Like everyone else, I’m still in quarantine. Initially, I had intended to use quarantine as an opportunity to dust the cobwebs off of a few long overdue projects. I started off strong, accomplishing tasks and throwing back victories like it was happy hour. As the weeks rolled by, however, I found myself increasingly tired and unmotivated. My progress had ground to a sudden halt. What had happened?
I did some trouble shooting. I spoke with friends, scoured the internet for answers, and reflected on my own life experiences (as I have had lows like this before). The answer to the Harry Hoodini-esq disappearance of my motivation was hidden in three areas- mind, body, and soul. They all work in tandem with one another and after employing a few simple lifestyle changes, my motivation returned. I’ve culled through what I had stumbled upon and compiled it in this post. I hope that it can be of use to y’all: You’re a Ferrari, Write it Down, Be Kind to Your Soul.
You Are a Ferrari
You’re a 1987 Ferrari F40. You’re capable of hitting 199 mph with that twin turbocharge inter-cooled V8 engine. The best part? You have cup holders. You’re absolutely awe inspiring. Well, that shiny Ferrari you’ve become isn’t going to look all that appealing if it’s never given a good wash and wax. More importantly, your fancy turbocharged V8 isn’t going to do jack without gasoline.
In reality, most of us are no Ferrari, myself included. Maybe a Ford Mustang. It’s unlikely that we are at our physical peaks- which makes proper maintenance all the more important. We’ll consistently lose motivation, energy, drive, and all the other synonyms if we don’t treat our bodies well. The concept is muttered so often that it has almost become a cliche, but this isn’t a ‘new age’ health article. It isn’t your mother telling you to eat your vegetables. It’s a guy behind a keyboard speaking from his own experience and as such I’m going to try my best to keep from cramming a ton of bull down your throat. There are three fundamental parts of maintaining your physical health. They’re easy, straightforward, and directly affect your ability to stay energized and motivated.
You’ve got to eat right and more importantly- you have to eat enough. I’m not necessarily talking about staying in shape here. However, eating is very literally the act of fueling up your engine. Certain foods are directly linked to good mental health and maintaining energy. Beans, Oranges, Salmon, Bananas- to name a few. You can Google up lists of foods that are good for this. I’ll even throw a link at the bottom of this post. Additionally, there are foods that will actively make you sluggish, unmotivated, and weak. A ton of white carbs, fast food, energy drinks (the irony of that last one is overwhelming). I’m not saying cut McDonalds out of your life- I love a Double Bacon Smokehouse, but I am saying that you should balance it with foods that will actively rev up your engine. Moderation and balance, it’s the key to everything.
Speaking of moderation, let’s talk about coffee. I love coffee. I’d drink twenty cups a day if it wouldn’t kill me. It’s important to understand, though, that coffee isn’t real energy. It’s packed to the brim with caffeine. Caffeine sees a pickup game of soccer in your brain and hops in front of the A1 receptors that measure how tired you are. Those receptors are waiting for their buddy, Adenosine (the chemical that tells those receptors that you really need to rest), to score a goal. Well, caffeine is a good goalie. As a result, you don’t feel tired. You may even feel energized but that doesn’t mean you aren’t running on empty. Your body still needs that rest and if you go long enough without it you’ll crash into an oblivion. A cup of coffee to clear the morning fog is no problem at all, but it isn’t a substitute for proper sleep and eating.
Your body, like that Ferrari, is designed to run. It’s a scientific truth that the more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have in the future (which seems counter-intuitive, I know). An object in motion stays in motion. An object at rest stays at rest. Physical activity provides a ton of health benefits, not to mention all of the fun endorphins you’ll get afterwards. Many avid runners refer to this as a ‘Runner’s High’.
Running is a drug, kids, don’t do running.
In all seriousness, staying active will physically provide you with more energy to get up and accomplish tasks in the long run. You have to treat your body like a Ferrari. Care for it. Keep it at peak performance. You’ll be happier and more productive if you do.
Write it Down
Mind over matter, as they say. There is a substantial bit of truth to that phrase and more than enough evidence to confirm it. Still, no matter how powerful that hunk of jelly in your skull is, it has to be used strategically. I’ve been here before. I could muster up enough ‘go-getter’ spirit to start something, maybe even multiple somethings, but would fizzle out- unable to finish what I had set out to do. Even worse, the more I’d fizzle out, the more difficult it was to muster up the motivation to start again. In hindsight, I’ve come to realize that I wasn’t being strategic. I was scattered. For instance, I would boldly proclaim that I was going to get in better shape- even make my way to the gym or to a trail to run. Then, I’d do the thing. Exercise. Aimlessly. Maybe I’d do legs. Maybe I’d do upper-body. Who knows? Take a run- for how long? How far? I had no idea, but I was out there sprinting toward success. Right?
No. I was out there wasting my time. I was scattered with no plan or concrete goals in place. When we approach projects with no game-plan, we miss out on two things: goals and steps. The goals set the conditions for success while the steps illuminate the path toward that success. Step onto the field without either of those teammates and you’ve already lost the game (or at least made it significantly harder than it has to be).
So how do we set a game-plan and use our mind effectively? Well, and stay with me here, write it down. That might sound archaic, I know. Writing? With my hands? And paper? I don’t do paper. Yes and no. You can use the ‘Notes’ app on your phone if you’d like, all that matters is that the ideas are written down- but studies show that handwriting information cements it in your mind far more than typing ever could. Either way, you write your game-plan. How might that look?
Depending on the task, you might not be able to achieve it in one sitting. Playing ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash is going to take a bit of time if you’re new to guitar (trust me, I’m in the process of doing it now). So lay out a timeline. Maybe practice for ten minutes a day. Don’t overextend yourself, you know your limits. It could also be productive to set a goal for each ten minute session. You have to set goals in order to know your conditions for success. Without that- you can’t succeed. Being specific is important in this process, so when mapping it out try and write the game-plan as if you were making it for someone else who has no clue where to start. Your mind is a powerful tool but without clear direction it grows frazzled, tired, and unmotivated.
Be Kind to Your Soul
You’ve got to be kind to yourself. Regaining energy and motivation may take time and you have to be understanding of that. If you accomplish a goal that you set- don’t be afraid to reward yourself with a cup of joe or some time at the TV. If you try and muscle your way through tasks, eventually your spirit will give out. Do everything you can to set your mind, body, and soul up for success- that includes being understand to yourself and where you are at. It is okay to recognize that you’ve had a slow day. Maybe you didn’t even touch your checklist. Fine, don’t beat yourself up. Just do a bit better tomorrow. Then a bit better than that the day after.
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Some energizing foods:
Some foods that’ll drain you: