CASE STUDY > Finding your motivation
'Languishing ... The neglected middle child of mental health can dull your motivation and focus — and it may be the dominant emotion of 2021.' Adam Grant in the New York Times.
Sarah's Story: Is this it?
Sarah was an intelligent, stylish woman living in a bustling leafy suburb, but languishing in a life that had stagnated, rather than evolved. She enjoyed challenging work in a research agency that she had co-founded, but was increasingly feeling "is this it?".
An existential crisis or depressed?"
She came to me for coaching near crisis-point in constant rumination about 'sleepwalking through life'. She was spiralling round in circles as she continually asked herself “what am I doing with my life? Is this it?”.
She was clearly able to intellectualise that her thinking was a barrier to being energised and motivated about a new lease of life. The question was reframed in coaching to "Who am I going to be?” and “Who can I become?”
How coaching helped her find direction and purpose:
Coaching helped reveal Sarah’s identity without her roles, outside of her business, to find her authentic sense of self, behind the scenes. Who she was, what she liked, what she needed and what she believed in. She uncovered her talents, skills, values and strengths that would be the foundation of exploring what could fulfil her and give her a revitalised ‘reason for being’ or ikigai.
Sarah realised that she was living a half-hearted life and had forgotten the pure joy of living life to the full. One of her most prestigious jobs had been for a museum in Egypt, immersed in a life that lived and breathed her love of art and history. She relished the thought of unearthing her passions and breathing new life into her somewhat stale existence. She visualised an egyptian mummy changing to a pheonix as a metaphor for her new identity, breaking free from her confines and state of living in limbo.
The phoenix rises
This shift in her thinking was really illuminating and allowed her to visualise various 'Sarahs' and new lifestyles that could work for her. Her existential crisis shifted to the realisation that she was free to choose, to continually start afresh with clearer insight into how to energise herself to find a new purpose in life and sense of fulfilment.
Changing her mindset to a positive, accepting one
Sarah felt immensely relieved at this epiphany, that there was no pressure to become anything, other than her own self-generated pressure to conform to what she thought was expected of her. Her state of languishing slowly gave way to little flames of excitement as she focused on what would energise her and how to build new elements into her life. This change in her outlook and mindset allowed her to flourish and start seeing her life and her work with energy and a sense of optimism.
Why am I not feeling motivated?
There are lots of theories, but the post-pandemic world we now live in could move anyone into feeling that they are simply existing, not moving forward. Perhaps the spontaneous joy in life has evaporated as people feel stuck in a rut and unable to muster any enthusiasm for cooking a new recipe, let alone adding new ingredients into their life. Loosing our sense of fulfilment or purpose in life is easy when Covid has had us rooted in one place metaphorically and physically. Our progress in life seems to stall and we loose the meaning attached to what we do, and the sense of achievement and happiness in the why we do it.
Experts seem to agree that getting out of a state of languishing into an energised state of flow and motivation, involves 3 main mindsets.
Balance: black and white thinking is over-rated. The joy and colour of life is in the nuances as we shift along the middle of the classic dualisms. The portfolio career is a great example.
Acceptance: being ok about feeling less than great is fine. Noticing that you simply aren't at your best helps you to recognise and support yourself through this phase, as you would a good friend.
Connection: keeping your friendships and social activities going will enhance your mood, and sharing positive emotions with others, or connecting with the natural world is scientifically proven as helping to people feel happier.
“I was really struck by how I had let myself become a shadow of my true self, without even realising it.
Ella took me right back to finding more purpose in life, so I could slowly wake up out of my limbo, and look forward to living my life. I can now see a new future with a sense of freedom,
as well as excitement.”
Interesting reads & watches:
Adam Grant's TED talk How to stop languishing and find flow
Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life by Héctor García and Francesc Miralles
Ikigai: A Japanese concept on to improve work and life (BBC online)
Man's Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust by Viktor Frankl
Try this at home:
Just fill in the outer circles of the ikagai model , and see what it illuminates.
The ikigai model very cleverly matches up passion, profession, vocation and mission against how you could be feeling: 'satisfaction but feeling of uselessness' in the case of languishing perhaps.
It also adds in the practicalities of 'what the world needs' or 'what you can be paid for' as extrinsic needs, and your own intrinsic needs of 'what you love' and 'what you are good at'.
Contemplate what you write in each area, and notice where the energy and synergy is. This may reveal what is missing in your life and where you want to be. Ikigai is your 'reason for being', your purpose in life, the thing that makes you jump out of bed every morning.
This is just one of models, tools and approaches that can be used in the coaching sessions. Some are from neuro linguistic programming, cognitive behavioural techniques, career coach framework or positive psychology. All are evidence-based and tailored to fit each client.