In the midst of challenging times, we often think we’re going through the worst time ever. And when we’re in the middle of adversity, we think it never ends. That’s why we always say things like, “my life is over!”
No, you’re not dramatic. It’s just one of our thinking errors. It’s difficult for us to judge a crisis while we’re in it.
In hindsight, it’s much easier. We can look back and think, “I survived that. I will survive other difficult things in the future.”
But when we face illness, financial problems, or adversity in our relationships, we’re quick to think it’s THE END. And once we get stuck in a negative thinking pattern, we lose motivation.
And what happens when we lose motivation? Right, we give up.
So how can we get over that? How can we stay motivated during tough times? After going through a lot of adversity (personally and professionally) myself, I’ve learned a few things about staying motivated.
1. Do something that makes you feel good
“Does online shopping count?” No, It does not.
You and I both know that buying things gives you temporary pleasure. That’s the last thing you need during adversity.
Because if you seek shallow pleasure, you’ll go 60 miles per hour on the Hedonic Treadmill. Your highs will be still high, but the lows will be devastating.
Instead, seek lasting pleasure. Don’t know what to do? Here are a few things I like:
- Organize an activity with friends/family that cheer you up (avoid negative people, even if they are your family)
- Spend a WHOLE day reading a good book
- Go for a long walk or run (more than 50 minutes)
- Hit the sauna
- Go to the pool—swim a bit and relax a bit
- Write about what you’ve learned
- Start learning a new skill
We need to boost your dopamine. To do that, we need to reward ourselves (again, don’t buy anything). Do something that makes you enjoy life. That’s my standard.
I aim for doing something that makes me say, “Man, I love life.”
2. Ask for help
Look, seeking pleasure, no matter how profound, is only temporary. To go through adversity successfully, we all need a support system.
Don’t try to go through life alone. If you don’t have a support system, create one. Start with your family, if they are no good, seek friends who are in the same position as you are. Having a good spouse also matters.
But that’s not the only thing. If you’re struggling, seek help from your co-workers or boss. And don’t be afraid to get therapy.
Too often, people feel too proud to ask for support. I’ll tell you this: No one on earth is strong enough to go through all adversity alone. Sure, you might be strong enough to deal with the challenges of life. But there always comes a time when things become “too much.”
That’s when you need help. When that time comes: Ask.
3. Write down your biggest fear
“What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
It’s one of my favorite questions. I learned it years ago from Susan Jeffers’ classic book, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway.
When times are difficult, ask yourself that question.
- Did your company go bust?
- Did you lose your job?
- Did you get a divorce?
- Did you make a bad decision?
Well, what’s the worst thing that can happen? Will those things kill you? Probably not.
This exercise makes us aware of how irrational and fearful we are. Simply ask the question and spend some time meditating on it.
I prefer to write in my journal because writing is thinking. And when you do both things, you become wiser and stronger.
4. Create a plan
My second favorite question when dealing with adversity is this: What are you going to do about it?
Sitting at home and feeling sorry for yourself is not going to help. We know that. But why do we still feel helpless? Because we’ve trained to become passive. I wasn’t any different.
But in recent years, I’ve learned to adopt an active mindset. When I lose motivation, I either come up with a list of things I want to do or set some new goals for myself. And then, I start working on it.
When you create a plan, you’re by definition looking at the future. And when we imagine a better future, we start feeling better.
Just like step 1, the reason behind this strategy is the stimulation of happy chemicals like serotonin and dopamine.
And even if you don’t lack motivation, it’s good to look at your goals regularly. Keep reminding yourself of where you’re going and more importantly, WHY you’re going there. That will motivate you like nothing else.
Set your sight towards the future, and don’t stop until you’re dead.
That might be sooner than you think.
So don’t forget to enjoy the process of getting there (which is the ultimate prize).