Maintaining motivation is becoming an increasing challenge for many people slogging through life curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Initially facing weeks confined to our homes, we tackled, with some satisfaction, long-neglected chores like weaning closets of clothes that no longer fit our bodies or lifestyles, reorganizing drawers and emptying pantries and refrigerators of forgotten foodstuffs.
But as the weeks morphed into months with no clear end in sight for much of the country, the ennui of Covid-induced isolation can undermine enthusiasm for such mundane activities, however rewarding they may have seemed at first. I’m among a growing number of people I’ve spoken with who admit to a lack of motivation for tasks they know need doing but now are unable to face.
For some, even working out can seem daunting when preferred activities like swimming or spin classes are no longer accessible.
Too many days I wake up wondering why I should bother to get up, a feeling contrary to my normal determination to use every waking moment to accomplish something worthwhile.
A friend schooled in Buddhist principles suggested that during these trying times I should cut myself some slack. But a laid-back approach doesn’t suit my goal-oriented, people-centered personality. I chose instead to consult a former New York Times colleague, Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and author of the highly influential book “Emotional Intelligence.”
Dr. Goleman explained that there are two kinds of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation refers to acts done to receive an external reward or outcome like wealth, power or fame, or in some cases to avoid punishment.
Intrinsic motivation involves behaviors done for their own sake that are personally rewarding, like helping other people, participating in an enjoyable sport or studying a fascinating subject. With intrinsic motivation, inspiration comes from within a person. It tends to be more forceful and the results more fulfilling.
“The stay-at-home edict has pushed so many of us into an external motivation mode that is making us face something that feels like lethargy and meaninglessness,” Dr. Goleman said.