5 Tips for Staying Motivated When the Going Gets Tough
Meet the Maker
Matt Watson, Director of Maker Outreach
What would you like to do when you retire?
For decades, I thought I’d go back to school; maybe get a doctorate. I just love school! But recently, I’ve been focusing more on community activism and service. So maybe a bit of both — along with a regular dose of the beach and a mojito, of course!
What’s your earliest memory?
I actually remember a conversation (and not a good one) with my dad when I was about 3½. Also, when I was about 4 years old, I told my mother and grandmother that I remembered what it was like to be “in my mommy’s tummy.” I don’t remember it anymore, but feel free to ask me what I told them the next time you see me…
This Week’s Focus
Times are tough right now — for us, our colleagues, our learners, and our families. And it can be stressful to feel the pressure to show up at our best every day. It’s not always easy to “get up for game-day.” These 5 tips might help when you’re just not feeling it.
This Week’s Focus
How can we stay motivated when the going gets REALLY tough?
I love TED talks. Don’t you? So for this week’s edition of “Making Magic,” I’ve included FIVE of them for you to enjoy – and all of them 15-20 minutes! But here’s the beauty of it: you don’t have to watch them all! You don’t have to watch ANY of them if you don’t want to! But if you watch one of them, watch #5.
But to my point, your job is hard. Yes, yours. It’s no secret that the pandemic and all of the ways that it has changed education has made our jobs more complicated, stressful, and difficult. We are seeing record numbers of people leaving the education field and have few candidates with which to replace them. So, here is our driving question: How can we stay motivated when the going gets REALLY tough? Here are 5 things that I have found that have helped me – and others. And for each, I have included a TED talk!
1. Remember your why and remember it often.
Burnout is so easy when you lose track of our why. When we focus on the “what,” we start to notice how great the obstacles before us are. When we focus on the “how,” we start to notice what we lack to get the job done. But when we focus on the “why,” we focus on the tremendous potential that lies before us.
TED: How to Discover Your “Why” in Difficult Times (This one gets a little “12-step-y.”)
2. Keep your eyes on the prize, not the cost.
The day-to-day work is hard and requires great attention to detail. This is true. But mountain climbers do not focus on the face of the mountain. Rather, they focus on the summit. The aspiring valedictorian focuses on the speech, not the homework. What is your summit? …when they graduate? …when the budget balances? …when they succeed because of the work that you do? Whatever it is, focus on THAT moment rather than this moment.
TED: What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work (This one gets a little Marxist.)
3. Put your focus on those you serve rather than yourself.
I’m not saying that you are not important or that self-care is not essential – far from it! In fact, I’m a huge advocate for taking care of yourself. But don’t make that your end focus. Rather, remember WHY you are so important — because of the great value that you offer to your learners, to your colleagues, to your family and friends. The opening line in one of the world’s all-time best-selling books is “It’s not about you.” The author surprisingly goes on, not to devalue the reader, but to exalt “you” BECAUSE OF your value to others.
TED: A Life of Purpose (This one gets a little spiritual.)
4. Keep your battery charged.
Yes, take care of yourself! Rest, exercise, meditate, enjoy hobbies and recreation, and do your best to avoid work during non-work times. *Disclaimer: I realize that for teachers and many others, off-hour work is a requirement to doing the job well.* But try to set a schedule for yourself. Perhaps allow 60-90 minutes toward the end of the day for planning and communication BEFORE going home to your family. Or perhaps dedicating a few, well-placed weekend hours to set yourself up for the coming week will work.
TED: Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid (This one gets a little humorous.)
5. Practice a continual attitude of gratitude.
Did you know that expressing gratitude can make you happier, stronger and more successful? It’s true! Study after study has been conducted by some of the world’s greatest researchers. And time after time, they have shown that giving thanks and expressing gratitude can ACTUALLY rewire our brains for greater levels of resilience, optimism, and positively impact those around you, LITERALLY making the world a better place! See, the brain is wired to find emotional balance. While we go through rhythms — natural ups and downs throughout each day and each month — each one of our brains fluctuates around an emotional plateau. We can do things to make us feel temporarily happy, but our brains always go back to that emotional norm. Remembering the things we’re grateful for makes us happy — yes, temporarily. But if we frequently, constantly are expressing gratitude, it ACTUALLY raises our baseline. So, by frequently giving thanks, you can actually make yourself permanently happier!
TED: Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. (This one gets a little naked.)
Bonus TED: How to Make the Work-Life Balance Work (This one gets mildly sex-crazed.)