The Arduous Task of Motivation

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

I feel like everywhere I look there are people telling me how to get motivated or how much procrastinating will destroy my life. It’s like we’re constantly inundated with ways to be better, to be more than, and yet, every day is a struggle.

The thing is, it’s really easy to talk about motivation, to say here are the five things I do every day that helped me be the best version of me when you’re at the other end of the tunnel. However, I am very rarely at that end. In fact I am frequently at the point in life where everything seems like an immensely heavy black cloud settling somewhere on my chest, getting ready to prove just how ill equipped I was to join the adult world. I can think of a million things that don’t work for me, or that work but only for a short while. I’m like my dog in that respect. Once he’s figured out the game, he’s bored and onto the next thing. He’ll still do the trick or play the game on occasion, but that initial excitement, that thrill, it’s gone. To be honest the dog and I seem to rub off more and more on each other by the day, but that’s an entirely different story.

So how do you find the motivation to get up and do the things when the very thought of getting out of bed seems like the hardest thing in the world? When the thought of even trying to be upright for more than two seconds seems eight miles past daunting? Well, the short answer is you don’t. Or at least I don’t.

My body and my mind will literally force me to lower the bar. And the only thing I can do is aim for okay, and even that changes. In general this is how it goes:

1. Figure Out What I Can Do

At the start of the day, there is a window of opportunity where I will have to pick a thing to do. This could be as simple as brushing my teeth or having a shower or even just making sure the dog has enough water. The catch? I probably only have the energy to do one or two things. And a part of actually doing them, is admitting that I only have a finite amount of energy. Which leads to the next, stupidly difficult step.

2. Accept Without Judgement

One of the hardest things about getting motivated is the constant voice in my head whispering that I’m lazy and worthless. What kind of self respecting twenty six year old can’t muster the energy to do more than one big thing a day? How can you only have the energy to get groceries, but not clean the house or go to the post office? You were practically right there!

That voice? That voice can f*** right off and keep going. It doesn’t help. It’s not going to get me any more energy or get me out of bed any faster. In fact the constant arguing, the guilt, the judgement, that all saps energy. It leads to the ominous clouds on the periphery creeping into the centre of the room, and before I know it I’m drowning in a sea of “shoulds”.

3. Celebrate the Little Things

This is something I find pretty hard to do, and it is in part because of that voice. It has a variety of names, none of which are particularly appropriate for polite company. Although, to be honest, I find that those names and using them often get me out of bed and at least make me smile. For whatever reason a well placed cuss word makes the weight in my chest shift just a little. Anyway, sometimes that in and of itself is a little thing to celebrate. You managed to only call yourself three awful names instead of your usual four? That’s great. I mean it. It’s tiny but you know what it matters!

You got up at 1145 instead of 12? Brilliant. Yes it’s only 15 minutes, but that is 15 minutes you didn’t have yesterday. You did laundry? Well done. You managed to open your curtains for the first time in days, but didn’t leave the house? That’s amazing. No it’s not conquering Everest or one of the eight million other things you need to do, but it’s a start.

4. Apps & lists

I recently downloaded an app called Habitca and for a short while it helped. It’s fun and it gamifies everything. I’ve got things on there from write a blog post to brush your teeth to save up $500. You get to set the difficulty of the tasks and as you complete them you get gold and xp which you can use in game for rewards. Honestly, I have the patience of a gnat and having an instant pay off really helps me. It also forces me to wait for things — for example setting myself a 20coin limit before I was allowed to watch clone wars. Or needing 100 coins for a day off. And you can adjust these things so that they work for you. Yes it is geared so that you lose health if you don’t do the thing, but here’s my rule, if I am truly honestly just not at that level? I delay it for another day. I give myself a specific amount of days that I can do it for and I do my best to be honest. It doesn’t always work, but it does help.

Before that, I was just using to do lists so that I had the joy of beginning to be able to tick things off. The trick with all of these things? Make them achievable. Take baby steps, because yes it’s lovely to tick things off, but it’s awful to have 60 things sitting in your to do list just growing and staring at you.

5. Get Support

I honestly would not survive without two things in my life. The first is the people and the second is my dog. You see the people in my life are the voices I need to remind me that I’m allowed to need time to heal, that things take time and I’m doing better. They celebrate with me and they commiserate with me. They remind me that I am lucky enough to be able to fall to pieces and have someone there to scoop me up and wait for me to put myself together.

The dog is just pure love with four legs, fur and a tail. He one hundred and one percent needs me and if anything, he forces me to have to do at least one thing a day. Even if it’s just take him to the bathroom or feed him or go for a walk. Even if I feel like I could do more, he never does. For him, I am the best thing that could ever happen to him, and more than that I am the thing that will keep him safe. He is the warm body that reminds me that my heart, my soul, they’re both still beating.

And if all else fails?

I’m not a professional, and I can’t wave a magic wand and fix the occasional crippling waves of depression and anxiety that sweep over me. Sometimes, I can’t get through under my own steam. Sometimes, I am just not enough, and that’s okay.

See a Doctor. See a therapist (if that works for you). Call a hotline. Sleep for days, heal. No one but you knows what you need and what you can manage. I can tell you my story and what works for me, but at the end of the day, only you can move past it.

The world is a horrifying place a lot of the time, and honestly 90% of the time it’s just not geared for you. There is no shame in stopping, in taking time and looking after yourself. Take the time to figure out what that means, if it’s calling in sick to work just to give yourself a day, if it’s curling up in front of your TV and binge watching Game of Thrones. You do you. Don’t judge yourself, just do what you need to do. I’ve no doubt that you will be okay, that you can be more than okay and you will be, I just can’t say when.

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