Find that spark again

How to find motivation when going through tough times

Who doesn’t go through challenges? Certain life and professional challenges can be overwhelming and can cause one to feel stuck. I recently went through a series of challenges, one after the other that I felt bogged down, lacking the motivation to move ahead.

Dr Lakshmi RamachandranI was so grounded by life’s realities that even in certain moments when I would normally have been ecstatic, I found myself detached. For once, I felt that being positive at all times is easier said than done. In fact, a friend of mine pointed out that it’s tough to express a sad state of mind these days due to the social pressure of being positive. It becomes worse when you start receiving unsolicited advice on staying positive. So, most people who go through challenging times either puts up a brave front or become aloof, especially from social media, which is deceptively brimming with pictures of people beaming with joy and leading the best of lives. I wish we could simply remind ourselves that it’s normal to feel sad as much as it’s normal to feel happy and one needn’t feel the pressure to be happy at all times.

One question that haunts the mind during tough times is ‘why me?’ or ‘why my family’?! Many people would be able to relate to this. However, this is a crippling question that can make one feel stuck. Accepting tough times to be a normal part of life’s journey is important in moving forward. The resilient ones are those who know this. 'Accepting' is not putting up a brave front, rather It’s being true to how you are feeling about the situation- bad, sad, overwhelmed, distressed, angry, frustrated etc. and knowing that it’s okay to feel these emotions and let it out. Showing vulnerability and asking for support during tough times is indeed an important element of resilience.

Once we let ourselves and situations be, it becomes easier to take steps to move forward without feeling stuck.

Four Powerful Ways to Find that Spark Again

1) Finding moments of inner SILENCE: In moments of silence, truth shines! The truth that ‘I’ am insignificant in the large scheme of life, to ‘let go’ and most importantly ‘let be’. Both joy and sorrow are inevitable truths just as birth and death are. We need to let those things be that are beyond our control.

How do you find those moments of silence? Meditation and exercise (yoga, walking, running) are great ways to incorporate moments of silence. Finding even 20 minutes of silence at the workplace does wonders in how the day unfolds beautifully with improved focus. Most of us lack the motivation to incorporate these practices in our lives and do not really understand how to. I suggest getting a teacher and a support group so that you learn the right techniques and remain motivated through the group.

2) SMILING unconditionally: When going through painful times, it is but natural that the corners of our lips go down making it very tough for a smile to appear. The sad part is that these days we do not even smile unless there is a reason to smile. How often do we smile at colleagues we see every day but do not work with? The lack of a simple courteous smile has made it possible to work under the same organisation for years as strangers. Why? Are we afraid that our smile won’t be reciprocated? Or have we become extremely conditional about a smile? An unconditional smile is really a ‘secret power’ that not only benefits the person who holds the smile, but also others through a ripple effect. Even during tough times, it is possible to light up a smile if we can remember and count our blessings, including our own life.

3) SURROUND oneself with loving people: The number of people who truly love and feel genuinely for you may be not many. What is important is to know who they are and surround yourself with your well-wishers. I used to be such a people pleaser in the past that I found myself constantly chasing after people who would never appreciate or approve me. Today I recognise people-pleasing as a self-sabotaging habit. It is a waste of time and energy to be around people who zap your energy. Instead spending time with people who loves you as much as you love them is an energy booster and is uplifting.

4) SURRENDER: Let’s stop pretending that we know everything. We can be subject matter experts, but that doesn’t give us the qualification to know it all. I am pained to see people thrashing each other on social media, including our leaders, to prove a point or to demonstrate their views to be correct. As a mother I am ashamed that there are no examples I can show my children on good global leadership which needs to be based on values, caring (for people, our planet, and others views) and sharing. It’s when we surrender and accept that ‘I DON’T KNOW’ that the ‘learning’, which is truly the cherry in the pie, in any tough situation becomes evident. Every challenge we face comes with a learning that teaches us something.

Those who know this move forward even stronger than ever before with a spark - of love, gratitude and peace!


Article by Dr Lakshmi Ramachandran, Duke-NUS Medical School

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