Countless motivational sites, free email subscriptions to daily motivational quotes, and well-intended “uplifting” rhetoric from every talking head on the tube, have combined to dilute the value of what we know as “motivation.”
Like the calluses our hands develop from overuse, or our desensitization to gut wrenching news stories, anything in excess somehow loses its impact.
Yet, from time-to-time, we all need a kick in the arse, a bit of motivation to keep us headed in the direction of our goals, to help us focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.
I got one such kick in the arse this morning. Literally wakened from a deep sleep by what sounded like a gun blast, I flew out from my covers and raced into my kitchen. Expecting to see that a murder had taken place, my heart did not return to its normal rhythm for at least an hour in spite of the fact that it had been an alarming false alarm.
All was well. There were no blood splatters covering the walls as I’d envisioned in the split second it took me to sprint from bedroom to kitchen. But, in that split second, I felt a panic like I’d never before experienced. I saw in my minds eye the lifeless body of one of my sons. I saw myself standing before a judge, shackled, explaining my parental neglect — for what, I did not know, but it was somehow my fault. I’m the Mom, after all.
There have been other moments when I’ve been shocked into the awareness of life’s value. There was that time that a sudden case of blood poisoning caused a near-death experience in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital; I saw the bright light about which I’ve heard so many stories, and my world changed forever. Or, there was the time that one of my son’s went into anaphylactic shock from a medication allergy. I stood frozen in time as the EMT performed CPR for 40 minutes before my boy was stable enough to be transferred by helicopter to the hospital.
There are more stories — stories a person never forgets. And whether it happened this morning or in a decade past, there is something about the way one’s every living cell is shaken to its core that acts as a forever reminder:
Life is valuable. Every day counts. Don’t waste it.
WHEN A STORM HITS
You’ve probably heard this analogy before, but it bears repeating…
The calm before a storm is a warning for us to batten down the hatches. As the wind blows, the rain pelts down, and lightening intensifies the atmosphere, we are often mesmerized by the furry of Mother Nature. We hope our roofs remain strong and that the trees bend instead of break.
When it’s over, Mother Nature changes her tune. Crickets chirp and birds begin to sing as the sun peaks up over the horizon. With the ending storm and the new day, the atmosphere is somehow refreshed and detoxified. It’s an unmistakable “newness” that stimulates and invigorates all living creatures.
Our lives are no different. The calm before a life-storm is most often taken for granted. We go about our routines, ignorant of the warnings that a storm is approaching. And when it does — when we lose our jobs or our marriage or a loved-one — we worry our way through it. Some get lost in the darkness of it, unable to find the light, unable to see that all things happen for a reason (if you believe that theory, as I do).
Unlike the furry of the weather however, our personal storms are susceptible to control. Very often, we have the power to end the storm, to take the steps necessary to find our way through to a detoxified and invigorating opportunity.
HARDSHIPS & HAPPINESS
I’ve always believed that those who suffer the most are also those who most appreciate the good in life. It’s a matter of balance; without the negative, there would not be a positive. If we didn’t know pain, we couldn’t know pleasure. And for those of us who have experienced more than our fair share of storms, so too are we able to experience and properly value the simple pleasures: a family dinner full of chatter and laughter; the peacefulness of a sleeping dog; the burned toast and watery orange juice made by a significant other who means well.
Unemployment, particularly, is an especially difficult storm to ride out, as many of us know. When the money runs out and there are no interviews on the calendar, it’s easy to fall into that black pit of depression that can snake it’s way in and hold on tight. We feel that one more rejection note, or one more dead end, might just be the final straw. We need something to motivate us and to remind us that “this, too, shall pass.”
When our personal storms seem to go on indefinitely, it’s time for a new approach. Perhaps you’ve been fighting the tide, trying to return to the place where you began. You neglect to look forward, finding yourself saying, “I wish we could just return things to normal.”
Normal is as normal does.
Dr. Phil McGraw (who, frankly, is not my favorite TV personality) is famous for the line, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” It’s such a simple question that he asks of someone who is otherwise in an apparently complex situation. As a shaken and defensive guest attempts to explain the reasons behind his action or inaction in response to a crisis, it begs the question, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”
And it is that simple. If what you are doing hasn’t ended the storm, it’s time to do something else. Change your approach. Change your attitude. Change your hair-style. Whatever it takes, make a change.
Most people fear change, and it is that fear that keeps us stagnate. But like the newness after an electrical storm, we have nothing to fear about ending our current personal nightmare. This means we may have to change our perspective about what “ending it” means — but, again, it takes a change in something.
It may not make a difference what you change, so long as you make a change. The following suggestions may seem “pointless,” and some of them may in fact be an exercise in futility. But, so long as you try something new, you’ll change the energy that surrounds your life. And often, that is all it takes:
- Rearrange your furniture.
- Cut / color your hair.
- Begin a simple exercise routine.
- Wear shoes around the house — shoes with ties.
- Dress for success, even at home.
- Clean out that junk drawer into which everything disappears.
- Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in 6+ months, and meet for lunch.
- Write a letter to someone you love — using pen and paper, not the keyboard.
- Watch cartoons.
- Look through photo albums that are gathering dust on your shelves.
- Love to read fiction? Read non-fiction — or vice versa.
- Do nothing for an entire day without feeling guilty.
- Start a blog, and make a daily entry. Don’t worry if others read it or even if it reads well; just do it.
- Clean out your closet and donate to a local shelter or other cause.
- Donate two hours a week to someone who will value your time (a charity, an elderly neighbor, the library, an adult literacy program, and so on.)
- Become a Foster home for your nearby animal shelter.
- Throw a small dinner party just to celebrate your friendships. (Spaghetti & salad is inexpensive; they can bring the wine!)
Again — though you may not understand or see the point behind the change, do it for the sake of doing something different. Step out of that box that is holding you down, make a change, and move forward.
Are you stuck in a storm of some sort, nearing the edge of a debilitating depression? Have you “tried everything” to fight your way out, only to feel that the cement is drying faster than your ability to reach the edge?
Whatever your personal situation, if it’s motivation that you lack, then make a change. Sometimes it is as simple as changing your mind, your perspective, or your attitude. Other times, it may mean a move across the country to a new state, a new home, with new friends. But change is inevitably the answer.
In a split second, change can be forced upon us without warning. It can be something that is welcomed, or something that puts the fear of God into us. There’s little as motivating as a wake-up call about the value of life. Most often, however, it will be a change of our own making — our own design to end the storm.
It takes faith, faith in the knowledge that “this, too, shall pass,” and that we are not powerless. To keep your chin up, you must look forward. It’s the only direction we are capable of traveling.