A Little Motivation Goes A Long Way

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hello friends.  I know it's been awhile.  Life has been it's usual encroaching, attention-demanding self, keeping me working, organizing, cooking, house-cleaning, tending to family (and extended family) crises, one right after another, and generally going in mad crazy circles.  But today the world stopped.  They called off school for thunderstorm debris (this was a new one on me).  I couldn't find an alternate place to take my son on such short notice and was left with no choice but to park my butt at home with him.  Call it an enforced slack day.  

Of course, the house still demands my attention at every turn, as our accumulated possessions are starting to take over our life and are screaming to be sorted, culled, and the remainders put to better use than their current positions of gathering dust and creating a nuisance.  There's still (always) so much to do.  But I've had this blog brewing in my head for a few days now, so I thought I'd take advantage of this little bit of down time I've managed to steal.  

I noticed something about myself the other day.  It had to do with motivation.  I had reached the end of my little give-a-damn rope and had slunk into a dangerous kind of apathy that was approaching depression.  Nothing seemed worth the effort all of a sudden.  All of the energy I'd been spewing forth seemed to be getting me nowhere and I was tired.  So tired.  And then something amazing happened.  I sat down at my usual thinking place in the kitchen and picked up this book I'd been reading a few days before about saving the environment and making an effort on an individual level.  This is not new information to me, not really.  The environment is a real issue with me and I've read on the problem extensively.  But this particular book is unique in that the author isn't telling the reader what to do... instead he has documented what he has done, how he changed his life and his perspective to lower his own impact on the planet.  It's inspiring.  And within ten minutes of reading through the Appendix to the book (I'd already finished reading the rest of it a couple days prior), I was back on my feet, ready to take on my day again, ready to do anything.  Because, hey, there's work to be done.  There's a planet to save, and how can I save the planet if I can't save my own home? 

Which leads me to the interesting problem of motivation.  I don't believe I'm alone when I get overwhelmed with all there is to do and it all seems hopeless.  I think this is a common problem, at least in our society.  We sit and we give up because there just seems no point.  But as soon as we are inspired by something we truly care about, suddenly the energy floods us and we can't wait to get up and get started.  Suddenly, everything is in perspective again, working is rewarding and every act has a purpose. 

I'm coming to believe that of all the problems there are in the world, the biggest may be lack of motivation, or that at least a renewed spark of motivation could go a long way toward solving the world's problems.  I think this may be one of the most important issues to ponder as an American, with so much work to be done here at home.  People stop caring.  We become apathetic.  We start blaming each other and the government and other countries and "society" and on and on for our problems.  For why our economy's been tanking, for why more and more of our kids are being diagnosed with asthma and ADHD, for our lack of healthcare, for our obesity, for why our families are failing to stay together, for our lack of community, for why we're not happy.  Since we have convinced ourselves that it's, as Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy so aptly put it, Somebody Else's Problem, we have painted ourselves into a corner of helplessness, and there's nothing more depressing than being a victim.  

The sad truth here is that we are victimizing ourselves.  We are our own victims, because we have convinced ourselves that it is so.  Every one of us has the opportunity to wake up in the morning, or in a moment, and stop and think consciously about what we are doing and what we are going to do next.  We can start to realize that "society" is us!  And we can remember what it is to be a good example again, and how people learn from each other.  We got where we are now, here in our apathy and our nothing-I-can-do-ness because of what we saw other people doing.  If it became the social norm to be responsible for ourselves and our world, then we as a society would shift our focus.  We would spend our time grappling with the problems we face as a society instead of spending our time watching reality TV and shopping for hours on end for stuff we really don't need just to give ourselves some sense of control.  We would each know that we, individually, are responsible for what we, as a society, are doing.  You are society.  I am society.  You are, I am, our next door neighbors are, and family members and coworkers and friends.  WE are society.  If we each realized that, then we'd see that there's work to do, and we'd want to do it.  We would have a sense of purpose. 

One thing that de-victimizing yourself does is to free you up to move, to act.  You don't have to become and activist, necessarily, to help change this apathetic tide.  You just have to care.  And you have to make an effort every day to live a life that is more in keeping with what you truly care about.  Nothing will improve until we believe that it can improved and that we can do something about it.  

If you're wondering what book it was that so inspired me, it was No Impact Man by Colin Beavan.  He and his family tried to live making no adverse impact on the planet for one year.  They live in New York and the challenges were great.  I admire what they've done and the philosophy of inspiring by doing that Colin Beavan developed through this project.  

Motivation is easy when you're inspired by someone else's actions.  I am now convinced that leading by example may be our only real hope.  

On that note, I'm going to get back to de-stuffing my home, and I'm going to make sure that anything we get rid of goes to charity, gets recycled or gets put to some good use.  I don't think it will be as hard as I feared.  It's not for nothing.  It's for a greater purpose, and I'm just doing my part.