There’s so much I still want to create and foster in my life, and yet I feel utterly beaten down. I feel like I have nothing left to work with. I’ve been through a lot on my journey thus far, and I’m now at a point where I’ve lost all my motivation – I just can’t seem to find the external and internal sources of motivation I used to have. Do you have any wisdom you could share?
Sincerely, A Discouraged Student
Our reply (an open reply to all who have lost their motivation):
Dear Discouraged Student,
It’s time for a quick story about life…
Once upon a time there was a woman in her mid sixties who noticed that she had lived her entire life in the same small town. And although she had spent decades enthusiastically dreaming about traveling and seeing the world, she had never taken a single step to make this dream a reality.
Finally, she woke up on the morning of her 65th birthday and decided that now was the time! She sold all of her possessions except for some essential items she needed, packed these items into a backpack, and began her journey out into the world. The first several days on the road were amazing and filled with awe – with every step forward she felt like she was finally living the life she had dreamed.
But a few short weeks later, the days on the road started taking a toll on her. She felt misplaced and she missed the familiar comforts of her old life. As her feet and legs grew more and more sore with each new step, her mood also took a turn for the worse.
Eventually she stopped walking, took off her backpack, slammed it on the ground, and sat down beside it as tears began streaming down her cheeks. She stared hopelessly down a long winding road that once led to an amazing world, but now seemed to lead only to discomfort and unhappiness. “I have nothing! I have nothing left in my life!” she shouted out loud at the top of her lungs.
Coincidentally, a renowned guru and life adviser from a nearby village was resting quietly behind a pine tree adjacent to where the woman was sitting. When the woman began shouting, the guru heard every word and he felt it was his duty to help her. Without thinking twice he jumped out from behind the pine tree, grabbed her backpack, and ran into the forest that lined both sides of the road. Stunned and in complete disbelief, the woman started crying even harder than before, to the point of near breathlessness.
“That backpack was all I had,” she cried.” And now it’s gone! Now everything is gone in my life!”
After about ten minutes of much-needed tears, the woman gradually collected her emotions, stood up again and began staggering slowly down the road. Meanwhile the guru cut through the forest and secretly placed the backpack in the middle of the road just a short distance ahead of the woman.
When the woman’s teary eyes fell upon the backpack, she almost couldn’t believe what she was seeing – everything she thought she had just lost was once again right in front of her. She couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear. “Oh, thank heavens!” the woman exclaimed. “I am so grateful! Now I definitely have what I need to continue onward…”
As we journey through our personal and professional lives, there will inevitably be periods of incredible frustration and despair. During those tough times, it will sometimes appear to us that we’ve lost everything, and that nothing and nobody could possibly motivate us to move onward in the direction of our dreams. But just like the woman who stumbled across the guru, we are all holding with us a backpack of support that comes in many forms – it can be a simple email or text message from someone we respect, inspiring blog posts, insightful books, helpful neighbors, and so much more.
When we are feeling discouraged and demotivated, our opportunity is twofold:
To recognize and appreciate our backpack of support – our external sources of motivation – before a random guru (or someone with far more crooked intentions) has to steal it from us so that we can finally see what we have always taken for granted.
To be present and tap into our own hearts and minds – our internal sources of motivation – which have the power to push us back up on our feet and guide us down the road to our backpack of support, even when it appears to be lost forever.
No matter your circumstances, you always have what you need to take the next smallest step.
As Epicurus so profoundly said, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”