The desperate struggle for motivation

For those of you suffering from a severe lack of motivation, Opinion Editor Khalil Gordon offers a handful of potential solutions and assures you that you are not alone in your sentiment.

Anyone else chronically tired? No? Just me? (Unsplash)

I don’t know how many of you reading this now have been tracking my journalistic career, but each year I noticed a very pronounced change in the articles I choose to write. 

In my humble opinion, I feel as though my writing has certainly changed for the better. My writing freshman year could easily be categorized as a grab bag of random topics that caught my attention on any given week. They were generally short, awkwardly written, and more often than not didn’t add much to any existing discourse, but they were mine and I’m proud of them. 

My sophomore year I tried to pick more relevant topics. My analytical skills sharpened and my articles grew in length. It was the perfect midpoint between what I had been doing, and what I wanted the section to look like going forward. I think this generally makes sense given my motivation to keep writing each year. 

My freshman year I wanted to be a better writer, my sophomore year I wanted to be better informed on current events, and last semester I wanted to take the section in a more substantive direction. My one oversight in this regard was that I…am tired, so very very tired. 

I feel like this is not a story unique to me in that regard. The story of becoming more and more demotivated as you get older, feel less and less enthusiastic about what it is that you do and you continue to do more and more things. Last semester was perhaps the biggest workload I’d ever had in my life; this semester is not much better in that regard, and while I’m not as melancholic as I have been in previous years, I’m not especially bright eyed and bushy tailed. 

I think it’s safe to say that people in general have been struggling to find motivation these past few months, heck this past year now, I suppose. As someone who tends to heavily rely on external motivators — I need to look a professor in the eye and know I’d be letting them down in order to get work done — the switch to online learning has not been easy for me. But I’ve already discussed that topic to death and to do so here would simply be redundant. I think my point is that I yearn to go back to a time in my life when energy and motivation came incredibly easy to me. 

Admittedly speaking, I’ve been using these articles as a good opportunity to rant for the past few issues. So in an attempt to turn that around, I think I’ll borrow a page from my younger self’s book and try to write and try to come up with some solutions to this issue.

First things first, I think that a key factor in being self motivated is setting realistic expectations for yourself. I know that I often expect myself to be able to handle much more than I realistically can. You can blame that on being a “gifted child” cursed with a somewhat inflated sense of my capabilities. 

That coupled with perfectionism generally leads to me having a lot of projects that I take on thinking I can manage, and then abandoning or avoiding when I can’t do them perfectly. If you are in this boat then I think the solution is fairly obvious: do less. This can be either literally taking on less tasks, or being less concerned with perfection in the tasks you do complete. But it’s not enough to just tell you to do this.

 I know first-hand that it is not that easy. To that effect I recommend keeping a log of what you need to complete, and don’t just list the project, but the actual steps you need to complete it. The rush from checking something off your list can often help motivate you in completing the next thing, and it’s a less intimidating mindset than just expecting to complete the entire project in one sitting. 

I think the next thing is that you should generally try to do things you are interested in. A no brainer, to be frank, but you will often find that you simply can’t expect to like doing every responsibility you have. This is sometimes useful to find some way to reward yourself for engaging with it, either from working with a partner you like and mutually keeping each other accountable for completing work, or treating yourself to a food or activity you enjoy whenever you complete a part of the work.

I think the last thing I will bring up is therapy. A lot of the things that I just noted are the barebones, Google search results for how to find motivation. For something more personal to you I think it is imperative to have a trained professional offer their opinion on your situation. The school has counselors on hand that you can schedule meetings with for free, but you can just go to third party clinics if you choose to as well. 

Whether your struggles originated with the pandemic or are merely exacerbated by them, everyone is having a difficult time right now. But alas, the world hasn’t stopped. It’s barely even slowed, and while it’s unideal, there have not been many accommodations to acknowledge the mental toll our current situation is having on people. 

Therefore, it is important to be aware of your own mental state and how to best navigate this new frontier. Motivation is notoriously unreliable, but maybe you can rangle it just long enough to build a habit of it. 

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