Homo Demotivatus

demotivated_2Lack of motivation affects almost all of us from time to time. We don’t feel like working, not even doing things that we like, and we look at happy people with the uncanny mixture of hatred, jealousy and unhealthy fascination. How do they do it? How can they achieve such a high level of ignorance towards the world’s general awfulness? Is it possible to tune out the reality and trick yourself into being unquestionably happy? Is ignorance new happiness? Many questions of similar intense self-pity go through our heads when we reach the infamous peak of demotivation.

I reached this peak not so long time ago. I questioned every step that I had taken in my life, and I evaluated everything in such a negative light that my boyfriend afraid of my intentions offered to stay home to talk this through.

So he stayed, we talked, I felt better.

It was not so long time after when I stumbled across a minor problem which resulted in an unstoppable fountain of tears and a series of sobs so loud that I almost caused my cat to suffer a fatal heart condition. The state of demotivation, protectively wrapped in my boyfriend’s sweet words of love and compassion, broke free to mock me and my so-called stability of mind. Why? I was doing so well! I recognized the importance of surrounding me love, I understood that I have to fight for every goal that I want to reach, and revised again the theory of success achieved only step-by-step with time. Dammit, I talked it through! I got better! So why does the feeling of being powerless haunt me again? Why do I feel so empty and deprived of energy?

I brooded long over cups of coffee so strong that after my musings I had to go for a walk to lose the shakiness of my limbs. I sat on a bench within the protective grasp of the ancient city walls of York, took my phone, and started jotting down all my fears.

Fears are not all so bad; they protect us from taking too hasty decisions, force us to think twice before we leap.

As it came out, my fears weren’t so terrifying after I gave them name and brought them into bright daylight. I came home, googled “types of demotivation,” and came across an article written by Cath Duncan who very wisely compared the state of demotivation to snow: many people see it as a general idea just like they perceive demotivation as broadly-speaking lack of willingness to live; but just like Eskimos who can observe different kinds of snow and name it accordingly, in the same way there exist different types of demotivation. Labeling your state of mind helps you to overcome it, as you are able to apply appropriate preventive steps or/and healing processes.

I learned a lot about myself that day. I discovered that most of my fears derive from the general unclearness of what I really want. Do I want to live in England or go back to Poland? Develop my career as a writer or go back to teaching? I operated within those ambiguities and inscribed them all in my long and short-term goals, instead of focusing on one of them, and developing only one of the possible choices. After my revealing aha! moment, I decided to focus on my present situation: I am an aspiring writer living in a beautiful city of York.

After defining my roles, I felt more self-assured, as if my body, floating in space of uncertainty gained weight and pulled me back on the path leading to a clear goal. I started to feel more real, more alive. Focusing solely on a chosen narrow goal made it far more achievable. I can almost see the end of the path – and it does not matter if I succeed or fail, because both outcomes are finite, and both of them enable me to move on to my next goal, to my next big dream.

In other words, I will continue to dream big, but I’ll resign from dreaming wide.

Will it work?

 

Autobiographical Listening

stockvault-bus-stop-toys114619I am absolutely positive that at a certain point of your life you experienced a conversation with somebody who almost miraculously everything that you said referred to his/her own personal life. Somehow, and you were not exactly sure how it happened, the conversation began to look suspiciously like a bunch of autobiographical short stories of your supposed-to-be listener. Every sentence that you uttered was summarized with: “oh yeah, that reminds me of that time when I…” So at the end, you were left with this clinging unpleasant feeling that you had wasted your time and more importantly breath, as nothing what you said was in fact heard. You were viciously used as canvas for all the stories your listener threw at you as a response; which, consequently, cannot be defined as a conversation. So how can we define this crude experience that you had to endure?

My dear friend, you were and also quite probably will be a victim of a chronic autobiographical listener. This curious species live among us incognito until they hunt us down to flood us with Wikipedia-worth trivia about themselves. The term blabbing is very much adequate when describing the way an autobiographical listener talks. Moreover, it does not matter if you know the person well or have just met: stories will flow out of their mouth nevertheless.

Thinking about it made me realise that in some situations I also tend to listen autobiographically to others. Like for example listening to a friend talking about her relationship and in response giving her examples of my own – it is a real pickle why didn’t she punch me in the face back then… You may ask why I did it. Well, I thought that real-life examples would be better than empty words. As for now, I grew to question that teacher-like attitude. Why should anybody feel better after me dragging my life in front of them? When I am sad or have a problem, I want to get it off my chest. I want to be heard. Autobiographical listening leaves us with feeling of being ignored or used as a background.

Of course it does not mean that upon hearing some sad story I should emphatically cry and be equally depressed. Of that I am sure. How can a person listen actively? For many years I mistook active for advice-giving. But now I stand corrected before my potential listeners. I, hereby, vouch for my listening skills: no more autobiographical gobbledygook!

I will rephrase, nod, and ask additional question, I will name feelings and mimic the content while taking part in heart-to-heart. And only after such conversations galore I would be able to tell you how many punches I received for listening not the way I was supposed to…

… or proudly present a medal for the listener of the year 🙂

Anatomy of Charity

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‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’

                               /Mahatma Ghandi/

Every January one of the biggest charity organisations in Poland unites thousands of volunteers to help gather money to buy hospital equipment. This charity event lasts only one day but it joins together an extremely big amount of people driven by one aim: to help people in need. Organizers themselves admit that it is a curious social phenomenon: there has never been a case of stealing money by any of the volunteers; moreover, year after year there are more and more people willing to sacrifice their time for a greater cause.

What makes us this way? Why are we so driven to make somebody else’s life better? Are we purely altruistic or is there any hidden profit lurking behind every good deed?

Well, the answer as usual is ambiguous. There are many profits one can gain from helping others, but those beneficial properties of charity are cloistered in our brain, influencing us without our immediate knowledge.

Many of us asked about reasons for helping people answer that it just feels right or that it feels good. I would like to lobotomise this feeling and get to psychological core of it.

There is no denying that charity brings emotional benefits to people involved in it. People feel useful and that satisfies their feeling of self-fulfillment. Researchers from the University of Australia took further the analysis of this particular feeling and its impact upon our self-development. They all agree that self-fulfillment significantly increases the ability to seek creative solutions to problems, making a person more self-assured and more competent in stress management.

There have been many studies concerning impact of charity and volunteering on people. It has been discovered that apart from such obvious profits like reinforced pro-social behavior, it also allows people to take different perspective to their own lives. Experiencing problems of others helps us appreciate our own life with all its ups and downs. Therapeutic properties of helping yourself by helping others were used in group therapy sessions (starting from 1960s) by social psychologist Frank Riessman who activated addicts, alcoholics and law abusers to help people in need or another member of a group to overcome obstacles that life brought them. This approach called ‘helper theory’ was successfully implemented by many support groups, and it is still used as one of the most successful therapy tools.

As much as I liked all those theories, it still did not fully answer why people experience so many benefits from helping others. I had to dig deeper into the topic, so I decided that it was time to reach for medical explanation.

After hours of googling I stumbled upon a book written by a medical doctor Stephen G. Post entitled Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by Simple Act of Giving. Part of the book treated about underlying neurological causes for charitable acts.

According to Doctor Post, good deeds like helping others, giving money for a good cause or volunteering activate mesolimbic pathways in our brains.  This particular part of brain is responsible for feeling joy and pleasure. Upon having an appropriate stimulus like eating, sex or precisely an act of charity, it releases dopamine which is more widely known as a happy hormone. That is the reason why some people who have problems with balancing emotions can even get addicted to giving, as Doctor Post explains.

Moreover, thanks to charity not only are we more content, but also we can enjoy longer and healthier life. A body of a charitable person produces large amount of oxytocine which is considered a compassion hormone and which lowers our susceptibility to long-term stress exposure. Less amount of stress makes miracles to our immune system, which inevitable leads to healthier life with higher longevity.

Both scientists and psychologists unanimously agree that charity as much as it helps other people also has an incredibly positive impact on our own lives. It is emotionally rewarding, it connects us with others and allows us to make use of any talent that we are willing to offer.

Consequently, this whole anatomical approach to charity can be summarized as follows:  be good to yourself by being good to those in need.

Here’s to New Beginnings!

Another Nestockvault-splashing-drink116328w Year has approached, and another thousand of New Year’s resolutions were uttered by millions of lips all over the world. I was one of them: I promised myself to start a blog, write regularly with the intention of motivating me and my future readers to follow the rocky path of self-development.

Will I be successful with my resolution? Time will tell, as time is the main factor to consider upon taking up a resolution. No change happens immediately. Given time and an adequate approach change is nothing more but a logical next step.

New beginnings are tempting, because they offer people a blank slate that is not yet ruined by reality. It is our tabula rasa that is waiting to be filled with our dreams. It gives us motivation and this is why Google Resolution map is so full of wishes, most of them concerned with self-improvement.

So now, at this point, my resolution is pure and unspoiled by further thoughts. My blog will be ideal: educational, thus helpful. I am excited by this idea, and it makes me feel good about myself. I am highly motivated.

But then, there comes the infamous Next Day Syndrome – doubts and many what-ifs. I start to question the sanity of the resolution: it is a huge endeavour after all. What if people will not like it, what if my writing style is unacceptable, what if I will be too cliche instead of being educational, what if I will fail in every possible way? Yes it is natural, and yes that brings us to the next step: acceptance of possible failure, and forthcoming relapses.

Failure is a natural step in development. We fail, we draw conclusions, we avoid past mistakes, we progress. But deeply rooted fear of committing errors exists in most of us, and it very often prevents us from trying out a new idea. People very often and very wrongly associate making mistake with embarrassing themselves. However,  if you look at mistake as another way of acquiring knowledge and experience, it will no longer resemble a nightmare, and you will be able to shake off this devolving fear and get down to work on your resolution.

No matter how big is your target change, you should not be scared of the overall size of it, but rather divide it into many small tasks, and step by step make it happen. However, your resolution cannot be too vague because you will have problems with preparing a schedule for it.

The base of every good resolution is to proceed with it by preparing a good plan. A plan makes your resolution more tangible, hence more manageable. It should contain your aims, deadlines, actions that together will contribute to the fulfillment of the plan. We also ought to include possible problems that we can encounter in order to be aware of them.

Only when our resolution is properly quantified and limited with deadlines, we can advance with its implementation. It is very important that we also invent a system of reward for every step that we manage to complete. Upon completion of this post I already know that I will reward myself with a relaxing cup of coffee over a book that I am currently reading. Since I am a lost cause of a bookworm, I cannot wait to finish and start reading. This thought elevates my motivation, and prevents me from taking any other unnecessary break.

Motivation, being a crucial factor in fulfilling any resolution, is something that we also should monitor regularly. We have to know what keeps us motivated and what decreases our devotion to a task. Keeping track of our progress is extremely healthy for maintaining a high level of commitment to the resolution. Once you start to see progress, you want to progress more and more, you feel excited almost as much as you were at the beginning of your endeavour.

So, without further ado: here’s to new beginnings!