Day 1: Motivation – #GIG2017

Not only is it almost Christmas, but believing in your own abilities is key to finding motivation.

Happy first day of November, and with it, my second annual Ground in Gratitude challenge!
Each post this month leading up to Thanksgiving will focus on one thing, tangible or not, that I am grateful for in my life. This time, I’m taking it a step further by trying to be hip with a hashtag and incorporating it across social media platforms, expressing gratitude in all areas of my life. And with that hashtag, I challenge YOU (yes, you reading this) to also devote time to gratitude. If you share something online, I’d love if you’d use the hashtag so I can find it and even give you a shoutout.

With the background information out of the way, I want to dive head-first into this month discussing motivation. This already is fairly abstract, but I think having motivation is a key element to really making your life less about sitting back as everything goes by, and more about switching to the driver’s seat and feel empowered with the route you take.

I wanted to start with motivation because personally, I’ve felt a struggle recently to find any. My health has been sub-par, and that has led to a major depressive episode that has left me feeling drained by doing anything. Completing homework ahead of time has been hard. Going out to socialize and not just give excuses has been hard. Heck, even writing blog posts has been harder than it usually is, a pastime that I can usually pull out without much extra effort.

When I come across these times of barely dragging myself out of bed each morning, that doesn’t mean I’m completely helpless. Instead, I change my perception of what motivation and productivity look like. Now more than ever we see people, especially women, feeling more empowered to become “girl bosses” and glorify “the hustle,” and while that’s such a great thing to see, it overlooks the times when we can hardly take care of ourselves, let alone rocking out some major projects and plans.

Rather than seeing motivation just as the bridge to working hard and accomplishing a list of achievements, let’s celebrate motivation more as that little nudge ensuring we take care of ourselves each day. That voice of reason reminding us to reach out to that friend you haven’t talked to in awhile, to go get some groceries when you’re running low on food, to take a shower if you haven’t done so in a few days. Motivation is not some outside authority telling us what to do; it’s ourselves and our own desire to be the best version of ourselves each day, whatever that version may look like. And motivation in that sense might be even more empowering than the work-your-tail-off kind.

So those times when we think about our current state or look in the mirror, disappointed in what we see, realize that we wouldn’t even be standing without some form of motivation, whether that be for loved ones, goals, or the innate desire to stay alive. We can fall flat on our faces a million and one times, but that inner motivation never truly goes away. We can ignore and suppress it, but if we want to see any sort of step, no matter how big or small, forward, motivation is the tool moving our foot in the right direction.

Despite feeling a fog billowing in my vision and clouding my usual level of ambition, I am grateful for my motivation to keep waking up every morning, to still share my ideas on this blog because I know how much I love it and would miss doing so. I am grateful for still taking care of myself, for still doing my best in class. I’ve pictured so many different scenarios of what I could possibly be right now if I chose to completely wallow in my depression, but I’ve decided to grasp onto that spark of motivation to keep my eyes set toward the lighter times inevitably in my future.

If you’re drawn to a certain idea or activity, there’s a reason for that random little jolt of motivation compelling you. Don’t deny yourself that, but follow the path, even if it’s in unknown territory, and see where it takes you. At the end of the day, your biggest obstacle is yourself, your own fears and hesitations. But that means you’re also your best tool for overcoming those self-doubts, and that potential is really empowering.

On this first day of November, I hope you find the motivation within yourself to focus on at least one thing each day and express your gratitude for it. After doing this last year, I really want others to hop on board because the mindset you adopt from doing so can drive even greater motivation to not only better yourself, but to better the world around you.

What motivates you? It could be anything. I’d love to hear about the varied ways motivation seeps into our lives and helps direct our paths.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Behind Closed Doors

Never underestimate the power of change. Even simple change. Sometimes a mere change in your surroundings, life, or mindset can have immense benefits.

I have held off talking about this particular topic for a while now. My dad and brother are probably sick and tired of my constant updates about my situation, but admittedly, my mind is overly nit-picky. I have certain (probably unreasonable) standards for myself, and usually the most insignificant of details is what grinds my gears.

This school year, I’m living in an apartment off-campus with one roommate, a roommate who happens to be an ex. Which, right off the bat, people probably are already pointing out an obvious problem here, but that’s not even a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

I established early on that I wanted distinctly separate spaces for each of us. I see my home as a sanctuary away from the stress of the outside world (if that means I have some hermit tendencies, well, so be it). Only for certain people and in certain moods am I willing to sacrifice my space and standards of living (again, selfish? Probably. I’m just way too picky for my own good).

How the apartment is laid out, you walk into a living room/kitchen space, go down the hall to a bathroom and bedroom, and a large back room finishes it off. My roommate took the back room, and I had a desk set up in the living area. We each had a twin bed in the bedroom and we obviously both use the bathroom.

I never actually realized it as I went about my day, but I essentially was never truly alone. Since my desk (the spot I am at 98% of the time) is the living area, I was always subject to hearing whatever was going on in the back room as well as being around him if he was in the kitchen or going out the front door. This also meant I knew when the kitchen and front door were being used and essentially would need some cleaning, making me paranoid of whatever mess might be left over and being generally on edge 24/7.

In complete honesty, the last few weeks, I have been at one of my deepest depressions in a long time. Just really not in a good head space. Every single aspect of life left me overwhelmed and yet I had zero motivation to do anything. The bare minimum in class, even if that meant putting off my own health, was all I could muster.

And yes, I’m still working through that phase right now in hopes that I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but last weekend, some magic happened. Magic in the form of a roommate’s idea and a mother’s words. First, when coming back between class and work on Friday, I was taken aback to see my roommate’s bed no longer in the bedroom. He then told me that he realized that I truly have never had any privacy in the apartment, figuring that moving himself completely to the back room might help. Also, when I was at work, my parents came down to the apartment to puppy-sit, and my mom (aka my savior) was really honest with my roommate in my fragile state and some of the little things I’ve confided in my family but haven’t explicitly detailed to the roommate (confrontation is not my strong suit).

After some serious self-care (which looked like washing my face and showering after not doing so all week), I walked into the bedroom, closed the door, and I don’t know what it was, but I immediately felt a difference. I relaxed for the first time in what felt like months. I hadn’t actually talked to my roommate since moving in, and we actually had conversations. I actually slept in later than 5 AM and felt more rested and not like a zombie. My creative mind felt like it was waking up from a long hibernation.

We introverts truly, desperately need alone time to fully recharge. Regardless of your temperament, we all need an environment that supports our well-being. In my case, that means having a room where I can close a door and be in my own space, a space where I’m not constantly spinning around worries about how clean the kitchen is or being aggravated by any minute behavior of my roommate differing from my own preferences.

Don’t underestimate how your environment affects you. If you’re in a space that drains you, constantly around others that don’t benefit your mind, it’s time to change things up. Maybe you’re somewhere that doesn’t allow for much dramatic change, but even simply adding some fun decor or going to a place away from home that can provide you with peace can really help. And, most importantly, self-care all the way. Do the little things that make you happy, in a space that supports your motivation and productivity. A change of scenery can be the push you need to reevaluate your attitude and mindset to better reflect how you truly want to feel.

Where is your “happy place”? What elements in that space make it your sanctuary to recharge and ground yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

The Occasional Slacker

If you’re a go-getter like me, any sort of procrastination feels like failure…

98% of the time, I’m the kind of person working way ahead of schedule. I’m completing tasks I don’t actually need to finish for a few weeks, but I just feel compelled to do them anyway. I’ve always been that type of person, always on the ball, always trying to make my time productive.

Except, that 2% of the time not accounted for, that’s when I feel beyond guilty. Defeated. Angry and frustrated with myself. Uninspired and unmotivated. There is that rare time when I come across a particular assignment that I just have no willpower to get done. Even when I never plan to procrastinate, which using that term could have many various definitions depending on the person, I have just a random paper or responsibility that I leave up as a window or tab on my computer and just ignore. And end up doing anything else BUT that.

It’s a habit that I luckily don’t fall into very often, but it does inevitably happen. Right now as I’m writing this, it’s a memo for media law and ethics. I have multiple tabs open in my browser for resources to cite and emails from an online database with more information, and yet there the document sits, little progress made, due in a few days. And here I am, writing a blog post instead!

I almost feel like I’m going against my own nature, like some unknown force is blocking my usual urgency to get things done. I’ve never been one to understand those who always write papers the day before they’re due or barely glancing at a textbook minutes before a test is handed out. I’ve had to work my tail off throughout my education, and while it can be exhausting at times, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished thus far.

Until I get to that one little snag in the production that I just hone in and focus on, use it as ammunition to shame my abilities or lack thereof. But regardless of the scenario, we all come to points where we face a roadblock, a random halt in our creativity that can come up out of the blue. The world still expects us to keep truckin’ along as per usual, but we just…can’t, or don’t know how. It’s not that we don’t realize we have lots of people and resources that we could fall back on and ask questions to, we just mentally are at a place where our brain randomly decides that a basic task is too much.

This can apply to so much more than classwork. How about making yearly doctor and dentist appointments? How about applying and interviewing for jobs? Heck, sometimes making a meal that isn’t just cereal feels like a task only a MasterChef contestant can pull off. Our perception of how we view the difficulty of everyday occurrences that skew from reality is appalling.

Wouldn’t it be great to flip a switch and suddenly have the clarity and ambition to do what feels impossible? Or have it already done for us overnight, like secret elves just pulling our lives together? Alas, it’s not how the world works. We are the ones to ultimately hold ourselves accountable. Sure, you could easily neglect certain things that stress you out, but what are the repercussions of those decisions? We all know the answer to those questions as it pertains to our lives, but even then, it might not get you into gear.

What I typically do is still try to be productive, even if one task sits on my to-do list for longer than I’d like, but I still am crossing other things off. It’s a satisfying feeling, and sometimes that’s the only nudge you need to want to cross everything off. Also, your well-being should always, without a doubt, come first. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, that’s what is most important. You can’t do a single thing if you always leave your energy tank on empty.

Keep that one nagging task at the forefront of your mind, regardless of how simple it is to shove it aside. Think of what a relief it will be to get it done. Maybe that means going to a different location to do so, or doing some self-care activities first before you dive in, or taking frequent breaks to prevent getting hung up on tricky spots, or all of the above. It’s whatever you know works best for you.

If you don’t feel it right now, here’s a quick reminder that yes, you are strong and capable of overcoming the obstacles that plague you. You will trudge forward past this point and look back satisfied knowing that you made it. Life is all about the highs and lows, bouncing back and forth in a constant game of pinball. But if I can do it, then you and everyone else can, too.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie