Using Resilience To Fuel Your Motivation

Never before have we been so drained as a workforce and as individuals. Motivation seems to be a scarce commodity. Our schedules have become so packed that we move through the day in fear that one more thing might be added... and our world will collapse like some hastily built house of cards. As the song from the 80's so aptly said, we are literally "running on empty." The irony is there will always be unexpected challenges or difficulties that will require us to "bounce back" once things return to normal.

A solution, as outlined in my book, Juggling Elephants, is to take more frequent breaks or "intermissions" within your day. Those moments of stepping back to rest, recharge, and refocus are essential to building up our resilience to handle the onslaught of activity that awaits us when it's time to return to the next item in our day.

These moments of stepping back to rest, recharge, and refocus are essential to building up our resilience...

Jane Mcgonigal wrote a superb column some time ago about how to increase resilience by engaging in what most would call non-productive activities. In Building Resilience by Wasting Time, she highlights four key areas where we need to build resilience-and, I would add, improve our motivation to deal with all that life throws at us. They are:

  • Physical. Improvement in this area allows your body to react more efficiently to the demands placed on you. Activities here might include stretching, standing for a few minutes if you normally sit at your desk, or maybe even some light exercise. I have personally chosen to do a set of 15 push ups at least 3 times a day.
  • Mental. You want your brain to have the capacity to work through problems, and give you the willpower you need to stay focused. Mcgonigal suggests activities like counting backward from 100 by sevens. You might also try solving a simple riddle or trivia question.
  • Emotional. The focus here is building up positive emotion since the demands of the day include so many negative emotions. She suggests trying to keep a 3:1 ratio of positive emotions for every negative emotion experienced. Activities like viewing pictures of family or friends, or even achieving success at a minutely challenging task (think tossing paper in the wastebasket) can foster such emotions.
  • Social. The focus here is improving our relationships-think gratitude and the power of touch. McGonigal suggests keeping the grip in a handshake a little longer than normal. Other ideas could include holding the door for someone or thanking someone for something they have done for you.

The key is to find small activities that can improve your resiliency and ultimately your motivation, and to be proactive about doing them during our moments of idleness. Resistance to doing these types of activities is usually low, and with the hectic days most of us have, it's easier to do lots of little things than one or two big ones.

What small activities can you make part of your day to increase your resiliency?