I spoke with a friend today about how we lack the motivation to speak to our friends. Ok, fine. We didn’t speak we texted. I’ve not been very good at doing that recently either though – I want to, I just can’t be bothered. I think the pandemic with it’s lack of doing anything has meant that we have gotten used to not doing anything. After a hard day of sitting on my sofa staring at my laptop for work, I like nothing more than to relax on my sofa and stare at my laptop for fun… The idea of doing anything else just seems like such an effort. Not that there’s much we can do at the moment anyway – although that’s just an excuse not to do the things we can do.
People want to feel motivated and to find meaning in the things we do – there is even part of our brain that rewards us when we learn new tasks or take on meaningful challenges, and when we engage this part of our brain we feel more motivated and purposeful. A virtuous sprial begins. The pandemic has robbed us of the ability to seek out lots of new challenges and become involved in meaningful activities, including seeing other people so it’s not that unexpected that we can feel demotivated.
However, it can just take some simple changes in our behaviour to get back into a virtuous spiral. Think of all the many videos, posts and messages everyone was bombarded with at the start of the year about all the amazing things we could do during lockdown. It could get to the point that you felt a failure if you hadn’t handbuilt an obstacle course for the kids whilst baking muffins, taking up yoga and doing a full days work. Some of that enthusiam may have gone (or I’ve just tuned it out) but the principle still stands. Most theories of behaviour change include ideas around confidence (‘I can do it!’) and motivation (‘I want to do it!’). A common theory of motivating behaviour change sets out five stages:
Essentially, not thinking about something – thinking about something – preparing to do it – doing it – keep on doing it. We may all be falling at different hurdles – when restrictions stop you from doing most of the things you used to do, you might simply not think about what options you do have or you may think about it but then fail to take action. Getting from thinking to doing can be as simple as generating a plan and setting some goals – in my case planning to get in touch with people more and then setting goals so I know when I’ve done it and now that I’ve done that, there really is no excuse for not taking action.