The first day of May. This is such a gorgeous time of year and usually we are revelling in the world’s plenty: the beauties of nature and have two bank holidays to enjoy. This year there was even going to be a big party to celebrate the anniversary of VE Day.
It’s not what we expected this May. We are contending with the coronavirus and this is bringing all sorts of stresses, unique to each of us.
I wondered whether to write a Thought at all this month. I was chatting with a client about this. She said, “you must and it ought to be about motivation because we are all having trouble with it”. Well thanks for that, I thought – just tackle one of the biggest subjects there is and suggest something helpful in these strange times. So here is my take on it all. I hope it is useful.
It seems to me that there is something which overlays everything else in our psyche at the moment. We are all grieving and somewhere on the transition curve because of it.
I say we are all grieving. Take your pick of causes:
- For all of us the loss of life as it was and at least temporarily our liberty. It will not be the same again and it will be quite a while before we are all free to go out and about as we wish. We have no idea what the new dawn will be like.
- Then there is work as it was. Some fortunate people are furloughed and confident that they will return to similar work even if they do it in a different way. Others are on furlough but terrified that it will not last and they will be turned off when the government scheme comes to an end. People who are self-employed or run their own businesses are fighting to keep them alive. Circumstances vary hugely, but the common feature is that everyone is mourning their work and worried about how to earn their normal take home pay.
- Alongside this we are all locked in together and a number of relationships are not surviving. Maybe they were under stress before this but being incarcerated together a couples’ relationship might not stand the strain. This is possibly exacerbated by children at home needing support with their school work, perhaps with no laptop of their own and insufficient physical space. Or perhaps worse still separation has already occurred and parents no longer live in the same house and children may not be able to see them both at the moment. Relationships between couples, parents with children, children with parents and with ex partners, in-laws-s and friends might be in tatters
- And then alongside this is the virus that might have hit your family or friends hard and you may be having to deal with a death. Not just a death but the worst kind; the one where there is no opportunity to say goodbye.
I am sorry about all this gloom but it seems to me reality: we are all suffering at least one of these griefs and some people are dealing with three or even four. In normal life this is exceptionally unusual. Normally we are only called to live through one type of misery at a time. And we are going through the change curve for each one.
There are various versions of this but I prefer the Kubler Ross seven stage one. You know how it looks.
Only you know whether you might still be in shock, in complete denial, frustrated or depressed. I doubt you are any further through than that. And on a good day you might be all four within the space of a morning. But wherever you are you are volatile. And probably living with others who are volatile. The symptoms might be bursting into tears for no apparent reason, lashing out at your nearest and dearest, vagueness, wandering about aimlessly, inability to concentrate or complete ignorance of time. All of which makes you feel hopeless, useless or having lost your mojo. No wonder you are looking for your motivation and finding it missing.
I started this by saying I would write about motivation. That means looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
As business people we are usually up near the top of the pyramid. I would be working with a client’s esteem needs and self-actualisation which are both satisfied by work, especially running their own businesses. However, the reality of May 2020 is that we are almost all worrying about how we pay for our psychological and safety needs i.e. food and our mortgages or rent. Typically these needs pull us right down to the bottom of the pyramid and overpower anything else we think of. We are worrying about them constantly. This affects everything and we go into the usual fear reactions: fight, flight or freeze. However, the only people or situations we can fight are those living in our own homes. There is next to nowhere to run to so most of us freeze. We may be unhappy and scared but we go into limbo mode. It is hardly surprising that we are getting nothing done.
My normal approach is to help a client work out what is motivating them at this moment – new house, foreign holiday, new factory and then use that to paint pictures of the future. Not very appropriate at present. I think we have to focus on very short term goals that might be obtainable. I know one lucky client, who is still working, who has targeted herself to increase her working capital by 50% because she is not in a position to spend any money. Lucky girl! Maybe for you it might be to do the spring cleaning or finish the filing or write all those emails that have been on the list for ages. It is all about achieving something because any achievement will make you feel better.
Usually some of this joy comes out of sharing it with other people. Those in our social group often share our goals, but at present it is made worse because in our usual group there is the whole spectrum of worries. In normal times most of our friends are in the same stage as us e.g. renting the first flat, buying the first house, having the first baby, looking for the first serious promotion, making the big job move. At the moment this is not so. It would be insensitive to share any success we have and that can be frustrating.
So in all this gloom what do we do?
I wish I knew. However, the first thing is to realise that what you might be going through is very understandable. You are not unusual and you are not losing your sanity.
Working with an individual client I would help them unpick each worrying issue. Talking would help as it allows the subconscious to recognise that we are taking notice. At the very least it will stop nagging us to think about these things. Often we can find some places where there is sensible action to be taken and even a little action helps us to feel in control. Congratulations if you have stuck with me this far.
I do not normally bother people with the theoretical models, but this time I have. If you can apply the two I have mentioned today to your situation it might help you understand where you are. This would help you to feel less lost and aimless and will help. If you can use this sense of where you are to help you craft a plan albeit made up of very tiny steps this will also help. Accomplishing those steps will help you feel much better. Try it and let me know how it goes.
That is about all I can say to a group. However, if you want to speak about where you are and how you motivate yourself to take the next steps please let me know. I said that I would work off the clock during lockdown to help people in exactly this situation. I intend to hold to this commitment until the end of May so why not give me a call and we will see if I can help. At the very least know that a number of forces are at work in your subconscious. You are not alone and it will get better.
Please keep smiling and keep safe,