Let’s talk about motivation! This might feel timely for the people who want to increase their motivation and get more work done during a self-isolation period. Great! Exactly what you need, to work more, to feel more energized and ready to tackle all your tasks.
But I’m going to throw a curveball at you and talk about how to approach motivation in a kind and compassionate way, so you can feel calmer in approaching the things you’ve set out to do. And while this might feel timely in our different world, hopefully, you’ll see an impact inside and outside of any crisis.
So, do we always have to be productive?
Lots of things in this world would suggest “yes,” but it’s also important to consider what productivity is.
Today, it’s easy to believe that productivity looks like typing a business email, paying the bills, or washing the dishes.
But it’s also productive to take care of yourself. Even the basics; having a shower, brushing your teeth – those things are productive and necessary.
The same is for time away from business emails and house chores; proper rest and allowing time for yourself to not think is productive time as well.
This is refuelling yourself and building yourself back up – productive to you as a person, as well as the work that you’ll do in a given day.
So, do you always have to be doing something? Really, no. Actually, it’s important to take a moment to do nothing. Otherwise, at some point, you’ll face being burnt out and feeling down on yourself anyway. It’s productive to not do something, and for a lot of people right now, this can be the hardest work to do.
But I think we’ve all listened to someone say something similar to all of this, and we still struggle with feeling okay with doing nothing, even if it’s for a couple of minutes. How do we build that allowance and understanding, so that we can have those moments without any pressure?
That’s where self-compassion comes into play – beginning to not judge ourselves all the time.
Below, I’ve written out some exercises that have worked for me and greatly improved my wellbeing – maybe these will fit with you perfectly, maybe they’ll need a little tweaking to resonate with you properly. Either way is totally fine, play with these concepts until they fit you and your journey.
The struggle – An exercise
- Think of a struggle you’re going through. Nothing too big – maybe you’re frustrated with not getting some work done, or you’re upset about another situation, something that’s sticking with you that you just want to move past, or get fixed, but it won’t budge right now.
- Take a moment to think about those feelings.
- Now, imagine a loved one going through these feelings and thoughts instead of you. Maybe think of a niece or nephew, a younger sibling, even a child-version of yourself. How would you treat that child, what would you say? And how does that compare to how you’re treating yourself in reality?
(I often find that I approach my loved ones with a lot more empathy and care than what I do with myself, and many people are the same. We know our own limits, so we expect ourselves to push those limits more often.)
- So now, offer the empathy you’re feeling for that loved one to yourself. The person you’re imagining right now is a part of you and an image you created in your mind. You can take the love, compassion, and kind words directly to yourself now, the you who is facing this struggle in reality.
The first time this is done, it can feel like a huge relief. This takes time to practice, but every time you offer kind words to yourself amid a difficult situation, that relief will tend to come along the same way it did the first time.
When you notice the negativity
I don’t think I’m the only person who feels like they’re eating an overly sweet cake when I read something just a bit too positive. Sometimes, we’re upset, anxious, hurt, or angry, and we’re allowed to experience those emotions and express them. Resisting them tends to make them come back with a louder voice, wanting to be heard.
Sometimes, though, it can be easy to get way too caught up in those feelings, and we end up holding them for too long. I’ve noticed that this can make us feel sour and even reflect on how we feel about ourselves. So quickly, here are some easy things to do when you notice the negativity:
- Saying and believing something a bit too negative about yourself? Think about how you’d say it to someone else, go back to that younger person we spoke about a moment ago. Remember, you’re the only person who has always been with you, and will always be with you, so you deserve a bit of kindness. Allow yourself room for your feelings, accept them, and be kind in trying to get the next thing done.
- Meditation! I know, a lot of people recommend this, and for others, it can be a hard thing to commit too. I’ve linked some pages below from Kristin Neff and Chris Germer, two awesome self-compassion experts who have free meditations on their websites as well as other resources. If you’re looking for something shorter, there are even 5-minute meditations on YouTube, that can be effective for when you want to be at peace but you don’t want to sit down for more than 10 minutes. If you can sit down for a little while longer, I whole-heartedly recommend going through Neff’s and Germer’s exercises later on.
- Biological parents are so 2000-and-late: Alright people. We’re adults, right? A lot of us are at the point where we get ourselves out of bed, we make our own breakfast, we tell ourselves we need to brush our teeth and shower. We’re probably the ones who told ourselves to do the dishes and wipe up the bench. Our parents aren’t getting these things done for us anymore, we’re doing it ourselves, telling ourselves to get it done – just like Mum and Dad did. We have become self-parenting individuals. We speak to ourselves “I have to get the dishes done,” “I should start cooking dinner,” “I need to get out of bed or else I’ll be late for work,” but sometimes, with the “haves,” and the “shoulds,” it can feel like quite the bother, often like it felt like when our parents would tell us something needs to be done, on repeat. So, I invite you to take a different approach for a moment: “I know you’d love to watch the whole season of The Bachelor for the 5th time today, but you are going to hate it when you get up to make a cup of tea and all the mugs are dirty, so maybe you can get the dishes clean now and get back to The Bachelor in a few minutes.”Listen, I get it, I don’t want to stop drinking this bottle of wine either, but you’re getting hungry so someone’s got to get dinner done (maybe we can even drink and cook at the same time?),” I know I’m still feeling tired right now, and it would be great to sleep in. But I’ve made a commitment to be somewhere today, so I just have to do it.”It’s a little bit long-winded, and it might feel weird having to talk to yourself (maybe even out loud, which is even more awkward if you live with someone else), but these statements are a lot nicer to say and hear. Sooner or later, with a kinder voice, you’ll find yourself resisting chores a lot less.
In conclusion, No, you don’t need to be constantly moving and, yes, it is productive to do nothing for a moment (or a few moments). These exercises over time and with practice should hopefully stop life from feeling like a battle with yourself day-in and day-out. Once that battle stops and self-talk becomes more positive, people often find that motivation simply occurs by itself.
Also, over time, this more positive habit will feel more natural and you won’t have to say all these nice things to yourself out loud, which is a bonus for sure.
Here is a link to some meditations on Neff’s and Germer’s websites. Hopefully, there are a couple of things you’ve been able to take that will make getting work done feel like less of a struggle.
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