We all have those days

By Sandhya Sivakumar, Columnist

started the semester with a rush of energy. I was eating breakfast in the morning and showing up to class half an hour early. I sat in the very front row, taking detailed notes in fresh notebooks, staining my fingers with blue gel ink. I watched every prelecture and every screencast, and I did my homework the day it was assigned instead of the day it was due.

Reconciling my start-of-semester self with the hollow shell I’ve become is an exercise in futility. I’m over here barely glancing at the problem set before consulting Yahoo Answers, showing up to lecture with nothing but my iClicker and my phone, rushing through my pre-lab five minutes before lab starts.

The motivated, optimistic, regular-meal-eating person I used to be seems like a dream I would have right before waking up to realize math lecture is already half over and I’m still in bed.

It’s hard to find the motivation to do anything, even if those things are actively enjoyable. I always end up making excuses. I’m convinced that if I drag myself to all my classes, then it’s OK if I do whatever I want for the rest of the day. This convoluted reward system justifies whiling away whole days watching Netflix or messing with some DJ app for hours, and just lying in bed after I wake up, scrolling on my phone until I fall asleep again. All this for barely meeting the bar.

It’s easy to write off a lack of effort on a lack of interest, or even a lack of ability, except one of the worst feelings is knowing you wanted to do something — whether it’s studying or running an errand or going out with your friends — but failing to do so for no good reason. It’s obvious that it’s impractical to continue on just doing nothing, but breaking the cycle and finding motivation is harder than it looks.

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Preachy articles on the internet about how to stop procrastinating or how to find motivation always tell you to make lists or plans, or break large projects into smaller chunks. While that’s all good advice, following through is the hardest part. Spending two hours making a perfectly organized and tastefully color-coded study plan for finals week is an accomplishment, but if you spend half the time you’re supposed to be studying making new and improved versions of your master plan, you’re just making the problem worse.

An article from Brown University’s Counseling and Psychological Services department points out that “‘lack of motivation’ is a relative term.” Most of us are motivated enough to do at least the bare minimum to succeed. The definition of success, though, keeps shifting, either for better or for worse, and keeping up feels like more and more of an impossible challenge. It’s true that being internally motivated usually works better than an external motivator, but trying to find that internal motivation to do yet another WebAssign is definitely an uphill climb.

I’m not sure what the solution is. I do know it’s going to be different for everyone. But finding solidarity in being unmotivated provides a strangely comforting feeling, like phone screens in the dark after you and your roommate gave up on homework and decided to call it a night.

Sandhya is a freshman in LAS.

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