7 ways to stay motivated when everything you’ve been looking forward to is suddenly gone
Yesterday, I made a list of things I usually look forward to when I’m having a tough day.
- Get-togethers with friends
But then, COVID-19 happened.
- Lacrosse? Canceled.
- Vacation? Canceled.
- Parties? Canceled.
- Dates? Canceled.
- Concerts? Canceled.
- Get-togethers? Canceled.
In German, we have a saying: “Vorfreude ist die schönste Freude.” Anticipation is the greatest joy.
Thanks to COVID-19, all this anticipation all the sudden is gone. No more vacations. No more sports tournaments. No more get-togethers with the family. No more parties. And nobody even knows when things will go back to being “normal”.
How do you stay motivated if you all the sudden have nothing to look forward to?
I reached out to my followers on Instagram in order to see how other people are handling the situation. Here are a few ways of dealing with the uncertainty of our current situation.
Working on your routines and ensuring progress
“I’m planning one day at a time and assure that I get three things done each day.” — Laken James
With the uncertainty surrounding our present and our future, the best way to tackle your challenges is to take it one day at a time. Plan your next day, make clear what you want to achieve for yourself, and then go ahead and do it. Just repeat the process over and over again, and you will make progress.
This isn’t too different from what I do during the workweek: every evening, before I close my laptop, I sort and order my to-do-list with the tasks I want to tackle the next day. When I start working again, I don’t have to spend any time or energy figuring out what I need to do. It’s already there.
Keeping the number of tasks to three also reduces the risk of not achieving your goals. You can always manage to do three things in a day, and the feeling when you go to bed will be well worth it.
Taking time for the things you’ve always wanted to spend more time on but never had a chance to do
“I try doing favorite activities, sports and cooking.”
Chances are, your schedule has suddenly been cleared. And instead of having negative free time, you can now focus on the things you enjoy doing. Cook something nice. Play board and computer games. Play your instrument. Do some Yoga and stretching. Anything that makes you feel good and isn’t detrimental to your health is a good way to stay motivated.
“Playing with my son keeps me motivated.”
And of course, if you have children, playing with them is a very good way to spend the time — especially if you don’t get to spend that much time with them normally when you’re working all day.
Changing your perspective on the current situation
“It’s perspective. Instead of a mindset of missing out, fill your mind with what you are grateful for.”
Yeah, not being able to do the things we usually do sucks. But it could be so much worse. We don’t have to fight for food, drinking water, shelter. We’re not facing violence. We literally just have to stay home.
This is a good time to reflect on what you actually have. Chances are, you have shelter, you have food, and if you’re reading this, a functional internet connection. The weather is good, you have family and friends, you’re likely relatively healthy. It’s not all bad.
“This sounds bad, but: compare yourself to other people. So many are worse off than we are.”
I’m speaking for myself now, since I’m aware people from many different countries are reading this. Living in Germany, I’m more than thankful to live in a first world country with a relatively functional health system and socialized healthcare.
This is a privilege. Not to take away from any of these countries, but I’m thankful to currently not be in Italy, Spain or the US.
Reflecting on yourself and the time ahead
“Mindset work: time for yourself means time to grow new ideas. Carpe diem!”
Not being able to meet other people means time for yourself. Time for yourself means time for reflection.
Take some time and just let your mind wander. Grab a journal, and start writing down whatever is inside your head. Where do you want to be in life? Are you happy with your current situation? If you could change one thing, what would it be and how can you change it? What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance to?
Think about these things. Now is the time to do so. Once life goes back to normal, and schedules go back to normal, it’ll be difficult to find that time.
Learning and practicing a skill
“I meditate, work out and have a fixed daily schedule: for instance, every day at 7pm I watch the Igor Levit Piano Livestream.”
Now is the time that you can use to learn a new skill, or practice one you haven’t found time to practice in the past.
For lots of you, this will be cooking or baking. But maybe you can also break out an instrument again, or start getting into you. Or you could watch this tutorial on how to pick a lock with a paperclip.
I pick up my guitar almost daily, and it’s been very fun. Sometimes you don’t realize how much you miss something until you start doing it again.
Also, I’m considering getting a membership for Masterclass. Learning how to write from Malcolm Gladwell? Sign me up. I could probably learn a thing or two.
Just keep on grinding
“Next season isn’t cancelled, it’s just a longer offseason.”
Last but not least, my favorite quote from the survey I ran on Instagram. It’s from my friend Per Olters, the first German player to ever play NCAA Division I Lacrosse.
Eventually, the world will return back to normal, even if it’ll be a new normal. Only because the world changes doesn’t mean you have to change. You can still keep going at it, no matter the circumstances. And I’m sure that’s exactly what Per is doing right now.
Becoming the best version of yourself
Finally, this is my personal take on the question of staying motivated in times of uncertainty. Whenever I’ve had a time in my life where I was overwhelmed emotionally and didn’t know what to do, I’ve always defaulted to simply trying to become the best version of myself.
Outside circumstances are not within your control. The only thing you can control is your attitude towards them. I dislike the current situation, but we all need to make the best of it.
I’m currently working very, very hard on my fitness, to emerge stronger, faster, and with more endurance than before. I’m getting a certification as Professional Scrum Master to support my side business of teaching people about Agile Project Management. Then, I will get a certification as Certified Salesforce Administrator. And if it’s not over by then, I might try to get a certification as fitness trainer.
My routines haven’t changed. I still meditate, journal, stretch, read, write, and eat well. And obviously I’m still putting in the work and the hours at our company.
This is my way of becoming the best version of myself, given the circumstances.
At the end of the quarantine, two types of people will emerge: the ones who got fat and lazy, and the ones who actively worked on themselves and emerge as better persons than they were before.
Which one will you be?