Listen, I hate delayed gratification as much as a toddler given a marshmallow and told to wait 15 minutes before they can get another one. No thank you. I will eat my marshmallow now and forfeit the promise of another delightful squishy magical treat BECAUSE I CAN’T WAIT THAT LONG to know that my efforts will pay off. I want to feel good NOW!
You can see why motivation may be hard for me. If the reward isn’t immediate and it doesn’t feel good, I really don’t want to try.
Now…this isn’t because I lack focus or maturity or am lazy, or any other negative self-talk we give ourselves when we are struggling, it is because I am burnt out and so darn tired of using all my energy just to survive. And now you want to add another (unpleasant) task to my pile? No thank you.
We just went TWO years (and ongoing) through a gruelling pandemic. We are TIRED of being strong and holding it all together. We are TIRED of waiting for things to get better. We are TIRED of having the courage to survive in the face of constant disruption and the threat of literal, possible death (seriously, yikes! We need to acknowledge this!!)
Your cup runneth dry, my friend!
And yet you have to keep running.
So how do you keep going when you have nothing left? Here are three helpful insights
One, we need to recognize that motivation comes AFTER action. Motivation is actually the by-product of our behavior, not something that spurs our behavior. If you want to get something done you can’t wait for motivation to strike, you have to start making progress and then, motivation begins to grow.
If you build it, they will come!!
Two, we need to remember that motivation requires energy!
If you are going to start a behavior, you need the energy and capacity to do that behavior. If you don’t have the energy, you will be setting yourself up to feel even more depleted and miserable. Don’t turn on the faucet to force water to flow…go refill your well first!!
So what sorts of things do you need to do to ensure increased energy? Stop doing the task that you are forcing and start doing the basic things that give you more fuel! Then you can revisit the task.
And finally, three, we need to be gentle with ourselves. Negative self-talk, forgetting the pandemic existed, and ignoring our daily burnout are not healthy or supportive ways to ensure we feel good about the work that we are doing. And if we don’t feel good about the work – in fact if we start to resent the work because of how much it deprives us of our energy – then we are going to shut down completely. It’s harder to start an engine that’s been sitting broken down for months on end.
Take a break, yes! But don’t give in to self-loathing. Remember WHY you want to accomplish this task, offer kindness to yourself for the effort it will take, and then work strategically on ensuring you have the resources to follow through.