Published on Sun, 24/01/2021 - 11:26
Kate Sturdy
Picture shows 'you got this' lightbox

I was delighted to see so many of you at the networking event on 13 January when I talked about my own goal-setting experiences, and your questions piqued my interest in how I’m staying motivated. 

The way of things is that from time to time they fall apart. On my career break, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve thrown my plan by waking up late, or been distracted by anxiety at the state of the world, and then blamed myself for wasting my own precious time. I can feel the isolation of distance learning and tight limitations on time with my tutor, and get blocked by indecision about the next steps to take.

So what do I do?

Part of the answer lies in action to create strong foundations. I track my own habits so that I know how often I’m working or at my desk; so even if I have a bad day, I have data to demonstrate my ongoing commitment. I work best when I time block – my diary is my task list, and if I have to re-schedule with myself sometimes, that’s easily done. I notice when I feel tired and can’t think properly, so I decide whether to take a short break for tea/ power nap/ fresh air.

This is part of growing a resilience mindset. I have found over time that it helps to remain curious about what’s going on, and exercise my choice about how to react to events out of my control. Dr Angela Smith calls this “re-strategising failure” and I have learnt how to re-frame: when I feel isolated, I ask myself “who can help me?” and remember I have a course buddy group to reach out to via WhatsApp.

When you feel low, frustrated or angry at what life has put in your path, your best bet is to show yourself compassion, turn towards the suffering and take action to alleviate it – sage advice from Paul Gilbert, founder of the Compassionate Mind Foundation. In the moment of suffering, you can always cry if you want to – let yourself. Mark Twain said that “the human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter” – so find the humour in your situation, however black… Or you can swear: there’s a strong body of evidence to show that swearing is good for you. Emma Byrne’s research shows that swearing is unusual in engaging both the language centre in the left brain and the emotional centre in your right brain, so it helps us to tolerate pain and achieve more. I do all of these..  

Change, transition and the pursuit of goals isn’t easy – but with self-compassion, development of helpful habits and the odd cuss, tear or laugh, you can stay firmly on your chosen path.