Having isolated ourselves for about a month, you may be noticing the effects of being at home for an extended period starting to take their toll.
Consistent experiences include a general malaise, mental fog and periods of decreased motivation. Certainly, we expect the players will be starting to miss the level of intensity that comes with competing each week that they have become accustomed to this time of year.
Motivation is becoming an important conversation topic due to the unique circumstances of this pandemic.
When it comes to motivation, we all have a combination of extrinsic motivations (e.g. external recognition such as winning awards and winning premierships) and intrinsic motivations (e.g. how it feels to grow, improve and have a positive influence on others). For our players, with the season being suspended for an unclear period of time, the central source of motivation of playing AFL football is simply not there for a lot of them currently, and I expect that may also be true for a lot of people outside of football. This may include a financial goal you had mapped out to achieve in 2020, a project at work you had expected to make progress on or a planned trip overseas that you were looking forward to. Many of the things that were motivating us are simply not available, so the ability to have psychological flexibility is crucial.
How do we shift motivation during a pandemic?
The key to motivation is self-awareness. The starting point is to become aware of when your thinking is becoming consumed by all of the things you no longer may be able to achieve in 2020, and develop an ability to pivot and find the opportunity in this period. The challenge is likely to necessitate finding new motivators.
That might be something simple like dusting off your old guitar, trying to learn a new language, doing a project around the house or mastering a new cooking recipe. For our players that might be something as simple as exercising differently, especially if they are struggling to maintain their intensity in their current training program at home.
Finding creative ways to exercise differently might include changing the stimulus by finding a new place to do their running, training with a partner, changing the activity (e.g. bike instead of a run) or encouraging them to explore a different motivation for the exercise, even if it’s nothing more than doing the activity for its own sake, where the main goal is simply to experience the exercise and enjoy it.
Finding a new opportunity
A great activity for families is to write down one main goal each member of the family can set themselves for the month of May, and include a short statement explaining why this is important to them. Then stick them somewhere prominent like the fridge so you can all encourage each other to stay aligned to that goal over the next month.
It is important that we move past being too rigid in our thinking during this time, especially if we are finding it difficult to stay motivated or if our thinking is stuck on opportunities lost. The challenge for all of us is to be gentle on ourselves and have a degree of psychological flexibility which will allow us to search for different motivations that will help us get through this period together.