Opinion: Motivation comes in doses

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Graphic by Sam Rush/NW

Peter Smedley

When the world appears to collapse around us, motivation seems trite compared to the monstrous issues weighing on our shoulders. It is easy to succumb to negative thoughts, to allow ignorance to rule and personal beliefs dull — but important things are never easy.

In those moments in life when all seems lost, the words of an old teacher repeat through my head.

“The ordinary person couldn’t do it, but you’re no ordinary man,” he would tell me. “Never say you can’t do it. Say you can’t do it yet. Fall seven times, stand up eight. Eat thunder, crap lightning.” 

These sayings don’t seem like much, but in moments of hardship, whether it be the last stretch of a run or the final match of a brutal competition, they can be the extra push I need to succeed.

My sensei is a great man. He may or may not be aware of the affects he has had on my conscience, but the message is there all the same. Everyone is capable of more than they believe; what it comes down to is finding that single piece of them, the part of them that cannot give up, and capturing it. Motivation can be cruel, and conquering it is even worse. Yet having someone to be that motivator is significant.

My sensei’s words are why I have been so self-driven since I left for college and I am frustrated because I see unmotivated actions all around me. This generation is not lazy, it is unmotivated. Yes, the world is a mess. A pandemic rampages across this country, and an incompetent leader only contributes to the turmoil. People are dying from injustice and racism from the people sworn to protect them. These are horrible things. They are valid reasons to fall into depressive mental states but as a generation, these tragedies cannot be our demise.

I am frustrated because of inaction. Every single person has a part of them that wants to take action, they just need to find it. It exists in passions, anger, righteousness, and as we have seen, injustice. Motivation does not have to pertain to anything disastrous — it does not need to involve politics. It can be found in a love for the outdoors, or within oneself, and although it is uplifting to see many people rise and fight for justice, it is okay to find your motivation in smaller places. 

Friends are a powerful influence over our motivations. They can often alter a person’s mood without realizing it. A positive word from a friend makes a significant difference in personal motivation. Rather than allowing each other to dwell on the next outlandish crisis happening in the world, let’s focus on maintaining a positive environment in our friendships. 

The birth of motivation begins with a single, almost impossible action: forcing yourself to move with all the weight of the world. When you’ve been in bed, scrolling through your phone for who knows how long, you have to make yourself move. Motivation comes after that moment, when action has been taken and from that point it gets easier.

The idea of deleting social media may seem ridiculous at first but not allowing yourself to resort to those apps that only exist to waste time and gain advertising revenue is a huge step in the right direction. I personally delete any app I catch myself spending too much time on, as it only serves as a distraction from my goals. While fears of missing out may arise, there are much better places to learn about what is happening in the world than Facebook or Instagram and without having a time-waster to resort to getting what you really want done becomes more plausible.

Other ways to try to be more motivated include: avoiding the news and negative headlines, listening to interesting topics rather than music, holding yourself accountable for time spent on the internet, maintaining a moderate diet and physical upkeep, and ignoring intimidation and social standings. 

Each action beyond the first decision gets easier but the first step cannot be avoided. The best time to seize it is now, and at your own pace. 

As Thich Nhat Hanh said, “smile, breathe and go slowly.”