Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life.
I have lost count of how many times I’ve sworn that mantra for solace.
Having motivation is a many-faceted concept. It can be psychological, physiological and existential. It can be conscious and unconscious. Motivation can be the difference between thinking “I can do this” and simply giving up, doing nothing and swearing that proverbial ‘tomorrow’ oath over and over. Motivation is inseparable from emotion and behaviour – having a somewhat cyclical nature of action and reaction, the words motivation and emotion are both built on the same Latin root, ‘movere’ which means ‘to move’. Motivation can be too extreme and too lacking and how we deal with either the abundance or scarcity is entirely personal. Something unique to each human.
Our behaviours are directed by motives or goals that we identify as important and when we are consciously making an effort towards achieving these we can change our behaviour. However, when we are less focused on these goals our internal, implicit or unconscious motives are more than likely to be fallen back on. It is here that we can truly make the difference; by working on our internal and intrinsic motivations, by assessing and understanding what we want and why we want it we can perhaps be more likely to “fall back on” behaviour that is better for us.
Motives can be internal,’intrinsic’ and external, ‘extrinsic’. Motivation is affected by that age-old battle between nature vs nurture – the idea that the way we are as humans is caused by our genes, our environment and our culture, and frustratingly, nobody seems to know which is the greater influence. Goals are accordingly tied to ‘nurture’: emotions, thoughts, memories and arousal and cannot be simplified without discrediting what it is to be an individual, to be a human. However, ‘nature’ weighs in when we look at the strength of our conviction to fight for these goals, there are basic human drives that we seek to satisfy with every action, whether it be deliberate or indeliberate – security, autonomy, environmental mastery, relational intimacy and self actualisation.
The goals or ‘drives’ we have are two-pronged: what it is we want and how potent our desire is to do it. Surely there must be another prong in the fork of motivation – why do we have these goals? There is much evidence to suggest that ‘nurture’ plays an integral role in the early and unconscious formation of these – what is important to us can stem from experiences as early as toilet training. It’s a scary thought, that because our parents decided to do something one particular way, we might be insufferably competitive or flacidly ineffective as adults because our desire to achieve or give up, to succeed or fail, to attempt or not even try is thoroughly ingrained on a long term basis.
Why am I speaking about motivation? I feel as though I owe you, dear reader, an explanation. I am perplexed by my own lack of motivation. I have some kind of block in achieving some goals in the myriad of goals I seek to fulfill. I want to not only understand why but to change my behaviour permanently. I don’t understand why I can achieve a university degree with first class honors (a degree that I wasn’t at all convinced I wanted) and yet cannot apply and sustain attempts to alter my soul-destroying insomnia.
Should I perhaps start by asking my parents to revisit their child-rearing techniques? By asking them to recall whether I was fearful of challenge and change and requirement? But of course, I already know I am overtly competitive and have outrageously high expectations of myself and what I can achieve. But at the same time, I don’t believe that my expectations are too high, I believe I can achieve anything I set out to achieve, what feels lacking in me is my motivation to achieve. I just can’t seem to move myself towards anything. Self pitying doesn’t get me far because I know that once entered into, the spiral of depression and self-degradation is one into which I readily fall and somewhat relish in, pathetic as it may seem. It could be down to the fact that I do achieve things, but these things I never view as actual achievements. I view them as not enough, not good enough, not what I actually wanted to achieve. Could this be because my goals are not right? Could it be because I haven’t defined my goals and the proverbial bar keeps being raised just beyond my reach by my own wishy-washiness? My lack of definition and understanding of myself?
Why do I care? Because I cannot stand the thought of being mediocre. I constantly feel uncomfortable and yet unable to do anything about my aching desire to change. I am scared and scarred by the feeling that the last time I got close to achieving a goal I felt was truly important to me, I was actually killing myself with anorexia nervosa. Kind of depressing. Maybe I lack the motivation and the goal. I feel passionless because, as I had pointed out to me, I do just expect to have my passion fall into my lap.
So what I am motivated to find is me. What I am passionate about and what I am going to do about it. I am lucky enough to be embarking upon an amazing, life-changing and altogether motivational journey around the world with the love of my life in less than a month. I know I am out there and in here somewhere and I can’t wait to begin this journey of discovery.