What makes you get out of bed in the morning? What pushes you to get showered and get dressed? What drives you to complete daily errands and tasks? As we all know it, going through life is tough. There are always points in our lives where we are tested and are forced to reevaluate what to do with ourselves. We tend to joke about finding motivations from external sources, like doing it for the grades or just to get to graduation.
The good thing about living in a community is that most of the time, we get to tap into others’ energies and motivation. A simple smile from a stranger during the commute to school or work could colour your blue Monday yellow. That’s why smiling is a sunnah. But when things get really bleak, even that isn’t enough. That’s when we need to start to look within ourselves for that spur and passion.
One way we can do it is to look back on our lives. Bring out some momentos — photos, notes, maybe even that small keychain that a friend of yours gifted to you. Those are some trigger items that help you look back at who you once were. Some memories make us cringe. God knows we have made some silly, adolescent mistakes in our time. But what really gets to us is the fact that we get to see how much we have grown. To reflect and revisit the lessons that we have learnt and the challenges that we have overcome. Then, be motivated to conquer what lies ahead of us.
In doing these reflections though, we tend to overlook the power of conversations we have with ourselves. There’s always going to be that little voice in your head. Telling you how relatable that TikTok was. Debating with you about buying that shirt because it’s on sale. Reminding you of your little daily goals like drinking enough water. Reviewing the day you had and making plans for tomorrow just before you fall asleep. Sometimes, we need to listen to this voice and engage in healthy, positive conversations with it. Reflect on what was good, what was bad; what you have learnt and what you could do better. Talk to the voice in your head like you would to motivate your favourite person in the whole world, because ultimately, that person should be yourself. And the best part is, you can literally do this anywhere, anytime - our personal favourite is on a long-distance bus ride as the sun sets in the horizon. Just you and your thoughts - sounds like a vibe, doesn’t it?
Then again, it can also be frustrating, realising that most of life’s problems are just cyclical - it never stops, to be honest. So while we motivate ourselves to overcome yet another hurdle, we question: Do I really want to do it again? Over and over. When does it end? Those are slightly harder questions to grapple with. Especially as students going through the roller coaster that is a semester or school year. From being happy at the beginning, then feeling clueless when learning new things. Afterwards, assignments and exams start to weigh us down and fill our days, not to mention the stress that comes with it, and the days that seem to drag on. Somehow, the weeks seem to fly by and before we know it, we get to feel the sweet, sweet relief of the official end to a semester. And then it's the same thing over and over again, 6 to 10 times.
But for a moment, let’s try to be grateful and realize that we are meant to be where we are at. That even when times are tough, we need to continue persevering because we will look back at it, fondly or otherwise, and maybe learn something about ourselves. But bottomline, reflect on where we are, muster as much gratitude, and use it to fuel our journey forward. Especially when Allah SWT has promised us in Surah Ibrahim,
“If you are grateful, I will surely increase you in favor” (The Qur’an, 14:7).
Of course that is idealistic. Not everyone we meet and every instance can be seen in such a way. God knows how many times we’ve tried that and in that moment, everything seems horrible. That does not mean we should just give up. It just means that we should dig deeper. Which brings us to the next thing we can do. To dig deep into the question: “Why am I here and doing this?” And this does not include external areas of motivation because let’s be honest, there comes a time where even those things are not enough to keep us going. Should there be no external rewards or motivation, why would we put ourselves through such tough experiences? While some bank on their passion for a cause or the subject, others may look at it as a necessary step towards an end goal they already have in mind. Eventually, it really boils down to what we want out of an experience we have the privilege of having.