My husband and I have been traveling a lot lately as we hunt for our first home in a town that is not the one we currently live in. Combined with the stress of making offers, getting declined, getting accepted and then having things fall through, loans and insurance considerations, and all that other nonsense, the traveling every single weekend has been really hard on us. We’ve been sick a lot. And it’s not like work gets easier when your weekends are really busy.
Well, we finally found a place and it seems the worst is behind us. My stress load is lightening and we won’t have to make that roundtrip out of town but one or two more times before we move in and make it permanent. But even now that I’m feeling better, it’s taking a long time to get back into my routine. I’m not just tired from illness and out of the habit from all our traveling. I just feel… unmotivated. I don’t want to do anything.
The word “motivation” comes up a lot in the health community. How to motivate yourself for your diet or workout, what to do when your motivation ebbs, yadda yadda. But what even is motivation? When you feel it, it’s this sort of energized feeling that comes with go-get-em kinds of thoughts, but “motivation” isn’t really an emotion and it’s not just a mindset, either. It can’t be quantified, studied, or replicated between people because the things that make me feel “motivated” might not work for you and even if they do, your motivation may not be as potent or long-lasting. It’s a nebulous and fleeting concept we’re conditioned to take advantage of when it arrives and… chase after the rest of the time?
Imagine if you spent your whole life chasing after the tooth fairy because you loved finding quarters under your pillow so much. This is what I mean by the Motivation Myth. You might accidentally find some quarters along the way, but wouldn’t it be more productive to spend that time making dollars?
We’ve been led to believe that the more energized we are about something, the more likely we are to stick with it. But it’s extremely difficult to control your thoughts and emotions. In fact, the more we try to fight a thought or emotion, the stronger it tends to become. When we don’t feel motivated, we start to think “eh, maybe I don’t care as much as I thought I did” or “it’ll be okay to take a few days off until I start feeling motivated again”.
No wonder we all fall off the wagon.
But have you ever had one of those days… and then gotten up and done what needed doing anyway?
It’s so much easier to control our actions than our mindsets. And once you actually get up and start cooking, exercising, working, or whatever else it is you don’t want to do, you might find that your mindset starts to shift. Oh, this isn’t so bad. I can do this.
And when you actually do finish that meal, run, or whatever? You’ll probably feel a lot better about your day.
The simple truth is that sometimes you just don’t feel like doing things even if they’re important to you. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about them anymore. That doesn’t mean you won’t regret it if you check out for a day or two (or twenty). It’s perfectly natural for motivation to be high at the start of an undertaking, then taper as time goes on and challenges and distractions start piling up.
But if you want to reach your goals, you’ve gotta step up and chase them whether you feel motivated or not. Practice makes perfect, not the other way around. Conditions don’t have to be perfect for practice to be fruitful.
So make some time for that thing you’ve been wanting to do today. Even if you’re tired, stressed out, or traveling. A little effort is better than none at all and it’s nice to be able to say at the end of the day, regardless of what else happened, “at least I did that!”