It’s a funny thing, motivation. Sometimes I wake up an hour before my alarm clock, burning with purpose and determined to take on my day with as much force as possible. Other days, my alarm clock wakes me up, I roll over, turn it off and go back to sleep again; the idea of getting out of bed being so ridiculously foreign that I’ve forgotten completely my resolve to go the gym at 6am. My moods can swing just as wildly – between elation that I’m alive and free and enthusiastic for life, down to wondering how on earth I could have ever considered myself to be happy in the quiet first hours of a fresh day.
Thankfully, lately I have enjoyed less of the bad days and much more of the good days. I've been waking up fresh, early, ready to take charge of my day, my life and my destiny. I've discovered what it is to be a morning person – waking up to something that I am passionate about and enjoy spending my time on, the days seem to fly by without enough progress being accomplished. I've found myself saying things like “there are never enough hours in the day!” or “Jesus how is it 1pm already?” I busy myself so extensively that exercise sessions have to be moved to 6am or 6pm, leaving me a solid 11 hours in which to work before or afterwards. And I have no problem with this; I actually enjoy it.
This pattern had continued for the last few weeks at least without a single moody day. I think I can put this down to developing some clear goals for myself and where I want my career to take me; what I would like to achieve in life. I almost felt as though I had it made, wondering why I ever struggled sometimes to get out of bed, exercise, focus, write, study, research, work, run, cook, photograph, talk, anything to do with what makes me happy in life.
And then of course, reality set in. Not in a ‘oh my god, life is actually quite awful and you have been kidding yourself’ kind of way. But just a recognition that despite how good your intentions are, it can be tough. Sometimes you do need to sleep in a little longer and it’s not every day that you consciously want to exercise for an hour and ignore the bags of potato chips that are perpetually floating around the office.
When I’m feeling a bit off, generally the productivity of my day can be determined by the first five minutes upon waking. It’s like an instant mood assessment once I have registered the fact that I’m awake. How am I feeling today? Tired? Oh well, no gym today. In a bad mood? Today can be my ‘treat’ day, pancakes for breakfast it is. Whereas when I’m feeling fresh and alive? Fantastic! 40minute run followed by a green power smoothie for breakfast, all before 7am.
After the last couple of days where I’ve felt exactly like this, my enthusiasm dragging and my productivity sinking, I’ve started to think about active ways to re-motivate myself and freshen up my outlook in times when it’s desperately needed. It’s frustrating to think that a whole day can be dictated by a bad mood I can’t shake, a sugar cravings I can’t ignore. And that’s when I stumbled across this excellent (and very fitting) quote:
And that’s when it clicked. I put so much pressure on myself to remain focused on my goals, that when I lose sight for even a moment and begin to slide sideways I feel as though I’ve done something wrong. I allow negative thought patterns to spiral downwards, start doubting myself and viewing each unproductive hour or day as a mountain of a problem as opposed to a molehill. I waste thoughtless time and energy on waiting for my motivation to come back, to wake up the next morning feeling fresh and when I don’t, going to bed early and hoping for a better result the next morning. I act as though these feelings and thoughts are out of my control, when really it’s my controllable reaction to the problem that is my downfall. And since I don’t react with more positive energy, instead of a bad feeling lasting five minutes it can last for five days.
The problem itself is extremely minor – everyone lacks motivation sometimes. You can’t focus to 100% of your ability at all times; tiny instances in our daily lives can tip the balance and cause us to lose track every once in a while. Quite often for me it can be one bad night’s sleep and I wake up feeling as though my goals are impossible, there’s no point eating healthily today because I look like rubbish anyway. The thing I need to remember is that this is normal, and motivation needs to be continually found and topped up each and every day. I’m all about making conscious decisions daily to work towards a healthy lifestyle; I am slowly learning that finding the motivation to do so is just, if not more, as important. And finding ways to consciously stay motivated and focused on what you want to achieve is not only extremely beneficial but also extremely possible.
When I started writing this post and searching for motivational quotes, I instantly found that they helped me regain some clarity. One of my favorites is from T.S. Elliot: “Only those that risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” I’d like to think of myself as someone that will always push the boundaries in life, but how can I possible do that when I’m sitting at home feeling sorry for myself? When I need a bit of exercise motivation, ashamedly Tumblr will quite often offer me some body inspiration. It’s pretty hard to crave a plate full of pasta when you’re looking at photos of Miranda Kerr in a bikini. More importantly though, the most effective means of re-finding my enthusiasm is by reading the goals I have set for myself. I’ll write some more, write about my progress, what I still need to achieve and remind myself where I would eventually like to end up. This process allows me to see the smaller steps in front of me – sometimes I need to focus on my short terms goals rather than the seemingly impossible big picture.
These are a few places I find my motivation, on top of many, many more small things in day to day life that give me inspiration to try to be the best I can be. My lesson this week: to pay attention and seek them out when I am most in need.
Where do you find yours?