Making changes and/or adapting to changes can be exhausting. We are living through a time period where we are being constantly asked to adapt to some changing condition in our lives and the effect is readily apparent. Not a day goes by that I don’t see dozens of articles in my news feed about pandemic fatigue. It’s gotten so bad for some of us that we have taken to categorizing the myriad ways that we are fatigued, zoom fatigue, work from home fatigue, mask fatigue, cooking and cleaning fatigue, and on and on. Regardless of what variety of fatigue you are experiencing (cooking fatigue) it’s safe to say that the pandemic has taken a toll on all of us and has left many of us feeling depleted of our energy and unable to generate or sustain the motivation to move forward.
What I have found helpful in increasing my own motivation is to think of motivation and my approach to generating it as existing on a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum is compassion. A compassionate approach is restorative, nurturing, and focused on rehabilitation. When I think of a compassionate approach, I think of what I need when I am recovering from an illness or an injury, times that my body and my brain need rest and care. A compassionate voice may say things like, “take it slow, be patient with yourself, you’ll get it, you’ll be okay, we’re going to get through this.”
On the other end is combustion, the side of the spectrum focused on generating bursts of energy and taking immediate action. A combustion approach might be useful when finishing a race or dealing with a crisis. A combustion voice is more demonstrative, it might say to you, “get up, get moving, give it all you’ve got!”
Both approaches are useful in certain circumstances, and the vast majority of actions that we take in life are a balance between the two. We often need to both challenge ourselves to keep moving forward and also keep an eye on our energy levels and limitations. However, many of us struggle with how to strike a balance and how to gauge which direction we may need to lean toward.
I find it helpful to start with my goals. Are they short-term or long-term? Are they of critical importance or can they wait? A short-term or critically important goal may require a quick and intense burst of energy to propel you across the finish line. However, the combustion approach can drain one’s energy quickly, and it will need to be replenished before that energy is available again. A longer term goal may require a more intentional, measured approach more in line with the compassionate side of the spectrum, with the importance of the action dictating how much of our energy reserves we devote to it.
Another gauge may be the one that comes from tuning into how we are feeling in a given moment. If you find yourself feeling burnt out and beaten down, you may be pushing yourself too hard. In my practice, I see many clients dealing with themselves in an overly critical way, pushing themselves to accomplish long-term goals and then beating themselves up internally when they are depleted of energy. If you find yourself in this category, you may want to turn up the volume of your compassionate inner voice. You may start with reminding yourself of how hard you’ve been working and of the need to rest when you are feeling exhausted.
On the contrary, if you find yourself consistently feeling guilty or ashamed, there may be something holding you back from taking action. It may be helpful to explore the reasons you may be procrastinating. You may be unsure of your capabilities or worried about who might be disappointed if you are not successful in your efforts. If this is the case, you may reassure yourself that you are well-equipped to handle what life has thrown at you and to just put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll have built some momentum.
It is important to note that sometimes feeling beaten down and ashamed is the result of having people in your life who have not been understanding of any health challenges you may be experiencing. If this is the case and a lack of motivation is coming from a physical or mental health issue, you may need to seek help from a trusted professional like your family doctor or a counselor to help address these issues and to help let others know how to be supportive.