If You Fight The Ebb, You'll Never Get Back To The Flow
Some days we're less inspired than others. It doesn't have to mean anything.
I am in a motivated phase of my life. I’ve done a lot and been through a lot to get here. And I’m at the point where I enjoy the work I do, I enjoy the calm that organization brings me, and I enjoy exercising. My mindset and intentions are aligned, which means I can usually get a lot done in a day.
But for the past week, I was Just.Not.Feeling.It. I was drowning in an ocean of meh.
I have no idea what happened. It could be this time of year, January. Cold and dark. It could be that I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard on several work projects. It could be that we had a few family members staying with us last week. It could be the recent Full Moon in the sign of Leo. I can’t say for sure.
All I know is that my motivation, my inspiration, my get up & go, was flagging. The sound of my alarm barely registered in the morning as I turned it off and went back to sleep. I blew off some time I had allocated for writing and watched an episode of A Discovery of Witches on Sundance. I didn’t get out of my sweatpants for…awhile.
Like the tides, life is full of ebbs and flows. Periods of time when we are crashing forward like waves in the ocean (flow). And periods of time when motivation recedes from the shoreline and is nothing but a distant line on the horizon (ebbs).
Right now, I am very much in an ebb.
This has happened to me before. Again, especially this time of year. Winter in my part of the world, from January till March, is a slog, plain and simple.
These ebbs used to freak me out. I’d worry about my sudden lack of motivation. About how little I’d get done. That I’m slower to produce, slower to perform. I’d fear that something was wrong. And I’d do mental gymnastics and put myself into a panic about what it was. How can I fix it? How did I screw up? What if this ebb lasts forever?
I don’t do that anymore.
Now I know, I remember, I see the pattern. And the only true pattern in life is this: nothing lasts forever. Great times, bad times. Moments of high motivation and low. Everything changes, sooner or later. And no one can perform on all cylinders all day, every day. If they try, it usually leads to a crash and burn. So in some ways, without the ebb, there can be no flow.
At this point, I accept that the ebb exists. But I have also learned that fighting the ebb only pushes my motivation farther away, making it harder to grasp, longer to return.
It’s one thing to feel unmotivated. And another to create an anxiety spiral around it. A vortex that sucks any spare drops of motivation and demands all the mental capacity that I have left.
Managing the anxiety around an ebb ends up being worse than the ebb itself.
So as of today, I am still swimming around in my pool of meh. Doing what I can, when I can. Acknowledging that I will get less done today than I did a week or two ago.
But I also acknowledge that it doesn’t have to mean anything. It doesn’t mean I screwed up. It doesn’t mean I need to overhaul my life. It doesn’t mean I’ve fallen off some wagon and will never get back on again. And I don’t need to frantically research motivation hacks. Or find new ways to punish myself into better performance.
I just need to acknowledge that it’s there. That it’s the space I’m in right now. I’m not wrong or defective for feeling this way.
And trust myself. Know that I’ll move through it, like I have before. Remind myself that I can’t be the only one. And remember that some days are for blazing a new path and others are for sitting quietly on the shore. And we don’t always get to choose which day is which.
Soon enough my motivation will return. I’ll continue to make good choices and do what I can. And sooner or later, the flow will come crashing back.
Are you in the ebb, or are you in the flow? And what are you making that mean about you?