Do you ever just feel ‘blah’? Not unhappy, or depressed, or sad. Just a bit……’meh’.
I’ve been feeling like this for a lot of this year, and some of 2015. A lot of friends I speak to are feeling the same. I don’t know what the problem is. Maybe it’s the incessantly grey weather, the cold, the dark evenings, the aftermath of Christmas…..not sure. I keep wondering where the vibrancy I once had has gone. The days when I would jump out of bed in the mornings excited to get ready, excited to go out, excited to do things. I’d make a healthy lunch to take to work, spend time considering my clothes, makeup and hair for that day, and would be on the early bus so I could get to work with plenty of time to spare. I’d spend the day running round the building at work, finishing this task and that task with energy and enthusiasm. At home, I’d do a work out, then make myself something tasty but healthy to eat. I’d text, call, write, laugh, email, sing, dance, daydream, plan, envision. You know, I’d just get things done. I’d go to bed feeling like I’d achieved things, however small. Then the next morning I’d get up and do it all again with vigour.
These days (or weeks; maybe even months?) things have been less, shall we say, productive. I’ve been hitting the snooze button over and over in the mornings. Since I’m then running late, I grab whatever bundle of clothing is easiest to get to in the wardrobe, whether it all goes together or not. I’ll throw on a bit of mascara and concealer (if I’m not running for the bus….sometimes I skip makeup altogether, which seems so strange to me considering how much I love makeup). At work the ‘whatevs’ attitude has been slightly more prevalent than it should be some days. I’ve been striving to see the point of what I do, but sometimes feel so bored that I can barely lift my fingers to type an email. Back at home, I’ll eat whatever I want and more. I won’t work out, I won’t read my beloved books and I won’t write on my beloved blog. I’ll watch a ton of TV (The Walking Dead anyone? Flippin’ amazing show) and play games on my iPad. OK, it’s not exactly unhealthy but it isn’t helping me reach my goals anytime soon.
I like goals. I think the setting and reaching of goals is essential to my wellbeing. I have always been the type to strive for more. Academically, professionally, and personally. It makes me feel like I am going somewhere and allows me to keep track of my (cringe) ‘journey’ through life.
So where is that drive and determination that once got me my Masters degree, and made me train for and run the London Marathon, and made me start that novel I want to write (currently unfinished along with the rest of my ideas), and that made me want to be the best I could be, every day? The answer is, I have absolutely no idea. I am certainly not depressed or going through any kind of life trauma. There is nothing wrong at all in my life. I am very lucky, I have nothing to complain about, and I am grateful for all the blessings I have. Like most people, I feel could do with more cash in my life, have the perfect solution for these ever-deepening lines and wrinkles, and suddenly be able to locate to a bigger house to live in that I can afford. But I know those things are not essential to happiness and are not currently affecting my washed-out motivation levels. I feel guilty even writing about this. And, again, I have absolutely no idea what’s caused this.
I have always been, and still am, a firm believer in the mantra that if you want to change something, and you can change it, then you should do that ASAP. I want to change this lacklustre outlook of mine back to the colourful, energetic one I once had. And I am in the process of doing just that. I am getting there slowly, day by day, and seeing the results of some practical steps I’m taking to get out of this slump. I’m sharing them here, in the hope that it helps anyone else suffering from the curse of feeling ‘blah’.
10 Steps To Get Motivated
1) Breathe: remain peaceful, serene, and don’t panic. Different moods and phases come and go throughout our lives, and this is just another of those moods or phases. This too shall pass (but we can speed it up a little, which is the whole point of this post). Fretting over your lack of direction or missing mojo won’t help at all. Take a breath, step back and chill. You can deal with this.
2) Congratulate yourself: ask yourself, what have I achieved in my life? Don’t say ‘nothing’. I did an exercise once with a life coach, where she asked me to write down my proudest achievements. I named two (the ones above: my Masters and running a marathon), which were both a few years ago and which led me to think I have done nothing with my life since. She thought that was ridiculous, and made me really sift through my past and look for the other gems in there. I ended up with a much longer list than I ever expected, pulled from events and choices I thought were insignificant if you’re looking for an ‘achievement’. For example, I raised over £2000 for charity before I ran that marathon, and more afterwards. I once packed my belongings in to my car and moved to a city by myself that I had never been to before (I was very brave/reckless in my early 20s!). I got through the death of my dad when I was 13 years old. I was once pretty good at playing the saxophone. I coped with living all by myself for several years and managed my own household. I have taught myself to cook. I am reliable and loyal, and have stayed true to myself. I can thread my own eyebrows. I started a blog. It doesn’t have to be something huge and drastic. Write your list and put down everything you have done, however small or seemingly insignificant you think it might sound to others.
3) Remind yourself of the present: where are you now? What would happen to you or to others if you didn’t do what you are doing now? How vital is your work/help/voice/talent? Although I am by no means an expert at what I do in my day job, there are many things I naturally do well there. Many things would not get done as well if I didn’t do them. At home, I don’t have children but I do have a cat (haha). He has health problems as well as severe anxiety (basically from spending the first seven years of his life in a cage before he was rescued). His life would not be as happy or healthy if I didn’t care for him the way I do. Hopefully that statement also applies to my fiance 🙂 My family and friends love me, and I love them. They enrich my life and I theirs. OK, I am really racking my brains now for more examples from me, but reading back, these are not small things and are all things to be proud of. I expect you will have similar examples and plenty of others that describe how you bring value to your life and the lives of those around you.
4) See yourself as a whole: after following steps two and three, you should now be able to view yourself fully as an individual with some great and unique achievements in your past, and a valuable and meaningful present. Now ask yourself: what does this say about the kind of person I am? If you started a blog, you are courageous. Not everyone is confident enough to put their own voice out there. If you moved somewhere new, you are OK with being out of your comfort zone and are confident and brave in the face of unfamiliarity. If you have had children, you have overcome any initial fears this life change might have triggered, have been strong enough to give birth, and now are able to nurture and develop the life of another human being. If you ever started an exercise regime, you know you can be motivated and organised enough to do this for yourself again. In your past you have had drive, ambition, the ability to set and reach goals, be selfish and selfless, and to know what you wanted from your life. You have overcome obstacles, made difficult choices, lived with the consequences and come out the other side. In short, you are a powerhouse with the tools and resources within to get yourself moving again. So let’s get started with the future.
5) Look forward: conversely, I do this by looking back. I remind myself of my self, if that makes any sense at all. Remember what you wanted from life when you were growing up, and in your teens, 20s, 30s, 40s and so on? What did you used to love doing? I loved to listen to new music. I loved reading books, and would get through one a week. I loved to write and always saw myself as a published author in the future. I loved beauty and style and thought of myself once as impeccably groomed at all times. This made me feel good about myself. I wanted to own a beautiful house in the countryside. I wanted to open an animal sanctuary and rescue lost and injured animals. I wanted to compete in a bikini fitness competition. I had goals and visions for my present and my future, that were all related to things that were important to me. Despite how I have been feeling lately, I am still that person. Get back in touch with the person you are, and remember those hopes, dreams and aspirations. They were important to you once. Do they still matter to you? They may have changed, but this just means you can open the door to new prospects. They key is, work out what makes you tick now.
6) Set achievable goals: a renewed sense of purpose works miracles when you feel demotivated in your current situation. You now know what you want to do, but often the hard part is knowing how to do it. The best thing to do is break it down in to baby steps. Maybe you want a new job, or to get a hold on your debt, or to lose weight, or to move cities/countries. Make realistic goals and set targets that are manageable. A long list of things to do in a day can make you feel like you’re getting nowhere if you can only do one or two of those things that day. This is a slippery slope back down in to the doldrums. A realistic set of steps that you can fit in to the spare time you can devote to yourself is the best way forward. For example, if you want to lose half a stone, what will this take? A pound a week for seven weeks to make this sustainable and not too painful? In this case, what do you need to do each day to achieve one of those pounds? This might mean taking your own lunch to work, tracking calories in a fitness app, getting up half an hour early to walk somewhere instead of drive. Small steps that can be tweaked if necessary if they are not working out, and which make you less likely to abandon the whole plan out of frustration if the first thing you try doesn’t work. Want a new job? What needs to happen? An updated CV, a weekly search of job sites, an approach to one new agency a fortnight, a review of the skills/training you might need to develop. These can all be separate, manageable steps.
7) Patience is a virtue: sadly in life, we don’t just get what we want overnight. Part and parcel of the whole ‘set achievable goals’ step from above is to remember this is a (double cringe) journey. Weight loss takes time, making more money takes time, growing a blog takes time, finding a new job takes time. Remember that and accept it. Enjoy the smaller steps along the way that will keep your motivation buoyant. After all, changes – no matter how small – mean that you are further on the way to the big thing you’re dreaming of. This is exciting. As the saying goes, ‘I may not be where I want to be, but thank (*whoever*) I am not where I used to be’. Movement is good, no matter how slow.
8) Embrace the challenge: I like to think of things as challenges these days, not insurmountable obstacles. If money is a worry, don’t despair. See it as a challenge you have been set. How much extra can you make in one day/one week/one month? How much can you save? What new and inventive ways can you come up with to increase your income? It’s like playing a game with yourself. You’re more likely to continue on a path that you see as ‘fun’ than as something that makes you want to stay in bed all day with the lights off, eating bag after bag of crisps and watching re-runs of Friends for eight hours straight (although if I’m honest that is my idea of fun once in a while). Be optimistic. You’ve done difficult things before.
9) A tidy mind: my favourite word in the whole English language might possibly be ‘declutter’. I despise clutter and I believe minimalism is very good for you. Too many ‘things’ around me are a distraction, feel like a weight upon me, and provide unwanted ‘noise’ to an otherwise peaceful existence. You might want to skip this step, but I think it is essential in many ways. Decluttering your home and finally getting rid of things you don’t need will free your mind as well as your living space. There is something so uplifting about getting rid of crap. Only owning things you use and need, or that otherwise ‘spark joy’ to use the popular phrase, will bring you back to yourself. As much as I like fashion and accessories, I realise nowadays that I don’t need twenty handbags to get me through life. What I actually need is very basic: food, sleep, water, a roof over my head, some clothes, a job, my health, family, friends, and a few other things for entertainment purposes (e.g. Netflix hehe). You can spring clean your mind too. Think of spring cleaning as having a fresh start. Make a clean break from too many belongings, unhappy memories, unhelpful self-doubt. It will make everything around and ahead of you brighter and clearer.
10) Remind and reward: inevitably we will stumble on the path towards our goals. Going back to point one above, motivation is a mood and a phase we go through. It’s the mood I prefer to be in, however, so I will often (like now) need to go back and go through the same steps again. That’s OK. It serves as a reminder of my achievements and successes, reinforces the idea that you can be hopeful in your current situation, and sets you back off down the path towards what you really want again. Just reminding yourself every now and then of your awesomeness is sometimes enough to reignite the fire that makes you want to get up every day with passion and optimism, and really go after what you want. You should also spare a moment to treat yourself somewhere along the line.
If you reached this point….
If you are like me and finding yourself in a slump, I hope these steps help you. For me, even typing them out has been a cathartic process. If you’re not used to blowing your own trumpet it can feel a little awkward at first but you do get used to recognising your own achievements and allowing yourself to be proud of them. I hope the process of sifting through your past, looking at your present clearly and breaking down the steps towards your future accomplishments helps you to bust out of the demotivated rut and gets your back in the game.
Drop me a comment below if you’ve ever felt this way, feel this way now, or have any tips that really helped you break out of a stagnant time in your life.
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