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  • Writer's pictureOlga Lehmann, PhD

Spring rebirth. Or a not so SHORT STORY on motivation

So it is, the official beginning of the spring and the world day of poetry. This is one of my favourite days of the year! However, today I did not engage in any outgoing celebration. I rather continued with what I have been devoted to in the past months: revolving inwards. The journey of adapting to this new life I have chosen here in Bergen.

Working in a more informal setting than the university environment I had glorified has been surprisingly expansive and enriching. Working privately, as a psychotherapist and researcher in an absolutely beautiful community at IPR has widened my horizon, both personally and professionally. IPR is a vibrant environment of like-minded people who are generous, caring, and who have done their best to include me as part of their team.

Well, and so it is worth mentioning also the COV$%&/#-19 that keeps me apart from my family, my close friends, and the cosmopolitan life I was used to. What I used to enjoy the most of calling Norway a home was exactly that, the freedom I had to receive the stimulation and experiences of my multiple stays abroad. I consider myself a resilient person, as my family and I have endured adversity in very different shapes. I must also say I have of course struggled - as most of the clients I aim helping at my practice, to find meaning, motivation and hope. "Just like me" says a Buddhist meditation I love, and this is the confirmation I receive in most of my sessions: "just like me, just like you", we are all on this boat, the human way.

And so, the insights that motivate me to pick up the blog start with what at first appeared to be a mundane topic. I was chatting with my landlord about the deposit in the apartment, which I have managed to procrastinate organising for almost a year - since I came here. I do not feel proud about it, but it stroke me to notice how long had I manage to "forget" doing something as simple and boring as sorting out the boxes that the moving company had put there. As simple and boring and throwing away a lot of crap I have managed to collect for no particular reason than - "Will leave it here until next week". Why I haven't I cleaned the deposit? It was my goal for summer holidays, for autumn break, for winter holidays and now it is spring. It was committing to my landlord - an absolutely amazing and patient woman, which brought me out of this maze.

Standing in front of the hell of a mess that I had there, the reminiscence of some fears showed up. I welcomed these fears as teachers, and laughed with most of them. The seven year old within - and we all have inner children in the landscape of the mind - had somehow made up a theory that there were rats, snakes or cockroaches under the boxes. I grew up in Colombia so this would be indeed possible there, but very unlikely here in Norway. I then uncovered one of the fears that was holding me back.

Then, as I kept going with the sorting out of the boxes, some memories of anger showed up as well. I had misunderstandings with the moving company as they broke some of my furniture and also failed to return me some money as they promised. Somehow avoiding to enter the deposit helped me also avoid this anger as well.

I kept going, now feeling a sense of mastery for how easy and fast it was to finish this task, and a further insight stroke me. Somehow I had also made the association between organising the deposit and "settling in" in Bergen. Of course, I came here to stay, unless love proves me wrong. However, as beginning anew in the midst of the pandemic has hit me harder than I initially thought, keeping the deposit as messy as it was gave me the reassurance that Bergen was still a "case under revision".

Last but not least, the excuse of not organising the deposit was because I imagined it would take so many hours of my free time that I would "miss out" on chances to write my silent book. I proved myself wrong on that end, both because it was quicker than I imagined, and because I am actually progressing in my writing and the book is at a final stage (wohooo).

So, all in all, decluttered deposit and decluttered mind, this was a rich experience for me, and I want to share some take-aways about motivation out of this story.

If you’re struggling with motivation (we all do in one way or the other):

1. Ask yourself: What are the stories behind this? Or as I ask my clients: what might be holding you back?

2. Listen to your fears - no matter how irrational they seem. Talk to your fears as if talking to a child. In great degree, you actually are talking to your inner children, your inner teenager, or the inner adult you aim to be.

3. Challenge yourself to be wrong. Emotions and thoughts are information, not necessairly destinations. Instead of proving your assumptions right, test out the possibilities of being wrong, so as to optimise learning opportunities (and practice the art of humility along the way!)

4. Start small. I myself committed to 12 minute decluttering sessions with inspiring music or audiobooks. On the third round I managed to stay for 40 minutes without noticing, both because the audiobook (How to love a woman, by Clarissa Pinkola Estés) was captivating, and because the sense of mastery I felt once I started kept me going.

5. Make it cozy. Norwegians love to make atmosphere "koselig" or cozy and so I did, by putting warm and comfy clothes, my Bose headphones and choosing things to listen that are food for my soul.

6. Have a reality check with how whatever you're avoiding -small or big- is affecting others. I somehow made this idea in my mind that my neighbours would not see my bod.... but of course they do! It is next to the washing room, I mean! It was the short chat with my landlord which made me feel more responsible and committed to stop procrastinating.

5. You're not alone! When briefly mentioning that I might just hire someone to help me cleaning the deposit, my landlord suggested that her son and his friend could give me a hand! Easy peasy! I will pay them a little, they will help me a little by bringing all the things I have marked to the garbage truck. Do you also make for yourself this expectation that you need to resolve most of your things by yourself? Well, independence is great, but interdependence is gold!

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