In the face of challenges and uncertainties, it's easy to feel like your motivation has taken a hit. And the current chaos in the UK and the world at large have left many creatives grappling with a lack of enthusiasm and hope for the future.
Prices of everything from food to rent are rising, with living standards slumping as a result. The wrong kind of politicians seem to be rising to power around the world, and Europe's first major war since 1945 is putting millions of refugees in a desperate position. At the same time, increasingly strident warnings of environmental collapse mean many feel there will literally be no future for the world.
In this light, focusing on your work and making the most of life feels increasingly difficult. Indeed, as you feel everything crumbling around you, you might wonder: what's even the point of getting out of bed?
If that's how you truly feel, we're not surprised. But ultimately, you only get one life, and catastrophising isn't going to help you get the best out of it. So in this article, we'll offer some practical tips to help you get remotivated and onto a more positive track.
"Everything is so gloomy right now: I feel like there's no hope for the future." This sentence I spotted on Twitter was written in 2023. But let's be honest; it could have been written in any decade during my lifetime.
Take 1970, the year of my birth. I came into the world the same week The Beatles split, but that was the least of our problems. In the UK, about 25.5 million (13% of the UK population) were below the poverty level, and malnourishment was a real issue: looking at family photos at the beach from the time, you can see some kids' ribs sticking out quite prominently.
A major docks strike raised fears of food shortages, and the Queen declared a state of emergency. Civil war erupted in Northern Ireland, with troops on the streets, and communities were ripped apart by barricades and bombs (watch Kenneth Branagh's brilliant 2021 film Belfast to see what that felt like in practice). Only a few years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, people genuinely feared a thermonuclear war could break out at any moment.
I could go on, but the idea that this was a golden age and today's "Boomers" had all the luck is nonsense. Ironically, during the 1970s, older people often told you that things had been much better during the Second World War (!). In short, the idea that the world is in a downward spiral is nothing new.
So why do successive generations feel the world is going to hell in a handcart? Well, I must admit that's partly due to my own profession, journalism. Because, let's face it, good news isn't that interesting, and so the bad stuff tends to get amplified massively.
In the background, though, humanity is quietly making good progress on everything from harnessing nuclear fusion and developing electric cars to action to end discrimination and moves towards a four-day week.
So it's partly a matter of perspective. One way to shift the balance is to follow a website like Positive News, which focuses on the good things happening in the world. Another is to simply spend less time looking at the news. Because if you're not the actual prime minister, you don't need to be reading news updates on your phone all day, every day. Limit your news consumption, and you'll soon find your mood lifting as a result.
Be honest: is your feeling that the world is spiralling downward wholly about your concern for your fellow citizens? Or is at least part of it internal?
When you're young, everything's new and exciting. As you get a little older, life starts to get duller, problems mount up, and it can feel that everything's getting on top of you. That's often when you start to get drawn in by bad news stories in the media: because they echo a broader sense of lacking control or direction in your own life.
At the extreme, you might even start to obsess over such stories and seek them out as a way of wallowing in your emotions. That's one reason why modern clickbait is so effective, as it makes clever use of sophisticated algorithms to exploit that psychological need. If you've never succumbed to this dynamic, then you're stronger-willed than me.
When you do find yourself getting sucked into this kind of downward spiral, the first step in escaping it is to recognise this, accept the emotions that are driving it, and consider where they really come from. Is it purely rage against injustice in a foreign land? Or is it partly that you're having a bad day at work? It's usually a bit of both, but you need to be honest about that fact with yourself, at least.
In short, there's nothing wrong with feeling generally demotivated and dispirited: it's a natural part of life that we all go through at times. But blaming these emotions purely on the "state of the world" won't help you overcome them. Acknowledging your feelings, in contrast, allows you to process them and take the first step towards addressing them in practical terms.
The next step to rebalancing your mood lies in recognising the difference between what you can and can't control.
This principle forms the core of numerous ancient philosophies, from Stoicism to Buddhism, and for good reason. Because while it's easy to get overwhelmed by global and national issues, it's essential to remember that not everything is within your control. And once you truly grasp that, you'll be better placed to direct your focus towards aspects of your life that you can influence.
Your aim should be, in the words of the Stoic Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, "To be like the rock that the waves keep crashing over. It stands unmoved, and the raging of the sea falls still around it."
The Stoics had a lot of practical advice on how to achieve this in practice, which is as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago. You can find more on this at the Daily Stoic website and in Derren Brown's excellent guide Happy: Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine.
Here's another reason why humans tend to become demotivated over time. All too often, we tell ourselves that if we could just get that promotion, new flat or perfect partner, then everything will be fine. Unfortunately, our minds and bodies just don't work that way.
Instead, the moment we get what we want, we tend to feel bored, unsatisfied and unfulfilled all over again. As the old saying goes, "The chase is better than the catch".
Why does this happen? In a nutshell, evolution has designed us to constantly seek out the new. That's enabled our species to thrive and multiply exponentially because it's driven us to continually explore undiscovered environments and try out different and innovative ideas. But the downside is that many of us spend our lives unable to settle down and relax.
You can't fight how humans are designed, so our only real option is to work with it. So rather than working on one big goal, it's better to set a series of smaller, achievable goals.
This means you'll always be looking forward but with small spikes of accomplishment and motivation, giving you much-needed boosts along the way. These victories, no matter how small, can fuel your drive.
The problem with all this advice is that it won't necessarily shift your mood overnight. But when you're feeling low, you often need some kind of boost to get you started. So that can keep you stuck in a vicious circle of demotivation and listlessness.
In which case, Phil Stutz, a therapist who's currently the subject of a Netflix documentary, has some advice. He suggests that you can give yourself an instant lift by focusing on what he calls your "life force".
The first thing to tackle is physical wellness. When you feel demotivated, it often means you're not getting the sleep, food and movement that you need to be a fully functioning human. So make sure you're eating regular, nutritional meals. Take steps to ensure a good sleep routine: end screen use early, wind down with a good book, and give yourself a chance for at least seven to nine hours of sleep, even if you don't achieve it. And take regular exercise. Whether that's a full-on gym session or just a walk around the block doesn't matter; the main point is to avoid being sedentary.
The next step is to engage with other people. It's easy for this to slip away from our lives, especially if you work from home. But it's vital for us psychologically, so phoning or meeting up with friends and family members is important to improve your mental well-being.
Finally, Stutz suggests we connect with our spiritual self: our feelings, hopes, fears, dreams, and resentments. Doing all this, he believes, will give you an immediate and significant mental boost. For more details, check out the documentary Stutz on Netflix.
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