Feeling uninspired and unmotivated? Do it anyway.
There are some days as a kung fu and tai chi teacher where I don't feel inspired or motivated to teach. But I show up anyway. And, inevitably, within a short period of time, I begin to feel motivated.
Through my years of teaching, I've had my fair share of students who use the excuse of feeling uninspired or unmotivated, as a reason why they can't make it to class. Or why they feel like they need to take a step back from their training.
And typically, they don't necessarily say that they're feeling uninspired or unmotivated. There's usually a secondary reason that they give. Maybe it's that they didn't have a chance to eat lunch. Or that they've had a long day at work. Or maybe they just feel like they've been in a funk all day. But what this all comes down to - is that they feel like they have to be in a certain headspace or mood, or that their day or week has to unfold in a certain way - for them to show up to their practice.
And I often hear similar things from my creative friends. For example, I have writer friends that tell me that they only write when they're feeling inspired. That they only write when they feel in the flow or that they have a "download" to share from the Universe.
The truth is - I don't always feel inspired or motivated to write these blog posts. But just like teaching kung fu and tai chi, I show up anyway.
I share this not to be egotistical. I'm sharing this because I believe this is really the secret to growth and manifesting the vision we have for ourselves - whatever that may be. The secret is to show up - even when we're feeling unmotivated and uninspired.
People sometimes ask me, how did I get good at kung fu? How did I get good a tai chi? How did I get good at playing the piano?
Well, the secret, which really isn't a secret at all - is that I've just shown up regularly and consistently. I show up over and over and over again to the process. I've made it a point to transcend feelings of not feeling motivated or inspired. I've made it a point to let go of needing things to be a certain way in my day, week or life - before I show up to the things that I told myself I would.
I can always come up with a gazillion reasons why I can't teach class. Or why I can't write my weekly blog posts. Maybe I'm feeling lethargic. Or maybe I have friends or family visiting from out of town. Maybe I'm the one traveling out of town.
The point is, we can always find excuses to not show up if we go looking for them. But for me, I show up because I made a commitment to myself. I've made a commitment to my students to teach them. I've deemed sharing kung fu and tai chi to be important to me in my life right now - because I've seen the transformational effect it can have on my students. I'm committed to these weekly blog posts - because I know they can help others. And I know they will bring me closer to the vision I've created for myself.
And because of these commitments, I've made what I call "safe containers" for my time, energy and attention. I put tasks on my daily todo lists and my calendar - to make sure I am showing up for these commitments. To make sure they happen.
And to be honest, I don't like todo lists and calendars. But I'm fans of them. As a deep feeler and someone who prefers to just go with the flow - I dislike structure. I dislike schedules. They feel really constricting since I'm such a freedom-oriented person who likes to do what I want, when I want.
And to be clear, there's nothing wrong with that. If you prefer to just do things when you feel like it - that's totally okay. But then you also have to be okay with making slower progress towards your goals. You then also have to be okay with making slower progress towards manifesting your vision. If you're a creative, you have to be okay with not creating as much.
But if I only showed up when I felt inspired or motivated - my students probably wouldn't see me as often. If I only showed up when I felt inspired or motivated - I probably wouldn't post my writings as often. And when I do post something, it probably won't be that good - because my writing won't be getting any better if I'm just posting when I'm feeling inspired. They get better through practice. They get better as I gain experience in actually writing.
And similarly with my students, they don't get better at kung fu just by talking about kung fu or watching kung fu movies. They get better at kung fu by doing the work and actually practicing. This really applies to everything. If we want to have better relationships, we have to practice relating to others. If we want to get better at eating healthier, we have to practice eating healthy foods.
And so we must make practicing or showing up - an absolute priority for anything we wish to grow or build. Showing up consistently, especially with mindfulness, is the path to mastery. When my students appear to have improved between classes, I'll often tell them to keep it up - whatever it is that they're doing. And when I ask, what are you doing? Inevitably the answer is practice.
Consistent practice is especially important when we feel like we've reached a plateau with something. As long as we keep showing up, we will eventually have a breakthrough. And that includes showing up when we feel uninspired and unmotivated. The downfall for a lot of people is that they wait until they feel totally ready or inspired BEFORE they take action. They wait until they have more time. Or they wait until they have more energy. Or they wait until this happens or that happens. Ultimately, they find excuses as to why now, the present moment, is not the right time to practice and grow.
I know for myself, if I always had waited until I felt ready or inspired to practice kung fu, I would not have consistently grown as a martial artist. There were plenty of days when I didn't feel like practicing. At one point, I had a full time job AND a part-time job. I was simultaneously in grad-school part-time. In the winters, I woke up when it was dark out. I got to work when it was dark out. When I left work, it was dark out. I then had to drive 45 minutes to an hour in Chicago rush hour traffic to get to kung fu class. Classes would typically go to around 10:30 pm at night. I would often grab dinner on the way home so that I could try to wind down my evening before going to bed - just to do it all over again the next day.
There were plenty of times I did NOT feel inspired or motivated to go to class. I have to admit, it was pretty darn often. It was actually a rare occasion that I really really wanted to go to class. It was even worse on days where maybe I didn't get enough sleep the night before. Or maybe it was snowing after work or the roads were icy.
I much would have much preferred to just go home after work. Watch some TV, eat some dinner. Maybe hang out with friends. Back then there WAS no Netflix. But I bet Netflix and chill would have been something I would have preferred to do, if it had existed haha.
So what did I do back then? I made myself go to class anyway. And inevitably, after 10, 20, 30 minutes into class - I was glad I went. And that's how I KNEW - I was "on purpose." There has rarely been a time in over 25 years where I didn't feel better at the end of a practice session.
The same thing goes for me writing or creating content for my website. I may feel uninspired or unmotivated when I sit down to work. But after I start working for a bit (and especially after I release or post something) - I'm glad to have put in the work. I see tangible evidence of my progress and growth.
This is what tells me that I am "on purpose." The purpose of life isn't to feel good all the time. The purpose of life isn't to feel comfortable all the time. There's nothing wrong with Netflix and chill or scrolling through Facebook or Instagram - but that's NOT our life purpose.
Comfort and having a good time is what allows us to recharge - so that we can work. So that we can create. So that we can pursue our purpose in life. Our purpose is not to be on vacation all the time. To visit yet another beach. Another mountain. Or another city. That's a dream that's often sold to us through things like social media. But I guarantee you that if you were on vacation all the time. Or if all you did was watch Netflix all day. Or hang out with friends at coffee shops. You would eventually - get bored. You would eventually start to feel empty inside.
The purpose of this life, of this human experience - is growth. That's why we're here. We're here to learn how to be more loving. More compassionate. More kind. More self-aware. If life was about going to a job that we didn't really care about - and then coming home to distract ourselves through things like television and social media. Or numbing ourselves with food and alcohol - we should have a LOT more happy people in the world than we do. And a lot LESS people who are living for the weekends or for their next vacation.
When we're not growing. When we're not living our life purpose - we begin to contract and shrink. We become resentful when life doesn't go our way. We don't feel like our needs are being met - so we become more selfish. More controlling and more fearful. And we begin to try to fill the emptiness within us with things outside of ourselves.
And so, growth takes work. It's not always easy to be loving or compassionate or kind. But one thing is for sure, distracting ourselves or numbing ourselves - does not make us more loving, compassionate or kind. Life is not meant to always be light, easy and fun. Yes, of course that's an important part of life. But that's not all of life. We use times like that to rest and relax and recharge - so that we can actually do the real work. And in doing the work, on deepening our self-awareness and learning how to access greater love, greater compassion and greater peace within ourselves - we help others around us. We become in service to all the lives that we touch.
And so we must learn to release the expectation that we are supposed to feel inspired or motivated 100% of the time. It's just not humanly possible - despite what some influencers or coaches might try to sell you. Nobody is inspired all the time. Nobody is without self-doubt. It is an illusion that many of us are sold on because, well frankly, it sells. It's why so many people get inspired while attending personal growth workshops and retreats - but there's no embodiment - no follow through.
Purposeful living is about growth. It's about showing up for ourselves so that we can ultimately also show up for others. It's about working through discomfort and ultimately being glad that we did. This is one of the biggest indicators of whether we are living our purpose.
There is more to life than only pursuing short-term pleasure and constantly trying to avoid discomfort. That is a surefire path to feeling empty and unfulfilled in the long-run. We are here to create and be of service to others. To grow and learn who we truly are. This is how we become more loving, more compassionate and kind.
And so, with this higher perspective, we can shift how we look at showing up to things when we're not feeling inspired or motivated. Even though we have to move through discomfort sometimes, ultimately, there is a deeper joy when we do. A deeper sense of peace and fulfillment because we're living on purpose. And from this perspective, we discover that we can actually enjoy all that we do. That we can have gratitude for having the opportunity to practice all that which allows us to grow.