“You can’t change the wind. But you can adjust the sails to reach your destination.” (Paulo Coelho) This quote struck me as I thought about the past 18 months, how the pandemic has profoundly impacted our lives, and how many are struggling to stay motivated both personally and professionally. In fact, I would go so far as to say that we haven’t been hit by a strong wind, but by a whirlwind.
Under normal circumstances, it is not uncommon to experience a slump in our personal or professional lives, where we feel unmotivated or lose our inspiration, and overcoming that is challenging. However, there are steps one can take to remedy the situation such as learning something new or changing up our routine.
However, this pandemic is not and has not been usual or ordinary by any stretch of the imagination. It has upended all areas of our lives. People have been isolated, lost loved ones, experienced extreme stress at work and at home while trying to juggle and care for children and loved ones and the list goes on.
In fact, covid burnout has become an epidemic. So given that this is a “new normal” do the old strategies still work? Does the opening quote to this blog apply? My answer is a qualified YES! If you are seeking some encouragement perhaps the following will help.
1: BE REALISTIC AND KIND TO YOURSELF
Given the times that we are currently in, it is totally normal to feel unmotivated and at times be less productive. We are experiencing something, unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime and to minimize or deny the impact will only be detrimental. The first step toward health and motivation is to allow yourself grace. In other words, be kind to yourself, cut yourself some slack, and acknowledge that this is a very difficult time.
Just acknowledging that you are experiencing some difficulty may help you breathe. You will more than likely need to modify or change your expectations and that is okay. If you are managing a small business with employees be sure to extend this practice/courtesy to them.
2: MANAGE YOUR THOUGHTS
Believe me, I am aware that this is easier said than done. In all likelihood, a lack of motivation is due in part to the way we are thinking. Motivation simply put is the driving force behind what you do, it describes why you do what you do. Some motivational factors are extrinsic meaning the motivation comes from an external source like a reward or words of praise by another. This kind of motivation does not usually last very long.
The best kind of motivation is what is called intrinsic meaning we are motivated by what is personally gratifying and there is no obvious external reward. A person does what they do because it is enjoyable or interesting. However, many factors can affect either kind of motivation such as stress, anxiety, distractions, and a lack of interaction with others, which in turn can affect our thinking. All of the previous factors have been a part of covid on one level or another So how does one stay motivated?
As mentioned the best kind of motivation is intrinsic because it doesn’t come from our circumstances but rather from within. This means we need to manage how we think. While we cannot control what is happening around us, we can be mindful of how we are thinking and manage those thoughts. It takes discipline.
Sometimes in order to spark that intrinsic motivation, it is necessary to start with an external motivator. For example, if you are self-employed, working from home, and are finding yourself demotivated perhaps you might have to start with some external rewards. For example, you might say, ” I am going to work for 40 minutes to an hour and then I am going to have a coffee outside while enjoying my garden.” As you begin to work you might find yourself enjoying what you are doing and the intrinsic motivation slowly returns over the course of a couple of days.
You might want to consider placing some “reset reminders” around yourself. By this I mean, think of things that bring you joy and make a conscious effort to make them a part of your world. Perhaps place some photos of people, places, or pets you love in your workspace. When you take a break, reset your motivation by looking up at your photos and meditating on them for a minute. It can be as simple as a 60-second break. For me, it is listening to some music, as I am at the moment, usually mellow (James Taylor) or smooth jazz as I go about completing my work.
The same principle applies if you are trying to motivate your staff. Perhaps at first, you may need to begin with a few extrinsic motivators like providing a special treat at coffee break or ending one workday early. I once worked where we met together every Tuesday afternoon for 30 – 45 minutes and enjoyed staff treat and coffee and we chatted with one another. On occasion, we would be treated to a staff lunch. Perhaps you could consider giving each staff member a mental health day. Any of these are incentives to take time to positively impact mental health. As employees begin to feel better, their motivation will likely return.
3: FIND YOUR NETWORK
Under normal circumstances, by that I mean pre-covid, many people could stay motivated without much input from others. Perhaps this is a result of their personality or upbringing and they are simply more resilient. However, the pandemic has increased the distance between co-workers, family, and friends and many are feeling isolated whether or not they were more resilient prior to the outbreak. Therefore, it is incredibly important to find your network and stay connected, even if at a distance. Technology more than ever is a blessing and allows people to stay connected with co-workers, friends, and family. It is critical to make an effort to reach out however one is able.
At the present time where I live we are restricted from going for a walk with others that are not of our household. However, I did notice the other day that simply taking a walk with my own household at the park where others were with their families lifted my spirits. Simply switching my environment, and seeing others gave me the lift I needed.
Staying motivated during this pandemic is tricky. However, by being realistic and kind to ourselves, managing our thoughts, and finding our network we can adjust our sail to maneuver through this whirlwind of a pandemic. If by chance these strategies or others you are using do not seem to be working be sure to reach out to a local health care provider. You are not alone.