Are you feeling unmotivated, stagnant, or bored recently? Is there a sense that your days are repetitive or routine? If not, feel free to read on anyway just for fun. These emotions can make us feel like we’re a passenger in our own lives, at times — waiting for something to happen, something to change, something to move us forward in our lives and/or relationships. Life seems to be happening around us, but we can’t seem to get onto the forward-moving track we’d like to be on. Therefore, we live day-to-day in a sort-of passive repetition.
What keeps us motivated to participate in this daily repetition? Usually having things to look forward to is a big motivator: vacations, holidays, days off from work, weekends, promotions, a big event coming up, etc. When feeling stagnant, it’s easy to pass off the majority of our days, weeks, months, or even years while looking toward significant “checkpoints” to re-energize us. Checkpoints are the events that keep us motivated through the repetitive or mundane moments in our lives. For example, how often have we thought along the lines of, “if I can just can through the next few weeks of work, I’ll have a vacation”?
Checkpoints become greatly important in creating satisfaction in our lives and relationships. We need to increase what we look forward to in our years, months, weeks, and days — as individual people, as friends, as couples, as families. Most people have some sort of long-term checkpoints in the back of their minds already (family, career, etc.). But, without short-term checkpoints, long-term checkpoints can essentially eat up significant chunks of life. We end up pushing precious days behind us — days we don’t get back — in order achieve a future goal. In order to resolve this, it’s necessary to keep one eye on the long-term checkpoints and one eye on the short-term checkpoints.
What can checkpoints be? They can be anything we want them to be: dinner with a friend, reading a book, hiking, baking, cooking, enjoying family, going out with friends, playing with your kids, going to the gym, going on a date, watching a movie in bed, and so on. It is also possible that these checkpoints can start to become routine. This is okay. The idea isn’t to avoid repetition as much as it’s to create meaning and satisfaction. So, if one of your checkpoints is meeting a friend for a snack at a set time every week (which is part of your routine that you also look forward to), then it’s good.
One area of caution: keep the checkpoints healthy. If your checkpoints are becoming increasingly isolating, risky or self-harming (e.g. drinking, substance use, gambling, stealing, binge eating, promiscuity), impulsive or compulsive (e.g. over-shopping, overspending frequently), or harmful to others, professional help may be needed, as something more serious is likely the cause of these types of behaviors and urges to be something you look forward to engaging in.
See if you can brainstorm a list of different things you can look forward to, in different ways. Some will be more exciting and motivating than others, but they don’t all need to be equal. Once you’ve done this, see if you can spread them out onto your calendar so there is usually something to look forward to not too far down the line. You can also mark areas in your calendar where you’d like to add more checkpoints. If scheduling is difficult, aim for simpler checkpoints (which can be equally as satisfying if it’s something meaningful to you). Don’t forget to include things like down time for yourself that you may look forward to, as well.
Remember, this is purely about creating meaning and satisfaction in your life that goes beyond a few long-term goals per year. Some less-desired repetitions (e.g. work) will probably always be there, to an extent. If you’re having consistently struggling with motivation or feeling down, be sure to seek professional help (therapy) as there may be more happening in this case.
Overall, the idea is to create a feeling that says, “I’m looking forward to tomorrow (or whichever day) because of (checkpoint)” as often as you can. The more checkpoints you have to look forward to, the more motivated and fulfilled you’re likely to feel in your life.
Contact Nathan Feiles to inquire about therapy.