Dude, Where’s My Drive?

October 2013

Recently many of my clients have expressed unsettling feelings related to lack of motivation in resolving an issue, creating change or simply moving forward.  This month I want to discuss this motivation dilemma.  Our motivation, without a doubt, ebbs and flows.   Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines flow as an optimal experience during which our motivation is intensely focused.   He describes flow as an experience of spontaneous joy and energized alignment with the task at hand.  Who wouldn’t prefer flow, right?  I’m sure you have experienced being “on a roll” where everything else seems to fade away, whether during work or play.  I think we can agree that the more we can harness this optimal experience, the better.  At the same time, it becomes problematic when individuals believe they should always be in “flow.”   It can be hurtful to judge oneself or one’s life circumstances as inadequate whenever motivation is less than optimal.  Such judgment could hardly energize anyone, nor push them into a state of spontaneous joy.

Today we are expected to wear more hats than ever before, to be forever multi-tasking and to constantly increase productivity.  It becomes harder to accept the ebb along with the flow.  It may also be scary during a prolonged period of low motivation if an individual begins to believe they may never get back in “flow”.

I have a secret.  Are you ready?  We can’t be “on” all the time.  “This too shall pass” may be cliché but it is a comforting truth in this case.  Like our moods and the ocean tides, motivation will inevitably go through highs and lows.  There are many factors that may influence a dip in drive.  Csikszentmihalyi explains that flow requires clear goals, a good match between skills available and the challenge at hand, a feeling of control over the outcome, a degree of novelty and some form of immediate feedback.  The next time you experience a low consider whether these external factors may be contributing.  More importantly, as you self reflect, I encourage you to include compassion for yourself.  Consider the possibility that your low may just be as natural and inevitable as low tide.

To varying degrees, inside each of us is that anxious energy, that itch, that deep seeded doubt that somehow we are not enough as we are.  We must do more.  We must be more.  It is so deeply rooted we often do not recognize that it is there.  It can drive us to compulsively do, while challenging our ability to be our authentic selves.  This anxiety is an “old brain” function that clouds our judgment and does not allow us to see that we are enough.  Stripped of all your stories and labels and deeds… you are enough.  In those precious moments when you can recognize this truth, you will flow, your ideas will flow, your life will flow and you will create what you are meant to create.

So, next time you notice your motivation is in low drive, instead to pushing ahead, practice acceptance and try to enjoy yourself because you are already enough.