June 14, 2008

Bad News and Motivation

I ran into an acquaintance the other day. After our initial hello she asked “Do you have any vacation plans this year?” I thought we were just making idol chit chat. You know, when someone asks “how are you” and you answer fine. Of course there are those few people who will respond with “my bunions are killing me, my uncle is in the hospital and little Johnnie failed math again” but they are rare, the response is usually “Fine, how are you?”

Getting back to my story, I thought it was going to be one of those idol chit chat conversations so I responded that we were going on our yearly trip to Mexico, and then I made the fatal error of saying “what about you?” Suddenly my professional colleague turned into Chicken Little and the sky was falling. “I can’t imagine going on vacation this year what with the gas prices and the economy and all the changes with the airlines,” she exclaimed, “I’m just too nervous about what the future will bring.” Whoa! I was now feeling guilty about going on vacation while 5 minutes before this conversation I was pretty excited about our trip!

What happens to us when we are bombarded by bad news? Does it impact our motivation? If we look at a working definition of motivation meaning “to move” we are always moving toward things we want and away from things we don’t want. When we’re motivated we are excited about goals and take action to make them a reality.

There is a lot of bad news these days. Gas prices go up every day, the airlines are struggling and charging us more for luggage, food and even what seat we sit in, stocks are down and for a while it wasn’t even safe to eat a tomato! We can choose to dwell on the things we have no control over or go get motivated and take action. I believe it is a matter of attitude.

I called a long time friend the other day because I heard that her company was going through a major reorganization and her job may be affected. I expected her to be feeling down, but she was quite perky. She had placed her resume on a few job search sites and already had a few inquires. She had not even heard the final news about her job but she was taking positive action. She has just purchased a new hybrid car and was getting 50 miles to a gallon. Life was good in her world.

There are many stories out there of people being motivated to take action in the face of bad news. People planting “Victory Gardens” has been in the news lately. The fruit and vegetable gardens, popular during World War II are grown in your backyard but also folks are banding together in cities and growing community gardens on vacant lots. They are taking action; they’re motivated and also getting fresh air.

What if we can’t get motivated and moving during bad times? The way I see it, there really isn’t even a choice. The alternative is to worry, not be motivated and have it impact our productivity. I believe it is even more important to get motivated during bad times and take action or we’re just making a bad situation worse.

So what can you do to get motivated right now? You may not be able to afford a new car or have a green thumb to start a garden. But what is one simple thing you do have control over that will change your attitude about the situation and get you and others moving forward?

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