I’ve been feeling a bit unmotivated to get out the door the past few days. True, I have a bit of a cold that I’m dealing with, but that’s not all that’s going on here and I know it. I need to get out and do my physical training, something I usually truly enjoy, and I find myself reluctant even there. The truth is, my big race is coming up and I’m feeling the nerves starting to take hold. That fear and uncertainty are very familiar to me–I feel this way before any big race I do. But, even though I know what is happening, it doesn’t make it any easier to get myself out that door for my final days of training.
What separates the people that are willing to go after their goals relentlessly day in and day out and those who let any speed bump take them off course? It is the willingness to do the things that they have to do even when they don’t feel like it. If we’re honest, there is a great deal of stuff that we don’t feel like doing regardless of how important a goal is to us. In truth, the number one reason we don’t want to do something on a particular day or on a particular task is very simple:
We don’t feel like it.
Our emotions are the number one reason that we do or don’t do anything. A lot of the time the things that govern how we feel and what we will do are the things, places, events, and people that are outside of us. It’s a cloudy day and you don’t feel like running. You have a presentation to give at work and you’re nervous, so you really wish you could just skip it. Your kids are acting up and you can feel yourself being filled with anxiety, so you just turn the volume up on the TV and act like it’s not happening and avoid having to engage.
If we’re honest, this happens to most of us, though it isn’t something we do consciously. No one wants to feel anxiety, fear, uncertainty, or shame. A great deal of the time, even before we get out and start doing whatever it is that we need to do on a given day, we have an overwhelming desire to find a way to avoid doing it. We are already feeling uncomfortable, and, if anyone shares the human qualities that I have, we also feel ashamed about even feeling unmotivated. That’s right: a nice big, heaping scoop of self-judgment on top of the already uncomfortable emotions that are going on inside of us.
It isn’t just us mere mortals that feel this lack of motivation on the regular. Michael Phelps, the winningest gold medalist in the history of the Olympics, when speaking on what it takes to become a great athlete instead of a good one, said, “I guarantee you there were at least 100 days every year where I didn’t want to do anything. But those are the days that you have to, you have to get out of bed and do something. Because those are the days that separate the good from the great.” https://youtu.be/6wbSaAIOdYY
One of the simplest ways is to set small goals – You have to go do your training? Don’t think about the whole distance you need to run or bike, just think about getting your shoes on and getting out the door. Once you get going, then set your next goal (for me it’s, “Ok, I’m going to just walk for the first five minutes, and then I’ll start to run.”). You’ve got that presentation to give at work: set aside ten minutes before the meeting to read through your presentation one time, really focusing on it, or taking a short walk to help yourself center before you begin. The kids jumping off the walls? Focus on reducing your anxiety by taking three slow, deep breaths, before you decide how you will address their behavior.
Another is to see your uncomfortable emotions as part of the process – If you’re a regular follower of mine, you know that I teach that every emotion has some information to give us. Anxiety, shame, fear, frustration–while we don’t like how these emotions feel inside us, when we take a moment to think about why we are feeling them, we open ourselves to the information they are trying to give. Feel nervous to give this presentation at work? Is it because you aren’t well-prepared, or will there be a person in the room who is difficult or you want to impress? Feel unmotivated to train? Do you have a big race coming up, or no race at all, so you’re left wondering ‘what’s the use’? Anxious about the kids acting up? Are you tired, hungry, or just out of ideas about how to engage them? Or maybe these emotions don’t have anything to do with the issue at hand, but have their root in something else altogether that you’ve not been acknowledging for yourself.
When we take a moment to understand the information our emotions are giving us, they can actually become a valuable source of motivation.
So, I’m going to take a bit of my own advice: I’m nervous about my race coming up, sure. However, my lack of motivation to get out the door today is because I have this cold and I’m remembering a time when I raced with the flu (and another time with shingles!). I’m going to heed the information my emotions are giving me and dial back my training a bit today, running slower and not as long, so that I don’t tax my body unduly as it is working to recover from this cold. I can acknowledge that I have done solid training for this race and a few days of a lighter load won’t negate that. And, as Phelp’s said, these are the days that separate the good from the great. Time to lace on my shoes and start by walking…
If you would like to learn tools and skills to help you improve your emotional aptitude, reduce your emotional isolation, lessen your avoidance of shame, fear, and anxiety, and enable you to reach your goals, break old habits, or create new ones, I can help. We can meet virtually or in person at my office in Waterbury, Vermont. Just click the button or the link below for a free consultation and let’s talk.
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