How to Find Motivation in a Global Pandemic

Every year around this time, we look back on our past year and write out our goals and resolutions for the new year. While we should look towards 2021 with optimism, it is important for us to remain realistic about what’s to come.


I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the beginning of 2021 will likely look the same as the end of 2020. Unfortunately, the coronavirus will not magically vanish when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st and we will likely end up in another lockdown at some point in the early months of the new year. Don’t panic, just because our circumstances aren’t changing as quickly as we’d like does not mean we have to put our plans on pause.

Motivation comes from two sources, internal/intrinsic and external/extrinsic.

  • Extrinsic motivation involves rewards or punishment often involving societal engagement.

  • Intrinsic motivation involves doing certain things because you find it rewarding; for example, eating healthy because you enjoy it or working out in the morning because it makes you feel good.

The combination of these two versions of motivation is what allows us to achieve our goals. It’s easy to feel unmotivated during times like these and that’s okay.


Nowadays, we spend a lot of time with ourselves so you may be struggling to find extrinsic motivation. That’s where the third element of discipline comes into play.


Discipline involves teaching yourself to consistently practice healthy habits. You will not always be motivated so it’s important to learn to be disciplined. Discipline is what turns your goals into accomplishments.


When you are deciding what habits to start working on, make sure you pick activities that you enjoy. Don’t pick something you already know you don’t like to do and hope that you’ll grow to like it, take time to figure it out. There’s no rush. Once you’ve identified your new habits and gotten into the routine, it will become natural.


This is not a quick process, but don’t let that be discouraging. It’s okay to have an off day, where you don’t want to get out of bed or can’t bring yourself to anything other than work/class for the day.


So I challenge you to do just one thing, one tiny little thing, from your to-do list. It can be as simple as making your bed. Then celebrate that, be proud of the fact that you did one thing for yourself today. You don’t have to go above and beyond every day, just be consistent.


None of us have ever lived through a time quite like this one and it’s okay if some days you just don’t feel like it. Just remember that when you wake up the next morning, or mid-afternoon, it’s a new day and you are in control of how it goes. Let me repeat that: you are in control. It may not feel that way because there are so many outside factors changing the definition of normal, but you control more than you think you do.


Finding motivation, or rather learning discipline, is a commitment you have to make for yourself but once learned it is a very hard lesson to lose.