Sustaining Motivation in a Pandemic

I am excited to talk through the topic of staying motivated in the midst of this pandemic. 

We’re officially halfway through the dumpster fire that 2020 has turned out to be and if you are familiar with my LifeTracker Planner philosophy and all the work I’ve done in the past on goal attainment and motivation theory – and I do a lot of this around the New Year in terms of the podcast, you know that there is a natural rhythm to our motivation that moves in a cycle. And when we are in what I call the murky middle, the confusing middle where the novelty of the new year has already well worn off – even the novelty of kind of running on adrenaline when the pandemic first hit has also worn off, whenever you are pursuing a goal, you have a natural spike in motivation at the very beginning of that pursuit. 

I don’t know about y’all, but I have been waking up lately feeling a little bit of dread just feeling heavy, feeling exhausted, and feeling beleaguered. If you find yourself feeling demotivated, sluggish, and kind of like an existential crisis in terms of what does it all mean? Why does this even matter? Know that you’re in good company.

Today, I want to quickly share tips for how to hack into your motivation, while accepting where you’re at and how to love yourself regardless of how productive you are.

Here are five ways to think about motivation – where we are collectively right now, and how we can keep getting up every day, even when the challenges ahead of us are so uncertain. 


Know the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation

The first thing to keep in mind is the difference between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. The extrinsic motivation is when we feel motivated to grow our paychecks for wealth, power, fame, or to avoid punishment.

Intrinsic motivation is about doing what you want to do for personal reward alone, like helping other people, participating in something enjoyable like a hobby or sports, or studying a fascinating subject to getting lost on a click on the internet trying to find more information about something you care about. It tends to be not only more forceful, but also more fulfilling and a lot of us right now find the external or extrinsic motivation to feel especially meaningless right now. 

What actually matters most to us is our loved ones’ safety, helping others, doing something that feels like it’s moving the world in the right direction, especially as we see the conversation around the movement for black lives rising in the press and getting long-overdue attention. 

I think it’s caused a lot of us to ask big questions. Like what is this all mean? Why am I even here on this planet? And what this moment in time actually means to me?

Our first job is to find meaning and maybe it’s not that far away right? Maybe it’s right in our neighborhoods where an elderly neighbor needs our help or a family member is struggling and we can be influential in our own communities first, right? 

You don’t need to look too far outside of ourselves to be influential and find meaning in helping others.

Embrace generosity

If you’re struggling with motivation right now, embrace generosity. There is plenty of science showing that altruistic behavior – helping others, actually gives us a boost of happiness.

In episode 130 with Dr. Laurie Santos, who is a professor at Yale studying happiness and well-being, she shares how to boost your everyday well-being. This is super important to remember that one of the fastest ways to boost your own happiness by actually helping others is its own reward. So think about how you can give back right now to your community and to your family. 

Ask yourself, ‘How can I be of service right now?’ I guarantee you if you are feeling depressed, hopeless, or overwhelmed, helping others in a meaningful way by just donating to a cause that you feel strongly about will make you feel better and will help you keep moving forward

Break down big goals into small chunks

We need to set ourselves up for really short-term goals from talking about what can I do today to feel better? What can I do this week to take control of my destiny? What can I do? This month and honestly, instead of thinking year-long goals instead or even quarterly goals, we might want to give ourselves permission to move the finish line closer and stay focused on micro-movement in the direction of your desire. 

If you’re struggling with not having long-term plans, give yourself permission to focus on the few weeks ahead of us at the absolute maximum, and suspend your planner persona. It suspends your need to know what’s going to happen next because you don’t know, just hope for the best and prepare for the worst. 

At the end of the day, we need to embrace uncertainty and accept it radically. 


Stop playing the “what if” game

When all of us are feeling cooped up and feeling the need to escape our realities right now, we tend to want to escape. We play out escapist fantasy in some of our heads – mine included, but that can be very detrimental to acceptance, which is that stage of grief that many of us find ourselves in right now. We’ve been mourning the loss of the year we thought we were going to have. 

If we allow ourselves to fully and truly accept that loss, we’d move into that final stage of grief. But if we want to get there, we have to stop playing the What if? game. 

It’s really not good for your mental health. So try not to talk about or think about the what ifs. If they haunt you, if they keep playing in a loop in your track, write it out on a piece of paper in a journal somewhere and then close the book on it because we have to accept where we are right now without fantasizing that way. 


Plan something special to look forward to

My final strategy here for sustaining motivation in this very traumatizing time is to plan something special to have something to look forward to. Think about what you can start planning right now that will give you something to look forward to in the near-term future. 

if you’re feeling a lack of motivation, give yourself something on the horizon at the end of the week at the end of the day. What can you do to delight yourself? Make it a priority, and frankly, I want to hear about it because we could all use some ideas from each other right now. 

The unfortunate reality is that we are not out of the woods yet. We’ve got a long way to go. We still need to be safe. We still need to be cautious. Wear your face mask, please. Let’s not relax too much right? 

Let’s not pretend like this is all behind us because it’s not. Instead, let’s embrace where we are and recommit to having the resilience that we need to get through this together. 


What are you doing to delight yourself? 

What are you and your family, or your partner, or your friends doing to keep yourselves out of the psychological gutter and the murky middle that is such a motivation killer right now? I would love to hear from you. I hope this helped keep you motivated, or at least helped you feel less hopeless and less depressed and less distraught about what we are all navigating right now. 






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