We cannot sustain our motivation if we don’t connect daily to its source and what generates it, or if we don’t constantly strive to remind ourselves why we are moving in a certain direction and how to get there, willingly and unforced, exercising free will, despite the inevitable limitations.
When I browse job search websites, I quickly get excited when seeing the potential of a recruitment ad. I don’t spend too much time thinking and I apply.
Then I reread the requirements and start ruminating: “What if experience is not relevant? What if the salary is not enough? What if the job description doesn’t suit me?” and many other questions of the sort. This is where a whole story is born, in which the initial motivation has to face a lot of obstacles to stay alive, starting with the risk of failure, the fear of the unknown and the acceptance of change.
Unfortunately, the narrative is often devoid of a happy ending, because the motivation eventually dies. It ends dramatically under the pressure of an avalanche of questions that inevitably begin with “what if.”
The ritual is repeated in other areas of life, and the scenario is similar. Initially active, motivation decreases as I mentally go through the implications of a choice, and the feeling that the comfort zone is threatened intensifies.
In order to manage situations that test my willpower and motivation, I learned to explore, first of all, the substratum, in order to understand why I sabotage myself. Up to a point, having second thoughts is natural; everyone has them. So is the fear of failure, the fear of new things, or circumstances that make us vulnerable. It doesn’t matter that we are scared of the unknown, if we continue on our quest and don’t allow panic to control our decisions. If, however, we sabotage ourselves, we need to better understand the mechanisms behind our actions.
For me, I have found that while I reject the mentality that expectations lead to disappointments, I subconsciously give it credit. Many of the moments when I lost my motivation to grow were based on such a belief, strategically infiltrated into the equation, as a subtle mechanism of self-defence.
Expectations are very important. In their absence, the need to better ourselves disappears.
The aspirations and desires which project our future, the willingness and ability to influence the environment and people around us, and the efforts we make to get closer to the materialisation of ideals are all forms of expectations.
I have noticed countless times that the lack of expectations paralyses my will, making me a mere spectator of my own life.
The comfort zone
The power of motivation has plenty of enemies, including the comfort zone. Many people admit that what often holds them back is the love of comfort, the first enemy of personal evolution. In my case, comfortableness comes with pessimism, disinterest and the exaggeration of dangers.
In the presence of comfort, an imaginary boxing ring is created, inside which the objectives fight the obstacles that intimidate the transition from words to deeds. In this context, motivation lies somewhere between the desire to do a certain thing and the difficulty of accomplishing it.
I have experienced situations when, although sincere and intense, my desires have remained at the theoretical level, precisely because I chose the easy path, the eternal invitation to stagnation made by the routine, which completely demotivates those who fall into its traps.
In the case of extrinsic motivation, external factors may be strong enough to force you out of your comfort zone. As for intrinsic motivation, comfort can create the paradox of finding reasons to give up.
Like faith, motivation can move mountains. However, it cannot do so by itself, but in a formula that ticks all the boxes that turn a goal into reality. Thus, in addition to motivation, we also need resources, a balanced vision and a proper context.
Many times, they already exist, but we fail to notice them. Although we intend to start a certain project or complete one that we have already begun, fears push us to see, around us and in ourselves, evidence of helplessness and failure.
Confirmation bias (part of wishful thinking) does not forgive anyone. I regularly experience its effects when, instead of worrying about finding new angles, I interpret situations based on the same limited ideas. By my expressed intentions I support my motivation, but by my way of relating to reality, I do the exact opposite, showing my fear of change.
For example, I often plan to change my diet, eat more home-cooked food than store-bought, and have regular meals every day. But the miracle does not last more than three days. Inevitably, I return to old habits and conclusions, which confirm to me that my work schedule and daily responsibilities make my desire for change impossible—conclusions that are not an objective truth, but only a subjective one, induced by previous experience and an affinity for excuses.
A popular phrase by motivational author Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar that is circulating online reads as follows:
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”
In other words, we cannot sustain our motivation if we don’t connect daily to its source and what generates it, or if we don’t constantly strive to remind ourselves why we are moving in a certain direction and how to get there, willingly and unforced, exercising free will despite the inevitable limitations.
Starting from this thought, I try my best not to let the person in the mirror sabotage my plans, knowing that the success of my motivation and the strength of my will to do more, better, faster or sooner depend on her.
And when expectations, comfortableness and fears demotivate me, I turn to some actions that urge me to:
- look at the whole picture, not just the piece that causes the blockage;
- visualise the desired result, beyond real or imagined obstacles;
- separate the essential, non-negotiable things from the circumstantial ones;
- associate the difficulties with a positive side;
- meditate on the negative consequences of giving up;
- be inspired by others;
- allow myself a moment to breathe and centre myself;
- plant my motivation in the realm of high aspirations.
At the end of the day, motivation is like the daily bath, and we can’t rely on it lasting on its own, just as we can’t rely on deodorant to make up for the lack of soap and water.
Genia Ruscu is 35 years old, graduated from the Faculty of Sociology and Social Work at the University of Bucharest and works in the field of protection of persons with disabilities, recognising every day the importance of self-motivation as an essential element for self-development.