22/30: On Motivation

For some, a good cup of coffee is all the motivation they need to hit the ground running. For the rest of us, not so much.

This is the twenty-second of thirty days of stories.

Motivation is defined as

“the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.”

As rational creatures, people unilaterally have reasons for doing the things they do, even if they don’t know exactly what those reasons are. These reasons are usually born out of a desire of self-preservation.

For example, at the most base level, people don’t get a job because they want to be productive members of society, but rather because they need income to afford shelter and sustenance. Their motivation is to ensure a consistent and continuing quality of life, because the alternative is too much to bear.

The problem with motivation is that it can be incredibly fickle. Dedication to achievement and putting in the work over time will have more consistent and sustainable results than a manic all-nighter because you come up with a brilliant idea. As Stephen King said,

“amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Nothing is ever created perfect, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the opposite side of the debate, that Silicon Valley-style workaholism is the only way forward, is equally wrong.

Businesses are increasingly trafficking in gimmicks like sprints and crunch time that cause workers to feel less like people and more like commodities. These kinds of circumstances that will not motivate people to bring their all to the table.

Put in the effort, but not at the cost of everything else.

If I’m being completely honest, motivation is very hard for me to conjure up right now. When I started doing this series, I thought it wouldn’t be a challenge to write however many words a day. While narrowing in on a single topic a day has made it easier, there have been some days recently where I thought it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever if I didn’t write.

A few years back, I was facing the same situation I now find myself in: I was between jobs for an extended period of time, except back then I had no place to stay (it’s complicated). I went to a few job-search workshops, and during one I was given a puzzle-turned-metaphor: you may start out enthusiastic and optimistic, but the longer you work at something, in this case finding a job, the less sure you are you’ll actually be able to do it. It erodes your self-esteem and confidence, and projects the illusion that no one sees any value in you — for lack of a better phrase, no one wants you, and that’s something that’s damn near impossible not to take personally.

Every day I have the same routine: I look for and apply to jobs, maybe I’ll play some games for a little bit, I walk for two hours, and I write. In the past seven months I have applied for countless positions, and have been unilaterally rejected at every turn. I’m not asking for anything out of the ordinary, but frankly, it’s hard to be motivated to do much of anything when disappointment and self-loathing seems like a foregone conclusion.

I need work to pay my bills and support myself.

I want my life to be more than it is now.

I have marketable skills and I’m trying my best.

What more do you want from me?

If you enjoyed this piece, maybe you’d like to work with me?