Many of us at BYSJ are in the midst of the 60 Day Challenge, myself included. I’ve been off and on in my yoga practice since Covid came along over two years ago, and the Challenge has been a great way to restart and stick with it. We know how rewarding a persistent practice can be, so what’s the deal with motivation?
A consistent routine like a challenge helps us to show up every day, but there are times when it’s a unique struggle, especially after a long pause. Legitimate life circumstances can get in the way, but why is it difficult even when there are none? It’s been said that knowledge is power, and a sense of power might be what we need to get off our butts and do what we know is best for us.
How does motivation work?
If you struggle to do what’s in your best interest, it may be helpful to reflect on the motivational triad: to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve energy. These innate impulses work together in nature to motivate animals to survive and thrive; they helped the human race get where we are. Pleasure seeks safe food and procreation, pain avoidance keeps harm away, and energy conservation prepares for challenges ahead.
Eons of evolution and survival have us hard-wired to act out of these impulses, and the modern marketplace has capitalized on it, always ready to sell us more pleasure, comfort, and ease. What might have worked to our advantage as a species surviving in the natural world can ultimately bring less pleasure and more pain now that we’re immersed in the convenience and distractions of the modern world.
Thankfully, it’s easy to turn basic motivational impulses inside out and see them for what they are. After a challenging class or the struggle to return to a yoga practice, we know how amazing we feel. Now that’s a pleasure. And isn’t it great how we crave food and drink that’s better for us after class? It’s easy to see that my hip doesn’t get any better by laying around to avoid pain. It may be tough to get into the Triangle pose and work with it, but I’m stronger and freer if I do.
What motivates you?
Do you struggle with motivation, evade discomfort, or swing like a pendulum between too much and too little? Try to give yourself a break. It’s an upside-down world we live in, and it’s not your fault. The early bird may get the worm, but the tortoise can beat the hare – use the approach of ease and efficiency to your advantage and keep your eye on the prize of a truer, lasting pleasure. Here’s to being a work in progress and being human.