Yesterday evening, I found myself in a funk. The kids were in bed, all was quiet, what was my deal? After all, that late evening time is prime time to get other things done, right?
I had taken the previous week off, and was close to the day to go back to work. I began to “feel everything,” which is how I knew I was inches from a panic attack. My husband asked, “What’s happening in your mind right now?”
I verbally vomited all over our living room: “Well the house is a mess and the kids need clean clothes and I haven’t done any blog posts in three weeks and I am behind on my reading and I have to clean my office and I also want to spend time with you because I haven’t really gotten to do that during my time off and a few things need to be done for work even though I’m off…”
You know that kind of ruminating thought pattern. You also probably know that pastors have a really hard time taking time off. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t done hardly anything church-related in the past week… but I did sneak in a few things that “needed to be done.”
When I stopped listing all the things I had to do, I was shaking. My husband, staying calm (this is not our first panic rodeo), gently asked me the most interesting question:
“Where is your motivation?”
I raised an eyebrow, and he explained: “Sometimes motivation is like a light switch, it’s either on or it’s off. You haven’t written for your blog in three weeks because you’re motivation has been spending time on your Doctor of Ministry classes. Where your priorities are, that is where your motivation will be. It’s okay if your motivation isn’t into something. Don’t force yourself, you’ll only resent yourself and the process along the way.”
Well, then. I personally hate it when my husband gets that deep… and is right. I probably hate the second part more than the first, haha.
I paused for a moment, and said, “I’m not motivated to do any of those things. I feel guilty because I want to spend the night playing games with you but feel like I should be getting work done while the kids are sleeping.”
He asked me, again gently, “But will you be able to be present? It’s okay if you decide you need to get some work done first. But I suggest you follow your motivation.”
So I decided to follow his advice. I really wanted to play games, and he had invested in this adorable date night box called Crated With Love (highly recommended!) that sends us a “date night box” each month that really turns into 2-3 nights of fun games and conversation.
A date box to our door that we don’t have to worry about – heaven for parents of small children who spend most of their time surviving or sleeping. But that night, because I followed my motivation, we spent the night with an 8-Bit adventure box, playing 20 Questions, shooting fake aliens with squirt guns, the works. It was wonderful.
The story doesn’t end there. After we finished, it was getting late… and we were getting tired. But we were still feeling jazzed from playing, so we did the dishes and folded the laundry.
And the next morning, my husband was feeling good enough that we got the kids involved in cleaning the rest of the house (and they did!).
Not only did the house get cleaned, but I was driving down the street and started to get the idea for this blog post. And another blog post that I’ll probably write after that.
How about that?!
Following my motivation ended up being way better than I had anticipated. Can you imagine if I had forced myself to go into my office, write what would have been some crappy blog posts, or fold laundry? I would have been miserable both yesterday and today. Probably would have even had that panic attack.
Following my motivation filled up my “tank” of energy, and helped me be even more productive. I gave myself permission to play for a while, and it totally shifted my creative outset.
If you’re struggling to figure out why you just can’t wind yourself up for a task, ask yourself where your motivation is. Try to clear out all the “should” and the guilt (we’re really good at heaping those two things on) and really ask yourself what you’re motivated to do.
I know, I know. You might ask me why I’m using a blog post to promote what could be construed as “procrastinating.” I don’t think following your motivation in a different direction for a little while is procrastination at all, especially if you know that you’ll complete the task at some point. I also think the word procrastination can shame us from listening to our own needs – and punishing ourselves into overfunctioning.
So if you really don’t want to start working on your website today or whatever initiative you’re planning, it’s okay. Good things take time, and if you put work into it when you’re “not feeling it,” the quality of work will only diminish.
Plus, you never know where following your motivation will take you. Maybe you decide to take a walk in the woods instead because that’s where your motivation is today. Maybe when you’re walking you have a great idea (always bring small notepads when you’re out walking) or you have the spark of motivation to get going on things the next day. Maybe you think from a different angle and realize what’s hanging you up in the project… and find a way to pivot that will offer dividends to your project.
Follow your motivation, even when it makes no sense. I had no idea that playing games with my husband would leave me feeling like I could take on the world today. I just stopped fighting where my motivation was, followed that motivation, and things got done in their own time.
If you’re true to your inner voice and follow your true motivation, you’ll be surprised how inspired you feel. Because the rest of the things will get done, I’m sure of it. Allowing yourself space to fill your own needs will unlock your creative potential.
Has there ever been a time when you followed your motivation and it ended up leading or unlocking something new or creative? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.
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