Let's be real: I am not a motivated person right now. Every morning I lay in bed, hours after my alarm clock goes off, wishing it was still dark outside so I can feel better about remaining in bed. Since I graduated, I haven’t quite found a schedule that inspires discipline in me the way college did.
When I get out of bed, late morning, close to noon, I feel as though I have lost precious time that I could have utilized to figure out what to do next in my life. Yet, I can’t stop it. My body does not want to get up and I sleep in every morning.
Every time I sat down to write about this theme, I turned away thinking how could I write about something that I haven’t mastered. I felt like a fraud trying to think of tips to share when I struggle to follow any of them myself. As someone who also struggles with depression, motivation is the topic of avoidance. I don’t want to think about all the stuff I’m not accomplishing. It makes me feel shitty about myself.
I brought this up to my therapist, telling her that I don’t know what to do next and I hate myself for not knowing what I want in life. She comforted me by telling me that maybe sleeping in is just what my body needs right now. I spent the last few years in school, waking up early, remaining very busy, and now that I don’t have so much of a strict, filled schedule my body wants to enjoy the hours that I have where I can lay in bed longer. She reminded me that it doesn’t mean I’m going to be doing that forever. As for the freshly graduated thing, she explained that it’s okay to take my time, especially if I don’t know what I’m working towards right now.
School gave me a set destination that I was striving towards for the last several years. Now that I’ve graduated, my mind is overwhelmed with all the possibilities that I can begin to attempt. That’s the barrier between me and my goals: getting started. I struggle with severe self-limiting beliefs. It’s hard for my mind to be in a place where it feels like it can achieve anything. With that, I rarely start new projects, cutting myself short before I even start.
The other day, my manager sat me down to talk about my development at work. I’ve been with the company so long now that he figured I didn’t need a conversation about work, but about purpose and direction. He told me to write a list of things that I want to do and achieve. My therapist agreed that doing this would be beneficial for me. She also told me not to set a number to how many goals there should be and not to force myself to sit down and think about them–to let them come to me in their own time and jot them down in my phone or a piece of paper near me.
Here’s what I’ve gathered so far, realizing that I am due for some major traveling:
Travel to a new city alone
See the Northern Lights
Practice the keyboard
Start a compost
Paint a painting
Write a book with photographs
Bike somewhere instead of drive
Read at least 20 books this year
Make a new friend
Hike once every month
Go outside every day
Some of these goals are harder to achieve than others, and I recognize that. I don't need to have it all figured out right now, but I can start recording some of my desires to help get a sense of who I am.
Depression doesn’t have to stop you from trying.
Just to get started on this piece, I wrote a list of things I wanted to accomplish today. I knew that if I built momentum and started accomplishing little tasks it would set me up to take on the piece. I showered, threw a load of laundry in, washed the dishes from last night, swept the kitchen, and made myself an iced tea. Those little accomplishments brightened me up and encouraged me to keep going.
It’s not always easy, and I’m lucky to have support from a therapist to help me stay on track, but I want to remind you that it's okay to mess up, to not get things done, to start over every day.
You are your toughest critic.
My therapist also assured me that I am too hard on myself. And it really got me thinking about how much of my limitations come from my chatty brain. When I realized this, I started monitoring my thoughts, feelings, and reactions to daily things to really pin down what my roadblocks are. I bring these to therapy to receive support on how to manage them.
Here are some tips that have helped me, and just a reminder, I'm not perfect and they don’t always work for me and that's okay. It's hard to take your own advice sometimes. I hope that you can feel supported by these and if you have any better tips, please comment below.
Tips to practice self-motivation:
1. Steer away from perfectionism. Perfectionists rarely accomplish their goals because they tend to not get started on projects in fear that they will not be perfect on the first try. This is unrealistic thinking as we are supposed to mess up and make mistakes. This is how we learn. I struggle with this behavior, especially when it comes to writing. As I’ve written more blog posts, I've come to terms with accepting that things are never going to be perfect, and I will only get better with practice and persistence.
2. Start small with goals. If goals are too lofty they will be harder to achieve, leaving us defeated because of no real accomplishments. Starting with smaller goals helps build momentum for us to strive further. If we break big goals into smaller ones, it's like we're creating a path for us to get to the big dream.
I like to think about how I never would have thought that I’d be writing for a blog one day. Instead of wishing for it to happen, I decided to study English in college. This gave me the opportunity to enroll in creative writing workshops, which introduced me to other individuals who enjoyed writing. A peer mentioned the COLA internship program at UNLV which led me to discover a writing position at the Love Yourself Foundation. Getting here didn’t magically happen. It took one step at a time.
3. Reflect often. It’s okay to not end up liking the thing that you thought you wanted to do.
Sometimes we try to convince ourselves that we still have passion when we really don’t. Make sure you’re checking in with your progress, every month or so, and if weeks go by and you lose the desire. Don't beat yourself up for not accomplishing everything at the time you wanted. Do not get mad at yourself. Give yourself a break.
A way that I like to make sure that I am continually checking in with my progress is by following the moon cycles. Every new moon I like to write down how I have been feeling, what I have accomplished recently, and what I want to achieve next. Every full moon I check in to see if what I wrote down still rings true and if I accomplished any of the goals I wanted to achieve. You don’t have to use the moon, but I find it to be an easy reminder to check in every two weeks
4. Take care of yourself (always). Always make sure that your needs are being met. We can get so involved in achieving something that we neglect the signals our bodies are sending. If we’re in a good mental state it's easier to keep ourselves on track because we are more prepared for hiccups on our paths. This is to say that if you notice that a goal no longer makes you happy, it's okay to take a break from it and come back to it at a later time or to never go back at all.
I struggled to write this very paragraph because I wanted it to be some grand conclusion, but I soon realized that I was falling into perfectionist territory. I don’t know if it will ever not be hard to be consumed by this thinking, but I do know that the more I become aware of it, the easier it is to understand it and try to change it. We are all only human, and all we can ever do is our best. Some days our best is getting out of bed and some days it's running a marathon (or somewhere in between).
About the Author
Born and raised in Las Vegas, Alex graduated from UNLV in 2021 with a BA in English and a concentration in creative writing. When she isn’t reading, she enjoys music, concerts, traveling, vegan/vegetarian food, and spending time with her rottweiler, Roxy. She is passionate about mental health and hopes to spread awareness through her writing.