The Coach is In…

Motivation: What We Choose…or Not

I was having a ‘check in’ call with my virtual assistant and she asked me if I was having any trouble with motivation, as in, “Am I doing what I want to be doing?” The simple answer was “Yes.” I went on to describe that between two years of Covid, and two knee replacements and the isolation that went with it, I was struggling with motivation. I promised myself, however, that I wouldn’t have a ‘discussion’ with myself about the future until I finished my knee rehab and the weather turned warmer. She then described that she was having motivational issues with what she was doing. As she broadened the discussion to include several of her clients, she found that the pervasive comment from almost all of her clients was “yes” they too were struggling with motivation.

Today, I was talking with my friend and colleague Richard about motivation. He commented that all of us are motivated for one reason or another. We may be motivated to do something or motivated to not do something. The question is why? I think this is a very powerful question. What am I doing or not doing in a given moment, day, or longer is ‘rich’ with ‘information’ about what is going on with us.

For instance, on any given day I am good at avoidance behavior. I find myself reacting to email, a pop-up golf story, or a myriad of other distractions. I am choosing to be distracted. Does what I’m doing not really interest me? Maybe. Are one or more of my energy centers depleted? Was the depletion part of my avoidance? Maybe. Is there a deeper question or doubt about my future that I’m avoiding? Possibly.

My experience is that I may ‘avoid’ for a little while until I realize that it’s not just a break and I am increasingly unproductive. These experiences are common to all of us. Taking a break, creating downtime with the intention of replenishing ourselves is a good practice. Taking breaks that increase in length may indicate something else.

The choice to ‘do’ or ‘not do’ affects all of us. Understanding what is influencing those choices has been especially important to me. The recent loss of my friend created a major depletion for me emotionally. In that case I knew it and determined that taking a little time out from my ‘to do’ list was okay (i.e., posting). I went on vacation and was selective about what I did or read, with the goal to rest and replenish. Often, I don’t recognize my ‘distractedness’ until I’m in it, sometimes for a while.

In addition to the above distractedness, I have been exploring “What I might want to do next, or in addition to what I am doing?” This is not a new question for me. I have asked this question every decade since my thirties. This time, however, it carries with it the understanding that I am nearing the end of my ‘work’ career. I love what I do and based on my own assessment and feedback from others, I am good at it. That is key. In the last 25 years every time I have reflected about what I am doing or want to do, part of that evaluation is based on what/who gives me energy or depletes it. I have found that question helps me center on who I am and what I am here to do/be. It helps me to better discern what choices I want to make. The caveat: there are times that I wander, without purpose; being human is never a straight line.

When I think about the current work environment, how it is getting done, and all the things we have had to adjust to in the past two years, I believe it has created a lot of uncertainty. The pandemic alone has demonstrated this. Whether we admit it or not, we like a certain amount of ‘pattern’ to our lives – that routine that is predictable, that we can count on. Those patterns are often things that we don’t have to think about so we can pay attention to those things in our lives that require more attention. Patterns often allow us to have less stress in our lives. When we go to bed, when we get up, what we do before work, after work. Even what we eat can have a certain rhythm that allows our minds to focus on other ‘pressing’ matters.

How is that playing out now? For me, my patterns have been altered (think, having my son, daughter-in-law, and three children live with us for 11 months; adjustments in what I could do, and where I could go based on Covid or surgery). When our patterns are interrupted or changed, I believe there can be more stress as we must now think about something that had been predictable and routine. In the course of being ‘challenged’ there is the added stress of thinking about, “Will my life (or this pattern) ever go back to ‘normal?’ Depending on how many of our patterns are disrupted, doubt can creep in, including the doubt of, “Am I good at this? Is what I am doing something I want to do?”

I submit that given the disruption of our lives over the past two years, it is harder to discern what is prompting the ‘life’ questions? Is it a ‘normal’ inquiry based on length of time I’ve been doing something (i.e., is it time for a change?), or is the inquiry based on some external conditions that are not normal, including the possibility that fear is playing a role?

I don’t know if we can ever fully know the answer to that, but I know that my own reflection has uncovered some unique sets of outside conditions that are abnormally influencing my thought process. I also know that by discerning that fact I have also come to conclude a little more about the abnormal world and my situation that tells me, “Take a moment here. Let’s not make some major life changes just yet. Let’s allow time to influence what will become the ‘new’ normal and what will not before I make too many changes.” And then there is always the risk that the ‘abnormal’ may indeed be what the world is going to look like and some of our patterns will never come back. (I know, nice of me to add that little tidbit to ramp up our anxiety. You’re welcome.)

In relation to your work, are you experiencing motivational issues with what you are doing? Do you find yourself procrastinating, or choosing to do nothing instead of what you think you should be doing? Are you asking questions like, “Am I doing what I really want to do?” If the answer is “no,” I would encourage you to discern what in that situation gives you energy, and what are the things that do not. I have found that understanding this often transcends a moment in time, or a period of unusual stress, and can illuminate those ‘true’ elements that can help make your choice clearer.

Toward a better you…