How to stay motivated in crazy times

How to stay motivated in crazy times

The pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the rising cost of living can make things feel hopeless – and will make it harder to maintain motivation. But there are ways to keep your focus…

As Shakespeare put it in As You Like It: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.”

It’s a fantastic opening to a monologue which essentially explains how we each play a relatively small role in the great theatre of life. Over the course of our lives, Shakespeare explains, we’ll play seven different roles, starting out as weak and helpless newborns and eventually leaving the stage in a very similar way.

This is a dark start, I’ll admit, to an article about motivation, but in a world that’s increasingly overwhelming – given the fear of Russian posturing, anxiety over the escalating cost of living and the continuing saga of the COVID-19 pandemic – it’s easy to be swallowed whole by all of this, or crushed by our own negative thought patterns and our perception of a lack of control.

The good news in all of this is that you control it. That great serpent of dread which has wrapped itself around you is of your own making, and that means you can undo it. Let’s break this down into three key objectives…

Focus on the present

First, let’s talk about existential angst. It’s that feeling of dread which comes when we think about events which are outside of our control but which will seemingly affect us.

However, it needn’t disrupt the cognitive and behavioural patterns which you should always strive to have. You just need to focus on controlling what’s controllable.

Glance occasionally towards the future to be sure you’re heading in the right direction, but focus all your efforts on the situation you find yourself in at present. You’d be surprised how quickly that existential angst loses its ability to swallow you whole when you stop obsessing about hypothetical futures and instead keep in mind that what actually matters is the power you give yourself by making logical decisions in the present.

Call your own bluff

The crushing effects of our own negative thought patterns can be a challenge. It’s easy to feel trapped and squeezed by the same repetitive talk of failure, giving up and surrender. Rather than being submissive to this terrible self-sabotage, simply call your own bluff. Instead of “What if I fail?”, focus on “What if I succeed?” and pursue that outcome; you’ll be amazed how quickly you can wriggle free of those tensions when you simply pursue the opposite of what they try and crush you with.

Get some perspective

The perception of a lack of control can be petrifying. I’ll let you in on a secret – you’re not in control of the vast majority of events in your life. Instead, it’s up to you to manage those things. After all, there are only two things that we truly control: our attitude and our effort.

Getting to grips with these three things – how to control existential angst, how to undo negative self-talk and what you can and cannot control – will bring you all the autonomy you need to act your role to the best of your ability and keep your motivation high. And if you struggle, just remember, all the world’s a stage.

James Elliott is a military mental resilience coach who has worked with the British Army on its OPSMART mental health programme. Head to Instagram to see his wellbeing videos @jameselliottofficial

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership.