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Stop beating yourself up Part 1 – The Cyclical Nature of Motivation

I never believed in work-life balance.

Stop beating yourself up Part 1 – The Cyclical Nature of Motivation

You gotta give 110% all the time. That is how I typically function, and if I’m not giving 110%, if there is any margin left, I must fill that time with something productive.

At least that’s what I used to think. That’s what workaholics think. Any spare time is wasted time you have to “max out.”

  • Max out your finances.
  • Max out your time at work.
  • Max out your effort each day in the gym.

Last few years, this started not to feel right. I think maxed out, always-on, and full-throttle was the right way to do it when you are young. I never believed in work-life balance. You don’t have anything when you are young, so you must fight to get established. You need to max out your efforts, hustle, grind, and push the boundaries of what’s possible.

However, there is a cyclical nature to motivation, and motivation to work and doing actual work are different things. You can do work without being motivated.

My daughter and I are wired the same way. We are achievers, winners, and goal-setters. When she was in 4th grade, she invited a friend over to play and had a 12-item list to make sure they had the most fun possible, got it all done, and didn’t miss out on anything.

As you may know from prior blogs, she’s working to become a professional musician. Before the end of her semester, we had a talk that fleshed out some of the ideas I’m sharing with you today.

She does not always feel like practicing, which drives her insane. She’s supposed to love the clarinet, right? It’s supposed to be her dream schooling and occupation, right? Every single day should be filled with the desire to make music, right?

Have you ever had a day where everything worked out, came easy, and the sun shone down on each thought, conversation, and interaction? Of course! We all have, and it is a magical feeling! I call those “Peak Days”.

We realized through the conversation that she was holding every day, and thereby measuring her personal motivation and self worth, up to her Peak Musical Days; those days when her reeds were cooperating, playing was amazing; the notes flowed freely as she spent hours reveling in the mastery of her instrument.

You know how life really works. There are brief moments of glorious motivation and exciting mastery, there are Peak Days, but you spend most days simply doing the work.

It ain’t glorious. It ain’t sexy. Sometimes it ain’t fun. It’s just doing the work between the peak days so that you can get to the next big win.

We worked through resetting her definition of a musician’s “regular workday” to a more realistic level. She knows she will have those peak days, but having a typical musician’s workday is just fine; it’s part of life.

Over the winter, we went to trade shows, organized Mega Slide orders, set up marketing plans, and started some building projects; plus, I went to every one of my son’s senior year events, visited colleges, and so much more.

Lately, I haven’t been blogging much. I haven’t been posting on social media. I haven’t been reading books as I usually do, but all that is OK because motivation is cyclical.

We have been getting our regular work done. Hand weeding lavender, prepping for festivals, shipping out slides, unloading trucks, loading corn trucks, making floor plans for our coffee bar & lemonade areas, cleaning up, and getting ready for the season.

Have these been peak days? Nope. For now, we’re doing the work, and that’s OK. All these regular workdays are building to some spectacular events down the road.

Motivation is cyclical—no need to be hard on yourself. Take a few minutes today to zoom out from your daily work and see where you are in the cycle of motivation.

  • If you are riding high, go to the moon! Make big things happen! If you’re having some Peak Days, step on the gas!
  • If you are just doing the work, just do the work and look ahead to the next big, special event you have on the horizon.
  • If you are feeling down, focus on just getting the work done in front of you, knowing full well that your motivation isn’t gone, it’s just cycling back, and it’ll be back before you know it. Switch it up. Work on something different. Take an afternoon off. Spend time with family or friends.

Have a great week,


PS I still don’t believe in work-life balance. I believe you can structure your work in such a way that it is your life, a part of who you are, and it’s a wonderful life to live.

PPS Part 2 is out next week. Stay tuned for “Stop beating yourself up – You’re working on the wrong things.”

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