“This is a great start.” Huh? I looked up from my Grade 12 teacher’s wooden desk. “Yeah, you’ll need more quotes to support your second and third arguments…” my teacher continued on, suggesting ways to improve my paper.
A great start… Unlike some other students, I hadn’t taken the opportunity to get feedback on my paper, ashamed to show my teacher the minimal amount of work I had done. “Do you have anything to show me Jewelle?” He asked, noticing that I stayed back. “I haven’t really written much yet,” I said, hoping to hide my lack of progress. “That’s okay, just bring up what you’ve got.” Shoot. I took longer than necessary to gather my papers and hesitantly made my way over to his desk. My anxiety mounted as he read over my paper.
I’m sure my surprise was visible when he looked up and complimented my work. This is a great start was not the feedback I had expected to hear. It certainly wasn’t what I was telling myself. Looking back now, I realize it was true. It was a great start. I had a look more work ahead of me, but I had started well. His words brought a huge sense of relief – biting into the anxiety that was further preventing me from working on my paper. I knew I hadn’t done as much work as I should have – I’m sure he knew it too – however, his encouraging words gave me motivation to spend more time working on my paper. It took a long time, but eventually I learned to encourage myself as well. Even when I haven’t accomplished as much as I would like, I can congratulate myself for what I have done well and let that motivate me to do more.
Motivation, Guilt and Shame
As promised, let’s return to our conversation about negative feelings associated with lack of motivation. In my last article, Staying Productive While Unmotivated, we established that guilt and shame can naturally arise when low motivation impacts our productivity. However, these emotions can weigh us down in the long run.
Feelings of guilt or shame indicate that you have taken the time to reflect on yourself or your actions. This is important because self-reflection is key to making important changes in your life. If guilt or shame are your primary reactions to feeling unmotivated, the good news is you are thinking about your current state and what that means. The unfortunate news is that your evaluations of the situation and self are probably off. Rather than spending our emotional energy being disappointed with ourselves – further marinating in our problems – we can use our energy for problem solving. To overcome guilt and shame, you need to correct whatever wrong has occurred. Obviously not as simple as it sounds, because motivation struggles arise again and again. This is where strategies come in. It’s important to determine which thoughts and actions will help us rise above those not-so-productive moments.
Forgiveness as a First Step
Forgiveness is one way to get past the guilt and shame felt when unmotivated. It might seem a bit dramatic, but when I am disappointed or even angry at my lack of productivity, one of the first things I do is forgive myself. For me, it is key to getting out of the rut that I fall into when I don’t believe that I am doing as well as I should. Forgiveness means that I stop mentally berating myself and redirect my thoughts towards solutions. It means that shame is no longer an additional reason to avoid the things I need to do. I can move towards that task or responsibility, knowing that I need to do something about it while releasing the burden of feeling ‘bad’ because of it.
More Motivation Tips
Amira Abdelrahim, First Work’s Youth Council Member, has shared five awesome motivation tips with me. Are they similar to any of your strategies? Hopefully next time you feel overwhelmed, you put a few of these into action!
- Create a mind map of what your goals look like one month from now, a year, five, ten and so on. The mind gets so clustered and shadowed by daily activities that sometimes it becomes hard to see the purpose of why we wake up every day and do what we do. Having a mind map or a goal board is a visual representation of our purpose.
- Surround yourself with like minded people. People who share the same goals or values as you will always help you remember to stay on track and boost your excitement to do more. This is also a way of learning and building connections within your community which could potentially benefit you down the road.
- Look up to leaders who have achieved the same goals you are trying to achieve. This lets you know that it is possible, but it’s also okay to take a different route. Not everyone uses the same road to get to where they are.
- Trust the process and have a positive mindset. The biggest block to humans is what goes on inside their heads. The second you tell yourself you can’t, your brain will probably believe it. Staying motivated needs a positive outlook even in negative situations. It is totally human to have bad days, but that’s when it’s important to initiate discipline.
- Don’t put more on your plate than you can handle. Focus on your top three main goals that you need to complete. Keeping it simple is important so that you don’t burn yourself out. Humans always seem to be in a rush for time, but try to remember that the only time that matters is how long you need.
I especially love the fourth tip. Amira acknowledges the important role of self-discipline in changing negative thought patterns associated with low motivation. Her point about different routes being suited to different people is also an extremely important lesson. Which tips resonate most with you? Now, I just need to set some time aside and put this great advice into action! Cheers to you as you keep finding ways to work through struggles with motivation!
This blog post was written by Jewelle Edwards of the First Work Youth Council.