're nodding along and wondering where your motivation went, this one is for you.
I think it's easy to feel like we're not trying hard enough when we lose our motivation or inspiration, and more often than not I'll bet that we're actually trying too hard.
You're too busy, you're too caught up in everything, you're convinced you can't possibly stop because you'll only make more work for yourself but what you need more than anything is look after yourself.
There's this bizarre and toxic perception that self-care is selfish. It couldn't be further from the truth, though. If we're not looking after ourselves, how can we ever expect to show up and give anything our best shot?
Set aside some time each day or week (depending on your schedule) to rest and do what you need to do to recharge.
When we're busy, self-care is usually the first thing that suffers, so make looking after yourself a priority. If your job is causing you problems, please speak to your manager and/or start looking for another job because no job is worth your health or happiness.
And please, if you ever say "that's just how it is in this industry", stop yourself right there. I'm sorry that's the way it is (and I know some industries have awful 'standards' that employees are just supposed to accept as part of that trade) but it sure as hell doesn't mean you have to put up with it. We're not here to be worked into unhappiness while others profit from it.
2. Identify when you're being lazy / procrastinating
I'm not going to lie to you, I can be pretty lazy. Do you want to know what I did today? Ok. It's 18:00 now as I'm writing this and I woke up about 09:00. I got up, did some washing up, tidied the kitchen, bunged some washing in, ate breakfast, and then played on The Sims until about 17:00. Then I started watching YouTube videos instead of doing yoga, which I keep telling myself I need to get back into. I decided that if I wasn't going to do yoga, I had to get off YouTube and do something productive, so now I'm writing this blog post.
There is a difference between being tired and worn down, and being lazy. I am pretty well rested, my cold is almost gone, I'm just being a lazy barstool right now/have a Sims addiction problem.
Learn to recognise when you're being lazy, the kind of things you do when you're being lazy, how you procrastinate, and then kick your ass hard!
3. Plan the steps you need to take
If you're a planner or researcher, like me, this can often get the inspiration and excitement flowing again.
Write down your goals and then begin looking into what you need to do to achieve them. From there, you'll probably find something that gets you feeling fired up again.
- If your goal is to exercise more than maybe researching new classes you could go to, or workout gear will get you excited
- If you want to save up to travel, looking at destinations or starting to plan your trip might get you giddy and swearing off unnecessary purchases.
- Maybe you want to go back to university or take night classes, so looking at courses or places you could study will get you hyped up.
Whatever your goal is, there will be something that ignites a fire under your ass and helps you start moving in the right direction.
4. Accept the possibility of failure
This is probably the hardest thing for most of us when it comes to trying to reach our goals. The fear of failure can be so paralysing that we don't even try, or give it our all if we do. We have all heard the phrase "you miss 100% of the shots you never take," and we like to remind ourselves of it occasionally, but actually meaning it can be hard.
One of the best things we can do is accept that we might fail. Failing doesn't necessarily mean it's the end of the road; it means there's another route we have to take. As someone who loves planning, I like to research the other options so I don't feel the fear so much because I know there are other routes.
Talking about it seems to help me as well. Sometimes saying it out loud (to yourself or another person) or writing it down can help unpack it and make it feel a little less overwhelming.
This year I want to apply for a PhD. And me being me, I have a specific university and department in mind and I am terrified that I might not get in because I WANT that university and that department. The acceptance rate is about a third, I believe, so I have to do every damn thing I can and I think that understanding that I might fail is driving me, too.
5. Find someone to keep you in check; your 'accountability partner'
I first heard about accountability partners on the Earth To Us podcast (all of their episodes are well worth a listen). The idea is you find someone who you know will be honest with you and will keep checking in on you and your goals, help you out, and motivate you.
The episode is well worth a listen because Hannah and Evan talk about why they picked the people they did and why they didn't pick certain members of their family. One of them said they wouldn't pick their Mum because they know they'd get their back up and instantly get defensive, so you do need to be smart about it. Just listen to the episode, it explains everything.
Find someone who's happy to keep checking in with you about your goals and keep you on track.
For me, Daz is a fantastic accountability partner because he knows when I'm being lazy and can guide me back on track. He's also just as curious as me so he keeps asking questions (so I can't really lie to him, and I'd only forget what I told him anyway) which gets me excited to get things done so we can talk about it and work through any issues I've got.
6. Get out a pen and paper
Though I do most of my writing on a laptop, I find planning on paper a lot more helpful than using calendars on my phone or laptop. If I can write something down it clears my mind and allows me to focus much easier.
I think of my brain as a forest with a lot of over-excitable forest critters, aka my ideas and thoughts. They're all running around, climbing trees, playing, and breeding, and sometimes it's just too much with them all competing for attention. If I can remove one or two mind-squirrels and put them on paper, the forest is much quieter and I can focus without tripping over that pesky "wash uniform" squirrel that's always causing trouble. Making daily lists is really helpful for that because it groups things together and makes them easier to tackle. And then I'm left with a calmer forest full of well-behaved squirrels.
7. Create your optimum motivational conditions
Think about the last few times you felt ready to take on the world; what did they have in common? The place? What time of day was it? Was there music, or do you like complete silence? Were you warm and cosy?
Notice the things that make you feel most motivated and create those conditions. I feel most motivated when I wake up before 10 am (otherwise I tend to 'write the day off' - daft, I know), have a shower in the morning, get through some housework, know I don't have to go to work or leave the house for more than half an hour, and the house feels like a fresh winter morning.
These few tips have really helped me get back on top of things and I think that by far the most important one is to rest. You can accept failure and create the best motivational conditions all you want, but if your mind and body aren't showing up on form, there's no point.