Updated: Mar 19
How is it that there are solid moments in our lives when we feel positively inspired, energised and motivated to be joyfully engaged in life, and then there are periods of time when we feel that all of this is suddenly gone and we are somewhere in between the mental midwinter and a lost track of life?
I started exploring this topic right at the end of 2021, and right at the beginning of 2022 The School Of Life, offered a beautiful take on this question in their January article, they write:
Every year, nature quietly takes us through a moral lesson that has much to teach us about how we might relate to certain of the more dispiriting and despair-inducing moments in our own development. Beginning in mid-October in the northern hemisphere, the temperature drops, the nights draw in, the earth turns cold and hard, fog lies low over the land and rain drives hard across the austere, comatose grey-brown landscape. There is nothing immediate we can hope for; now we have nothing to do but wait, with resigned patience, until something better shows up.
Far more than we can generally accept, our minds too have cycles. We cannot be permanently fruitful or creative, excited or open. There are necessary times of retrenchment when, whatever we might desire, there seems no alternative but to stop. We can no longer be productive; we lose direction and inspiration. We are immovably numb and sterile.
You can read full article here by the School Of Life, which I personally found unequivocally reassuring.
Immovably numb and sterile, in a trance without purpose? Grrr.. Waiting and waiting for the motivation to return and pick us up again, bring us back to life, ignite joy in a simple routine, so that we, by all means, will never feel like we are behind or think that we are missing out on something!
I don't know about you but when I go through my mental midwinters, my tendency is to write long "to do lists", force any new habit possible, push and push myself until I see the results and keep focusing on the every day actions. I spend money on memberships hoping this will motivate me to attend that gym or that spinning class, and I end up just wasting money. Occasionally, I start a new habit, it lasts for a week and then I beat myself up for giving up too soon. The cycle goes on, leaving me feeling rather flat about myself and not so confident about my abilities.
Sometimes this looks like reaching out for a paracetamol every time you have a headache or back ache, and subconsciously expecting the pain to be gone one day forever, running away from the actual discomfort and the core understanding of it's source. Sometimes being with the pain soothes it and other times understanding the source of it proves to be the best way to mitigate it.
While it only seems fair to say that, just like nature, we can not permanently be in a state of blossom and colour. We too, need moments of stillness and confusion, collecting strengths for another summer.
"In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer." - Albert Camus
However, I think there is more to it. I think that aside form recognising and acknowledging the necessary stillness of the heart and vital silence of the mind in our lives, we may have to take a closer look at what really motivates us in life, and I mean long-lasting motivation here.
In other words, what do we do in instances when the invincible summer doesn't show up for a long time, the winter is long gone and we are still in the freeze?
Here is a fact: if there is no alignment between who you are and what you want - forget about the long-lasting motivation that gets you up in the morning.
Long lasting motivation is based on the alignment between yourself and the vision. And it is THAT alignment that will determine your commitment to the goal and the action.
I believe we focus too much on the goals and the actions and we don't give enough attention to our vision, our deeper purpose and what is behind that purpose. We end up working towards visions that either don't belong to us or are simply undefined and woolly. As a result, we loose the motivation somewhere along the way, we get distracted by different ideas, we are easily influenced by our environments and we beat ourselves up for that. And we get stuck in the mental midwinter!
Your alignment with the vision will determine your motivation behind the goal and the action.
That often looks like, having one ambitious Sunday afternoon once every 3 months, when you feel energised and ready to go and conquer your dreams, and two months or weeks down the line, you end up watching Netflix and re-writing your goals on the to-do list 50 times in one journal just to make yourself feel better.
Guess what inner image that generates in your head? Something like this: This person here is very lazy, not ambitious, can't work hard, can't commit, and most importantly can not trust themselves, they set goals and never fully commit. I don't like that person. I don't like myself.
I mean, why would you! No one likes unreliability. BUT! The truth is - you CAN be reliable to yourself, you just have to focus on the right thing. Instead of focusing on your immediate (often not thought out) goals, you must develop your vision first and learn how to trust it, and the right goals will follow. And yes, that means tackling some deep and scary questions sometimes.
VISION -> GOALS -> ACTION
The right vision and your alignment with it sets the foundation for everything. The vision needs to belong to you, and you need to find all the evidence form your life so far that can back up that vision.
The good news is that your life has already given you all the information you need in order to shape your vision. You just have to look for it and become your own private life investigator.
I developed a special discovery worksheet when I found myself in a long lasting mental midwinter, I'm now using it with my clients and I'm happy to share it with you all.
This worksheet will allow you to nail your own vision, covering the following elements (things that we know for sure):
• YOUR PURPOSE (when are you in your element)
• YOUR VALUES (what’s important to you)
• YOUR LIFE PATTERNS (what drives your choices and decisions)
• YOUR INNER BUZZ (what gives you joy / what you care about)
• YOUR GIFTS TO THE WORLD (how can the world benefit from you)
You can download it here.
Let me know what you think in the comments below, and of course if you get stuck or confused at any point of your discovery, feel free to reach out.