Reviving Motivation

This guest blog entry is by Charlette Mikulka, LCSW. Charlette Mikulka is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the award-winning author ofPeace in the Heart and Home: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Creating a Better Life for You and Your Loved Ones. More information about the author and book can be found at:

Please note that the opinions presented in the article are that of the author and not necessarily the opinions of RHN. RHN chooses to publish articles and share individual sites to evoke discussion and show all options, ideas and beliefs.

Motivation is about caring. If we are numb, we are half-alive. We must reawaken caring. Developing a relationship with a compassionate and empathic therapist can gradually melt the wall around your heart.

Motivation is about emotions. If we suppress emotions, we won’t have vitality, meaning, initiative, direction and fuel to act. We must dare to feel. We can learn about emotions from books such as Andrew Seubert’s The Courage to Feel.

Motivation is about acceptance. If we ignore or edit out our distressing emotions and realities, we’ll dampen the positive ones as well.  We must learn how to be with the full range of human emotion and experience. Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance is worthwhile reading.

Motivation is about reflection. If we don’t look closely at our experience, we won’t recognize where there is room for change. We must observe our lives with a kind, inquisitive, alert attention. The author of The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, said, “Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.” Peace in the Heart and Home by Charlette Mikulka provides a wealth of vivid descriptions and anecdotes to expand awareness of how things are and can be in relationships.

Motivation is about moderation. If we have extreme emotional responses that cause us to be impulsive and over-reactive, we will alternate between overdoing it and finding ourselves too tired to act at all. We must develop the mindfulness skills that develop equanimity and resilience, the ability to not be carried away by desire, success and praise or by disappointment, failure and blame. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach offer excellent cds with instruction in mindfulness practices.

Motivation is about curiosity. If we don’t open our minds and really recognize what is right in front of us, we will miss opportunities and resources. We must break free from our compelling, disturbing thoughts and electronic screens and see what is in our environment. Practicing a “walking meditation” (a mindfulness practice) regularly will help our minds wake up. Like “Where’s Waldo?” we need to ask ourselves, “What help and resources are here that I am overlooking?”

Motivation is about discipline. If we allow our over-stimulating society to keep us frazzled, we will be too distracted and overwhelmed to discover our values, dreams, needs and the simple wonder of being alive. We must set limits and create space and time in order to find our unique path. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh’s cd, The Art of Mindful Living is a wonderful guide to the benefits of space and being, as opposed to congestion and over-activity.

Motivation is about believing. If we don’t have hope, we don’t try. We must resurrect hope. We can bring our full awareness to all the signs of hope: sunrise, Spring, new growth. Three weeks after Hurricane Irene, new growth was already forming on damaged sand-dune bushes. Look at pictures of Mount St. Helen years after the volcano eruption.

Motivation is about expectations. If we expect perfection and unconditional love, we’ll be disappointed and discouraged when we can’t achieve it or hold on to it. If we expect little or nothing, we’ll get that – a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must be moderate in our expectations. If we have a pattern of feeling crushed because we’ve put our heart and soul into something, then we may need to rely less on outer events to soothe our unhappiness and look more carefully for what positive things already exist in our world that we can be grateful for. If, on the other hand, our pattern is to expect and settle for crumbs, we may need to find the courage to invite our feelings to be more vocal so that we have more awareness of our unmet needs and longing for fulfillment.

Motivation is about deserving. If we don’t feel worthy, we can’t receive. We must heal the blocks to our self-worth. There are no short-cuts here, but healing of our heart and mind will occur when we make use of professional help, especially treatments that focus awareness on our emotions and body.

Motivation is about healing. If we are haunted by unresolved wounds and negative self-beliefs, if we feel defeated by past losses, we can’t engage in the present. We must heal our traumatic memories. EMDR ( is a trauma treatment that is highly effective.

Motivation is about physiology. If we are burned out from caring too deeply for too long, with too little support, the chronic severe stress will deplete our nervous system’s resources. We must commit to daily practices that return our system to balance.  EmWave ( is a portable biofeedback device that helps us breathe in a way that improves our heart rate variability and physiological functioning (appetite, energy, sleep, immune system, overall health.)

Motivation is about self-love and self-soothing. If we invest all our energy in rescuing others- whether adult, child or animal- we will be neglecting ourselves. No matter how much time we devote to protecting and serving others, it will not reduce our hypersensitivity to emotional deprivation. We must invest in the care and healing of our self. April Steele’s therapeutic approach, Imaginal Nurturing,  ( is a beautiful way to comfort the emotional distress of the child parts of our personality.

Motivation is about interdependence. If we believe we must go it alone, we will burn out. We must recognize that we all need help from others. Susan Johnson’s book and videotape, Hold Me Tight, demonstrates her successful couples therapy approach, Emotionally-Focused Therapy (, which is based on Attachment Theory’s premise that we are wired to connect. We also must build our tolerance of shame and pride and not let them prevent us from asking trustworthy people for help.  Shame and pride will keep us alone and isolation is poison for the human spirit.

Motivation is about trust. If we don’t believe there’s anyone who’ll help or care, some of us will give up. We must recognize and be drawn to trustworthy people. Our entrenched emotional beliefs may be preventing us from seeing the kind and empathic people in our world. We see what we believe, rather than believe what we see. The book and website Random Acts of Kindness are proof that there are caring people in the world.

Motivation is about vision. If we can’t imagine it, we can’t get pulled toward it. We must cultivate our imagination.  Regularly throughout the day, we can vividly use our senses to imagine how we will feel when we have accomplished our goal.  Additionally, Belleruth Naparstek’s series of guided imagery recordings  ( will activate our right hemisphere’s precious faculties.

Motivation is about courage. If we don’t risk out of fear of failing, we will never see our life grow. We must develop tolerance of disappointment, embarrassment and failure.  Anais Nin wrote, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Read a biography on any highly successful person such as Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame or Thomas Edison, and you’ll often find they experienced a long stretch of disappointment and failure that eventually led to accomplishment.

Motivation is about inspiration. If we don’t see others changing, we have no model. Chances are that our family members don’t offer us examples of maturing and thriving. But now that we are adults, the whole world- past and present- is our resource center. We must identify those people who have overcome challenges. Check out the biography and autobiography sections at your Public Library.

Motivation is about motives. If our purpose for achieving is to compensate for feelings of shame, guilt, powerlessness or inadequacy; if our purpose is to distract ourselves from our inner world or painful relationships- past or present; then our achievements will be hollow and our behaviors compulsive. We must address our emotions and relationships in direct ways that evidence courage, honesty and integrity. Then our goals and activities will be fueled by interest, love and passion rather than driven by fear. We can ask ourselves, “Why is it important for me to do ___? Then ask of that answer, “Why is that important to me?” Then ask of the next answer, “Why is that important to me?” Keep asking until you get to the core needs and values.

Motivation is about judgment. If we invest our time, energy and hopes in shallow, quick-fix, unsubstantiated solutions, we will spin our wheels. We must invest in solutions that go to the root of our problems and are based on deep understanding of human nature, learned through science or contemplative wisdom.  Any true solution is going to require courage, awareness, and persistence. Big problems require big investments.

Motivation is about integrity. If we have compelling, competing interests, we will be self-sabotaging ourselves. It is common that we have parts of our personality that rely on opposing strategies to manage our emotions. Perhaps one part of us wants to help us feel better by encouraging us to eat more, drink alcohol or get high. Meanwhile another part wants to help us feel better by withholding these very same things and being hyper-vigilent that we are not being “bad”. We can engage in internal tugs of war.  We can learn how to access our Self and lead (rather than be ruled by) our inner parts by reading Richard C. Schwartz’s Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model.

Motivation is about persistence. If we are unwilling to persevere, our limited investment will reap limited returns. We must accept that anything worthwhile is going to require commitment. We can consider the process a “labor of love”- something that gives our life purpose and meaning. We can consider the process a “hero’s journey” and feel pride in our ability to bring our best each day to our unique challenging reality.

Motivation is about being moved. If we overlook the daily evidence that we are living in a miraculous world, we will feel deprived, unmoved and bored. We must use our senses to their fullest to perceive what will fill us with awe, fullness and joy.  Wherever we are, there are trees, flowers, animals, land, water, skies, clouds, weather and these fascinating two-legged creatures called human beings. All these things are not just for children’s discovery and delight. There are also works of art- architecture, clothing, gardens, crafts, music, etc. that can make today wonderful already.  As Jack Kornfield said, “Those who are awake live in a state of constant amazement.”


Elana Clark-Faler
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