Motivation – where art thou?

Why we do what we do and expend time and effort in doing it is different, depending on what “it” is. We go to work to pay the bills, kids go to school to learn, people diet to lose weight and improve fitness, and we indulge in hobbies and pastimes because we enjoy them.  The motivation varies.

Doing something out of necessity or a sense of duty clearly differs from voluntary pastimes like sport, hobbies and the like, but the latter are an essential part of us as individuals. They contribute to our sense of self, providing exercise, a creative outlet and much more. When motivation for them wanes, what then? Apathy and thoughts of what we could be doing instead?  Should the activity be ditched or our motivation examined in order to improve it?

Case in point:

I have hobbies and pastimes that I can put down or pick up on an “as and when” basis. Others I have retired from, in order to enjoy them in a different way. Motivation isn’t an issue there, but lacking it is a bullet not so easily dodged with Pantomime (Christmas seasonal comedy amateur dramatics for the non-UK folk amongst you).  Lots can impact enthusiasm, for better or worse, including:

  • Considerable weekly time commitment for months, increasing near the performances
  • Wonderful group of people also involved, whose company I enjoy socially too
  • Associated support activities becoming obligatory once taken on and veering towards the onerous as a result (but sadly have to be done)
  • Tangible feedback from audience, all locals, re their enjoyment of your performance
  • Time required to learn lines

I could go on.

Positives weren’t far from my mind when writing that list, but the negatives sprang forward quicker…an indication of why I’m writing this article in the first place!

I enjoyed it immensely when I got involved years ago. When each one finished I eagerly looked forward to the planning and rehearsals starting for the next. The group has grown to include friends of mine, three of my children have taken part in it, and one still does. I took a break from the 2018 performance for reasons described elsewhere on this blog, but found myself missing it and casting wistful eyes around the room when picking my daughter up from rehearsals.

Joining back in again this year, things seemed to be slower getting started. People running the group have had a lot on their plate, and despite those pressures easing off, don’t seem as responsive to enquiries. There’s urgent remedial work going on in the local village hall where performances occur, and with two of the group writing the script and directing, it has felt very different. Early in rehearsal season I skipped rehearsals due to tiredness and lack of enthusiasm once or twice, and learning lines seems daunting.

Eager anticipation of the performances and the nervous excitement of learning my lines, alongside the social engagement that comes with the participation, has given way to thoughts of things I could be doing with my time and getting resentful as a result. Related supporting activities have been particularly stressful, and I find myself yearning for my Sunday evenings back or being able to relax with a good book, rather than having to learn lines.  Somehow, it all just seems less of a pleasure.

There’s an old saying that “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, and it certainly seemed that way as I watched everyone go about their business last time whilst I wasn’t taking part. Being back in the mix this time around doesn’t seem to have cured that itch and I’m not sure why. A very different feel to it this time, with a lot of the normal ways things were done not being the case this time around.


Clearly that’s not the only tale of an activity that has lost its spark for someone. Examples could include team sport during a bad patch of results, waning interest in a hobby, or enthusiasm for a “post-holiday season excess” diet (!) ebbing too quickly in the face of calorific temptation! A quick google search reveals many websites and online articles aimed at rejuvenating interest in whatever, but perhaps the first question before embarking on the attempted rejuvenation should be to initially examine one’s reasons for the activity in the first place.

I love rugby. When my son started playing I became a coach to support him, and was manager for the team my daughter plays in. Although I was lucky enough to still be playing myself up until just a few years ago, I’m definitely too old now. I’ve stepped away from coaching too, as being the age they are my lad’s team need input from someone with more to offer in skill and commitment terms. I’m more than content to assist where occasionally needed and be a touchline parent, and my interest is rejuvenated as a result.

My hobby of wargaming and modelling with toy soldiers is a different and multi-faceted beast altogether. There’s no-one expecting me to do things by a certain time; if I don’t have time for it, it can all be packed away in boxes or on a shelf, and I can enjoy it in different ways almost every time I indulge, be it relaxing whilst painting a few models, reading a rulebook or rolling dice and playing the game with friends. Motivation is ever present and feeds itself to a certain extent.

I changed my approach to and participation in rugby in order to continue to enjoy it, and my other major hobby has so many facets to it that motivation is rarely an issue. What then, with pantomime? The group was new a few years back and my wife, seeking an avenue of extra-curricular activity for our daughter, took her along. I joined in myself the following year, having been unable to do so the year before as I was a student and knee-deep in academia. I’d enjoyed drama at school, and the idea really appealed to me (they were also lacking in adult male participants at the time too). My motivation evolved via the company of my fellow cast mates, comedic nature of the scripts,nervous excited energy of the performances and positive feedback from the audience that all became a maelstrom of fun. Several friends of mine joined as the years went by too, adding to the above and improving it. Why then, the lack of motivation now?

The short answer is, I don’t know. It is periodically a bone of contention between my wife and I, as going out for two hours on a Sunday evening with the week ahead looming eats into family time. Especially with other weekend activities already doing so. I’m getting to a stage in life where time simply relaxing with family is precious. The kids are getting older (two of them are adults now) and family time is limited, so the most needs to be made of it. It also doesn’t help, that as I’ve alluded to in this article, things are a little different this year. A couple of bouts of illness, plus stress caused by outside matters hasn’t helped either.  

People and the world around them change. People’s needs, ability to support and do things, and interest in doing it is subject to the influence of so many factors. The ripple effect of the events in people’s lives on their interest in and ability to do things, and subsequent effect on others around them who also take part, is a moving target.  I’ve stepped back before, in order to make room for other activities. Perhaps it’s just time to make room for more downtime. When panto season ends this time around, time will tell.