This morning I didn’t feel like doing anything. It’s a combination of exhaustion from a few days of hard work and preparation for a group coaching event we’re hosting for our Getting Back to Happy Course students, and a lack of sleep with a sick 7-year-old in the house.
I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything important, which is a rare occurrence for me. I just felt completely drained. I started overthinking things and doubting myself, and wondering whether anything I do is worthwhile.
I sat there in this funk for nearly an hour and wondered how to snap out of it. Should I just forget about today? Should I just give up on this project in front of me, because I’m not as good at it as I thought I was?
That’s what I was considering, at least for a fleeting moment. But the better part of me knew this mild state of depression would soon pass. And just as I started to feel better, a neat bit of synchronicity arrived in my email inbox from Gina, a new course student Marc and I have been coaching over the past few days. The opening lines of her email read:
“I feel so drained, so uninspired. I’m stuck again! My mind is spinning with worry and overwhelm and just a general lack of enthusiasm. Anything you could share? What’s something small I could reflect on and try to remember when I’ve lost my motivation?”
With our student’s permission, I’m answering her inquiry publicly because I know we all need a good reminder in this area sometimes—heaven knows I needed one this morning, too.
While there are many approaches to momentary self-motivation, reflecting on and learning from other people’s stories is paramount. The right story at the right time can move us at our core. Fortunately, the nature of the work Marc and I do as personal development coaches and authors allows us to hear these kinds of stories from clients, students and readers on a daily basis. So, this morning, that’s exactly what I was reflecting on when Gina emailed me. And right now, with full permission from the original sources, I want to share powerful snippets from some of these stories with you.
What follows are super short but incredibly focused accounts of real life, real struggle, and the inner resilience of the human spirit. There’s definitely something inspiring here for all of us to think about, and tap into, when we need an extra dose of motivation:
- “Today marks a full year that I’ve been eating right and working out daily. This time last year I weighed 301 pounds. When I saw my weight on the scale at the doctor’s office I knew it was time for a change. Now, after a year of exercising my will power, and using no dieting pills or gastric bands, or anything artificial, I went back to the doctor’s office for my annual check-up. “172 pounds,” my doctor said. “You know, your positive lifestyle changes just added roughly 10 years to your life expectancy.” My 11-year-old daughter, who came with me, grabbed my hand and said, “I look forward to spending those extra years with you, mommy.”
- “The drummer in our local jazz band, Nick, is legally deaf, and has been since he was born. But he can still hear low bass tones and feel the vibrations from the drums and other instruments. Honestly, he’s such an incredible drummer, most people don’t believe he’s deaf. Sometimes I can’t believe it myself.”
- “This morning, on my 47th birthday, I re-read the suicide letter I wrote on my 27th birthday about two minutes before my girlfriend showed up at my apartment and told me, ‘I’m pregnant.’ She was honestly the only reason I didn’t follow through with it. Suddenly I felt I had something to live for. Today she’s my wife, and we’ve been happily married for 19 years. And my daughter, who is now a 21-year-old college student, has two younger brothers. I re-read my suicide letter every year on my birthday as a reminder to be thankful—I am thankful I got a second chance at life.”
- “I got my acceptance letter and full scholarship to MIT last week. Now my single mother can use the money she’s been saving diligently for the past 18 years from working three jobs, almost every single day, to give herself the better life she deserves.”
- “Today, my company employs 47 intelligent, hard working individuals and turns a net profit of nearly $5 million a year. I started this company 11 years ago after I was laid off by IBM. If they hadn’t laid me off, I might still be working in a shared cubicle at IBM’s headquarters.”
- “Last night, like he has numerous times over the past three years, my grandfather proposed to my grandmother who has Alzheimer’s and sometimes struggles to remember who he is.”
- “At four o’clock this morning I awoke to my daughter calling my name. I was sleeping on a sofa chair in her hospital room. I opened my eyes to her beautiful smile. My daughter has been in a coma for exactly 99 days.”
- “My chemo therapy is making me lose chunks of my long strawberry-blonde hair—a physical attribute I’ve always believed made me attractive. This afternoon I had a cute male nurse shave my head because my hair has become incredibly patchy. As I was tearing up because it was hard seeing the rest of my hair fall to the floor, the nurse bent down in front of me and sincerely said, ‘Gosh, you have the most beautiful eyes.’”
- “It’s been exactly 15 years since I had just a few bucks to my name and could not buy my daughter pens and paper for school. A local charity stepped in and bought her school supplies and clothes. Now my daughter has graduated from Yale, started a successful business, and I work for her. And I’m donating money to that same charity to pay the kindness forward.”
- “Last week I interviewed a motel housekeeper in Miami Beach for a side project I’m working on. ‘Do you like your job?’ I asked. To my surprise, she smiled from ear to ear and was breathless for a couple seconds. She finally collected herself and said, ‘I can’t believe how much I love my job! I get to make dozens of our guests happy every day and feed my two beautiful children at the same time.’”
- “A 9-year-old patient of mine will be undergoing her 12th surgery in the past two years to combat a rare form of cancer. Even after all the surgeries I’ve never seen her frown. She’s still 100% sure she’ll survive. And I’m certain her attitude is the primary reason she has survived to this point. She still laughs and plays with her friends and family. She has intelligent goals for the future. A kid like her who can go through everything she’s been through and come out smiling is the reason I wake up and work hard every day.”
- “I recently found an old hand-written note my 86-year-old mom wrote when she was just a junior in college. On it is a list of qualities she hoped she would someday find in man. The list is basically an exact description of my dad, whom she is still married to today, and whom she didn’t meet until she was 39.”
- “I’m a struggling musician, and a bit of a loner based on my ongoing struggles with depression. I always thought my music career would take me farther than it has. After a local concert this evening, a teenage boy walked up to me, shook my hand and then hugged me. He said, ‘Thank you.’ ‘For what?’ I asked. ‘I’ve been really stressed out lately. Let’s just say I’m not one of the popular kids at school. But I have something I look forward to every day. When I get home from school, and no one is home, I put your two albums on shuffle and sing along as loud as I can,’ he said.”
- “Ten years after I had six miscarriages in a row and was told I would never have kids—that my uterus was incapable of holding a baby past twelve weeks—I sat in my 8-year-old son’s bed this morning to wake him for his birthday. Just sitting there, breathing with him, and knowing that I have my very own version of miracle makes me want to make the best of whatever comes my way, every single day.”
- “The homeless man who used to sleep near my condo showed up at my door this afternoon wearing the business suit I gave him over a decade ago. He said, ‘I have a clean home, a good job, and a family now. Ten years ago, I wore this business suit to all my job interviews. Thank you.’”
- “Today, my 18-year-old autistic son, Kevin, played guitar and sang every single word, flawlessly, to a song he wrote for his girlfriend (who is also autistic). He did it in celebration of their two-year dating anniversary. His girlfriend’s smile lit up the room. And although my son struggles with a severe speech impediment, he has been practicing for this every single day for the past year, and it paid off beautifully.”
- “Yesterday, after completing eight straight months of depression rehab at a live-in treatment center, I spent my first day out with my five-year-old daughter. We sat on my parent’s front porch all day making construction paper collages. The sight and sound of my daughter’s laughter and the simple pleasures of cutting construction paper and peeling Elmer’s glue off our hands are the best reminders I’ve had in eight months of why I’m choosing life.”
- “I sat down with my two daughters, ages six and eight, this afternoon to explain to them that we have to move out of our four-bedroom house and into a two-bedroom apartment for a year or two until I can find another job and build our savings back up. It’s a conversation I’ve been avoiding for over a month, as I’ve struggled with the doubts and regrets of not being able to provide a financially stable household for us. But my daughters just looked at each other after I told them, and then my youngest daughter turned to me and asked, ‘Are we all moving into that apartment together?’ ‘Of course,’ I immediately replied. ‘Oh, so no big deal then,’ she said.”
- “My dad is a blind cancer survivor. He lost both his eyes when he was in his early thirties to a rare form of cancer. Despite this, he raised my sister and I, and took care of my mom who was in and out of rehab for alcoholism and depression. My mom is a fully recovered alcoholic now, my sister and I have graduated college, and my parents are still together and back to being happy. I’m certain none of this would have been possible if my dad hadn’t been such a resilient, positive force in our lives. My dad’s inner strength literally lifted our family up in its darkest hours.”
- “At 8 A.M. this morning, after nearly four months of lifelessness in her hospital bed, we took my mom off life support. And her heart continued beating on its own. And she continued breathing on her own. Then this evening, when I squeezed her hand three times, she squeezed back three times.”
- “My grandpa keeps and old, candid photo on his nightstand of my grandma and him laughing together at some party in the 1970’s. My grandma passed away from a heart attack in 1999 when I was 14. This evening when I was at his house, my grandpa caught me staring at the photo. He walked up, hugged me from behind and said, ‘Remember, just because something doesn’t last forever, doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth your while.’”
Essential Daily Reminders to Think About, Too
I sincerely hope the stories above motivated you think better about your present circumstances. But, perhaps some of them also reminded you of how you’re falling short. If it’s the latter, I want you to take a deep breath.
We all need our own time to travel our own distance.
And right now, you just need to keep peaceful, productive thoughts and perspectives centered in your mind, as you take things one step at a time…
- Don’t waste your energy fighting against where you are. Invest your energy into getting to where you want to go. Let go of everything from the past that does not serve you, and just be grateful it brought you to where you are now—to this new beginning.
- Don’t fall back into your old patterns of living just because they’re more comfortable and easier to access. Remember, you left certain habits and situations behind for a reason: to improve your life. And right now, you can’t move forward if you keep going back.
- You may not be responsible for everything that happened to you when you were younger, and you may not be responsible for everything that happened to you yesterday either, but you need to be responsible for undoing the thinking patterns these circumstances created. Blaming your past for a limiting mindset does not fix it. Change your response to what you remember.
- When you look back on your past, think of the strength you gained, and appreciate how far you’ve come. It hasn’t been easy. You’ve been through a lot. But you’ve grown a lot too. Give yourself credit for your resilience, and step forward again with grace.
- Too often we spend our time waiting for the ideal path to appear. But it never does. Because we forget that paths are made by walking, not waiting. Now is the time! And no, you shouldn’t feel more confident and motivated before you take the next step. Taking the next step is what builds your confidence and motivation, gradually.
- Love what you do, until you can do what you love. Love where you are, until you can be where you love. Love the people you are with, until you can be with the people you love most. This is the way we find happiness, opportunity, and peace in the long run. (We discuss this in more detail in the “Happiness” chapter of “1,000 Little Things”.)
- Ultimately, it’s about letting go of what you assume your life is supposed to be like right now and sincerely appreciating it for everything that it is. At the end of this day, before you close your eyes, smile and be at peace with where you’ve been and grateful for what you have. Life is good.
Before you go, let us know:
Which story or point above resonates the most with you right now?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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