A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
What getting run over, and then locked down taught me about self-motivation
Last October, a week before my 20th birthday, I was run over about 5 minutes away from my university house. 160 miles from my family home, I found out there was a bone in my foot that had been completely crushed. Whilst the surgeons called it a fracture, I would use the phrase ‘turned to dust’. This led to two surgeries, a piece of metal in my foot, and almost 5 months off my feet. Just when I thought it would be all over, COVID-19 hit the UK full force and lockdown began.
I was lying on the surgical table in March as they removed the metal and discussed having to cancel all non-essential surgeries – which would have included me. One more day and I could still be sitting here writing this as a part cyborg. My entire second year of university was spent on this awkward not quite pause. I was 20 and relied more on the people around me than I had for the 5 years beforehand put together. I even had a coursemate drive me to university every day, just so I could attend. The same university which suggested I took my second year out and restarted my degree the following year.
I turn 21 in just under two months and with coronavirus seemingly going nowhere soon, I can honestly say the last year of my life has sucked.
However, it did teach me a lot about self-motivation. I have never been the bad student, I have always been driven and hard-working – but is an awful lot harder to want to do any work when you haven’t been able to go out in months. My injury, and then the pandemic, took so much away from me; birthdays, internships, and concerts just to name a few. I decided it would not take my degree away from me too, and through a lot of work in the four walls of my university bedroom, I achieved the best grades in my degree so far. Despite everything, I finished my second year with a pretty convincing first, and I learnt a lot in the process.
1 – Learn when to take breaks.
I have been known to take way too many, or not enough breaks; either 18 hours of straight work or no work at all. However, learning when to have breaks, and how to make them feel like breaks, was invaluable when staring at the same four walls. Checking in every hour or so with yourself physically and emotionally prevents burn out. You’d be surprised how often you can sit there for extended periods clenching your jaw, dehydrated, or even hungry. Using that time to stand up (if you can) and work out how you feel is super important.
As for actually getting to work in the first place, I only really have one tip; if you can even get as far as to get your work in front of you – whether that’s your sketchbook or laptop etc. – and start with just one word or thing, it’s human nature to now want to finish it. Whether you notice or not, your brain keeps a list of unfinished tasks, and it’ll nag you if you start something. Fun fact, it’s also how you get earworms; your brain sees unfinished songs as unfinished tasks.
2 – Lower expectations for yourself.
If you’re anything like me you will accept nothing but perfection, which can sometimes be a blessing. However, it is important to be realistic with our goals and expectations. I think if I had sat there and said ‘I don’t need an extension, I’ll finish everything and more’ I never would have started working on anything. Alongside accepting the need for breaks, you need to accept that perfection is unattainable and that is okay. All you can offer is your best, and you need to remind yourself that that is more than enough.
3 – Have a reason or motivation.
Even if your reason is pure spite against the universe for the deck of cards it’s dealt you (f*** you universe!), have a real emotional motivation for your work. In an ideal world, have a positive one like ‘this is the perfect step towards my goal’ or ‘I really love doing this work’ but sometimes that motivation is going to be ‘I cannot wait to finish this’ and that is completely valid. Spend some time working out what your motivation is, why are you doing this work? Why do you want to finish it? Where will completing this lead you? If you can’t answer any of those, then maybe you’re on the wrong course, or in the wrong job because there has to be SOME reason you’re doing whatever task is in front of you.
In the end, no one can make you do anything but sometimes you have to do things even when they’re hard. There were things I definitely didn’t want to do, including a whole module I am choosing to ignore from now on despite getting a grade I’m proud of, but when you can’t walk what else is there to do? But I am keeping my fingers crossed that my 21st birthday and 2021 treats us all a little bit better.