How does one find what does not exist?
The goal isn’t to create a masterpiece; the goal is to make a masterpiece of life“— Chase Jarvis, Creative Calling.
Motivation. The singular fuel in the engine of life. The spark from flint that ignites the fires of action, reaction, and the force that drives humanity. But, what happens when the fuel disappears; a leak is sprung and the reservoir is depleted?
For me, this depletion first occurred in my first year of college. previous to that, I never experienced more than incredibly temporary losses of motivation. When college became the new routine of life, things began to shift however. My passion for music was obvious from the very first moment I was able to create it. I began taking piano lessons in third grade – of my own accord. I greatly enjoyed learning how to play the instrument and from then it was clear I had caught the metaphorical bug for playing instruments. As soon as I got my hands on a recorder in the fifth grade, I began fervently practicing with the goal of beating everyone else in my grade. Competition can be very healthy and for me it always has been. By the end of the fifth grade, I had already completed every possible belt that could be earned in recorder karate. Throughout sixth grade, my teacher had to spend time finding new music and inventing new belts so that I could continue my progress on the instrument (if you’re reading this, Mrs. Gipson, you have no idea the fundamental role you played in my passion of music. From the bottom of my heart, thank you).
As I moved to middle school I continued my enjoyment of music with picking up a new instrument: the b-flat trumpet. I cannot lie, throughout middle school and the first half of high school, music took a backseat in my list of passions. I found myself pursuing cross country and track as being athletic was not something I had ever explicitly done before. Mind you, I was avid in my pursuit of athletics through elementary physical education. Tag, kickball, and especially dodgeball were my forte. But having a true competitive event made it all the more rewarding once I moved up (remember that competitive streak?) so I found myself pursuing that first and foremost. My freshman year of high school, I joined the marching band, leaving precious little time for anything else. However I was still adamant about pursuing cross country, so I completed the workouts they did before school by myself, and after school. If you have never done an after school workout by yourself in Texas, let me spell it out for you: it is BRUTAL. 4p.m. is the hottest part of the day and I was frequently completing workouts in weather that hovered around ninety-five degrees. But nonetheless, I was happy in my pursuit. I continued cross country until sophomore year when I made the choice to pursue band over it, allowing me to give all of my attention to one singular activity instead of splicing it.
Come college, my attention was wholly devoted to the realm of music. I was going to attend the University of North Texas which retains one of the most prestigious music departments in the United States. I was overjoyed to be in this environment. Everything was new, exciting, and I was surrounded by like-minded and similarly motivated people for the first time. It could not have been better…at first. As time went on, the burden to bear became more and more. 18 hours in most majors is a reasonable amount of time as well as an accurate reflection of the amount of time spent in classes, labs, etc., but this is not so in music. 18 hours on paper is much more likely to be a real-time of over 20 hours not outside of the learning environment. This is due to concert attendance, rehearsals, departmentals, lessons, the list goes on. As time carried on, I found myself increasingly burned out of my enjoyment for music. I found less enjoyment in playing trumpet, in listening to wind band literature, in anything related to the realm of that which I was studying. The root of my loss of motivation came from one singular cause: overexposure. This overexposure to that which I loved left me with little else to do. At the end of the day, it was also my own fault. My time outside of class was spent in my room more often than not. I certainly socialized and made friends that I still hold incredibly dear to my heart to this day (Dan, Jay, I would not have survived this year without you) but I did not make nearly as many efforts as I could and should have to get myself away from music in order to keep my mind and heart fresh. The end result of all of this was quite predictable – poor performance in school. Had I known then what I know now, this could have been easily avoided by applying myself when it was time, and spending time with those I cared about when it was not time for school. Hindsight has a funny way of always being twenty-twenty. With all of this in mind, I have since learned many methods of dealing with a lack of motivation and I will present you with some of my findings in hopes that you can utilize them before it is too late:
- Distance – This one is most obvious but bears repeating. The best and most efficient way to reenergize motivation for what you are doing is by getting away from it. There are limitations to this for many reason. It is more than likely a livelihood, a path of study, or a key aspect in your life that cannot be simply walked away from. With that being said and all respect put into this next statement, plan your time better. Find healthy moments to escape from it. Whether that be a few minutes every now and then or a few days at some point to clear your head. Take some serious time and determine what you believe a healthy balance between time in and time out looks like and then follow through with that.
- Sociality – Another obvious point that is still fundamental. Spend time with those in your social circle. That may be a spouse, coworkers, or even friends in completely different professions to be in an entirely world than the one you are involved in. Humans are inherently social beings, and to deprave yourself of that is to go against the very nature of what we are.
- Hobbies – Your head is continually buried in what you’re involved in. The healthiest way to clear your head is by pursuing other things that interest you. A common excuse is the one of being too involved with the primary pursuit to have time for hobbies, but I have news for those people: If that is the case, your life is already in an unhealthy balance and you need to reexamine and reprioritize immediately. If band directors who spend 60-80 hours a week still have time to do things besides teaching music, you certainly do to. Ask yourself what interests you have and commit time to doing that thing. Yes, you may be bad at first, but half of the joy is the journey to mastery.
- Reconsider – A last resort, hopefully. It can be entirely possible that what you are so involved in is not right for you, which is the root of the lack of motivation. If this is the case, it would be ludicrous to continue being involved for even another second. There is no such thing as too late to start over, all you need is to find out how to start over. If nothing else works, it’s time to seriously examine if you see yourself being happy doing this in twenty to forty years from now. Get out before it is too late, you can do this.
With that being said, this will conclude the first entry into my collective of thoughts. Motivation is incredibly fragile and therefore should be fiercely attended to and safe-guarded. We only have one precious life on this earth, a set amount of time to accomplish whatever we choose, therefore to waste time is to do the greatest disservice of all to yourself. Much love, and thank you for going on this journey with me. Until next time, TM.