I write a lot about getting out and doing things, about not letting your singlehood stop you from living a fully engaged life, about not waiting for Mr. Right to show up at your door before doing big things. But the truth is, it’s often easier said than done.
Marrieds or parents have built-in motivators. Kids have a funny habit of needing food, clean clothes, and to get to and from school, so moms have no choice but to get off their keesters and get stuff done. Husbands or significant-others can be drivers for activities, and can encourage their partners in their extra-curricular endeavors. But singles have no such external motivators. We have to summon the motivation from within, even when there’s no pressing reason to do so. Dishes? They can wait till tomorrow, or the next day, or the next – no one’s going to notice anyway. Shave my legs? I’m not dating anyone right now, and it’s winter, so no one’s gonna care. Leave the house? Most of my friends have spouse/kid commitments, so I can go out to dinner and a movie. Alone. Again. No thank you.
There’s a lot to be said for the freedom and uncomplicated nature of singlehood. But here’s the thing…I work better in a collaborative environment than I do in a silo. Bouncing ideas off other people, being inspired by their ideas, and letting our energy fuel each other is where some of my best work happens. My creativity is sparked and my motivation set on fire when I can share projects, goals, and aspirations with other people. I am a self-starter in many respects, and can have the determination of steel when I set my mind on something. But manufacturing motivation takes a lot more energy than harnessing the naturally-occurring motivation that is generated by engaging with other people.
So, living alone presents a unique set of challenges. Even the simplest, most mundane things seem beyond my ability to tackle. I sometimes find myself staring at my walls wondering what to do with myself, but not feeling motivated to do much of anything. And that time is then inevitably and hungrily gobbled up by Netflix and Facebook and solitaire. It seems like such a waste – squandering time. Time is one of our most valuable assets. We’ll never get it back, so we have to make sure that every minute of time we spend is exchanged for something equal to its worth.
Here are some ways I stay motivated. I pray they help you not waste a single precious moment of this amazing life.
- Figure out your intrinsic motivators, and then fill your life with them. Intrinsic motivators are those things we feel passionately about. They are the things that, if we were independently wealthy and didn’t have to work for a living, would get us out of bed every day. Focusing on the things that make our souls sing creates its own motivation. And bonus: figuring out what our intrinsic motivators are might lead us into new career paths and introduce us to amazing new people.
- Based on your intrinsic motivators, make a list of all the things you want to do….and then set out a plan to do them. Does volunteering make you feel lighter than air? Have you always wanted to write the next great American novel? Do you harbor an inner desire to learn to tap dance? Make a list, and then make a plan. But don’t make a “someday” plan. Make a plan with concrete dates and appointments. Book a class. Schedule a lesson. Join a club that holds meetings. Make a promise to a friend. “Someday” lists rarely get done. But I find that if I book something – especially if it’s something I paid for – I am far less likely to flake. And bonus: once you take the first step, subsequent steps feel easier.
- Enlist a friend. Friends can not only keep us accountable for doing what we say we’re going to do, but can also be that source of external motivation singles are missing. For example – I adore dancing, and would happily take dance class after dance class after dance class until I dropped from shear exhaustion. But I loathe, hate, despise exercise for the sake of exercise. I find the gym mind-numbingly boring. Riding my bike alone with no actual destination feels like an exercise in futility. And the only time you’ll find me running is if a T-Rex is chasing me. However, I absolutely love doing these things if I’m doing them with a friend. (Well, all except the gym thing. Can’t stand the gym, even with a friend.) Sharing experiences with a friend turns a solo endeavor into a shared community experience, and the motivation naturally flows. And bonus: both you AND your friend benefit from the deal.
- Set standards and schedules for yourself and your house– and stick to them. I have a “10 minute to company” standard when it comes to my house. That means I keep my house clean enough that it can be ready to entertain guests with just 10 minutes’ notice. I also have a schedule for cleaning. Dishes are dealt with before going to bed every night. Bedding is laundered every Saturday morning. You get the idea. Of course, the schedule is flexible and can be changed to accommodate special plans. But I do not allow my self to deviate much, because in the land of singlehood it is very easy to become lazy and let things go. So, unless cleaning is one of your intrinsic motivators, treat it like part of your job. Schedule cleaning like you’d schedule a meeting, and then revel in the sense of accomplishment once it’s done. And bonus: studies have shown that keeping your house clean and organized increases happiness and decreases stress. Win-win!
- Find a local hangout. As tempting as it is to play the Miss Havisham role and become an eccentric recluse, isolation is not healthy. So besides work and home, find a third place to cool your jets. Maybe it’s the gym. (Hahaha – no.) Maybe it’s the neighborhood Starbucks or local library. (Ooh – they should put a Starbucks inside the library! What a great idea! Sometimes I’m a legit genius.) Just getting out of my normal surroundings, and being around the energy of others inspires me to get moving on my long overdue list of “somedays.” And bonus: finding a hangout that speaks to your sensibilities will put you in a position to meet other people like you.
I’d love to hear some of your ideas on staying motivated. Post your ideas in the comments section here, and you just might see them reprinted in a future article.