So. You’re stuck.
Maybe it’s depression, maybe it’s a bad circumstance, maybe it’s just a rough patch. It sucks nonetheless, and it sucks extra hard because every time we struggle, there is a chorus of relatives and friends telling us to “cheer up!” and that other people have it harder than us.
It’s so easy to get demotivated, to let the inaction swallow you up.
But you’re not here for the easy. You clicked on this article. So, let me take you on a profanity-laden journey to finding your more motivated life. Bonus: you’ll be rid of a lot of deadweight friends in the end.
Day 1: Repeat after me – I will learn to swear
Listen, breaking any sort of pattern of behavior is tough shit, you’re not going to get through the next 30 days being all sunshine and unicorn farts. You’re about to suffer, so give yourself permission to swear, and swear profusely. You brave motherfucker, you.
Day 2: Make a commitment to honesty
If you can’t be honest with the rest of the world, at last, be honest with yourself. You want to live a more motivated, driven, and purposeful life. There’s no room for psychological evasiveness, a la RuPaul’s Drag Race. You need to be brutally honest with yourself, or else there is no point in doing this. (Around this time, your newly found ability to swear should start surfacing.)
Day 3: Look around you, and tell me if this shit is acceptable to you
Yes, I am talking about the pile of dishes in the sink, and the clothes hamper that is starting to smell, and the pile of books that you meant to read but which turned into a glorified nightstand instead. Yes, I am talking about your shitty job, and your mean friends, and your asshole boyfriend. Is this acceptable to you, and what are you going to fucking do about it?
Day 4: No really, what are you going to do about it?
Here’s your first list of the month – all the stuff that pissed you off yesterday? And the stuff that pissed you off before then? And the stuff that should have been pissing you off, but you told yourself wasn’t so bad? (Remember day 2: You are honest with yourself, if not with anybody else). Write it down, and start thinking of ways to fix that.
Day 5: Knock some easy items out of the list
“Hi asshole boyfriend, I’m breaking up with you, here’s your stuff, don’t call me again.”
“Hey mean friend, I know I said I will always hear out your troubles, but I changed my mind. Have a nice life.”
“Hey dirty plates, we’re not growing Penicillin here, so it’s time for a good scrubbing.”
Housework will never look boring to you again.
Day 6: Now that you cut some jerks out of your life, let’s talk about your physical space
If your living situation doesn’t allow you privacy, dignity, and space to be creative, then it’s not helping you live a good life. Moving house won’t happen in a month, but what you can do today is look up some places that appeal to you, figure out how much money you need for them, and make a plan on how to acquire one.
Conversely, if you have your own space, use the momentum from the dishwashing and give it a proper tidying up. You’ve got to cleanse it from the jerk you just dumped anyway, you’re killing two birds with one stone.
Day 7: Yes, money is scary. Deal with it, anyway.
The only people who enjoy sifting through bank statements are accountants. Accept it, and pull up your spending record anyway. You’re a grownup – being able to balance a budget is an essential part of life. Money allows you to be independent. Without financial security, you live paycheck to paycheck, and that leaves no room for any bigger goals you might have.
Day 8: Did you look at your spending already? Look at it some more
By now I expect you to be swearing a lot, and with great frequency. Yes, you did spend a lot on coffee dates with people you hated. You spent more on fast fashion to impress the jerks you were hanging out with. You spent twice as much on cocktails and parties you did not want to attend. Do the sums, and then memorize the total: That is the cost of your complacency. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to go with the flow.
Day 9: So how’s your job going?
Now that we’ve mostly made a plan for your money and home, it’s time to talk about your job. Specifically, it’s time to talk on whether it’s actually good for you, or if you’re just doing it for “experience”, or worse “because there is nothing better to do”. Even if your qualification level is not enough for your dream job, you can still think about it and what it takes to get there. Imagining yourself as a famous composer is a pipe dream, but working your way back to what music lessons you would need is a plan.
Day 10: If you love your job, you can use this day to clean your house some more. If not, it’s time to strategize.
Let’s say you really want to move up the company. You would find a mentor – ideally, someone you genuinely like and respect – and ask them for advice on how to make it happen. Or, if you wanted a new job entirely, you would start to look at job listings, note the requirements, and think about what you would need to do in order to become an ideal candidate. Whatever road you take, this day is about working toward a career that gets you out of bed in the morning. We spend a third of our lives at work – damn straight we should go for a field that inspires us!
Day 11: Read the news.
So far we’ve been focusing on your life and your relationships. Day 11 is about looking beyond your career and your home, and the world around you. Even if you find newspapers boring, read them anyway. Like it or not, you live on this planet – what happens in your country, your community, your habitat, is your business. Chances are, what you read is going to make you very angry, so…
Day 12: What are you going to do about THAT?
Depressing as they are, we need to follow the news. If something makes you angry – policy, the environment, the fate of poor children – then it’s usually a sign you should do something about it. Volunteer. Donate money. Educate yourself, so that you can tell your friends and family EXACTLY why this is important and why it is pissing you off. What? You want to soften your language for them? Fuck that shit – the planet is burning, anybody who complains about your cursing has the wrong priorities.
Day 13: Remember why you are doing this
By this point, you’re probably very lonely. Take this day to remember why you wanted to do this in the first place. Chances are, it wasn’t because you were overjoyed with how things were. You can’t live a motivated, purposeful life, and be palatable to everyone else. You need something to be passionate about, and that something will not be to everyone’s taste.
And that’s okay.
Day 14: Review your goals: do you need help?
Have you bitten off more than you can chew? Do you need a therapist? A doctor? A financial adviser? Do you feel overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin? You won’t get everything right from the beginning, and that’s okay – so long as you accept that and accept that it’s okay to start from scratch every now and again.
There are dishes in the sink. Start by washing those. You can call a therapist in the afternoon if you have to.
Day 15: Pick one good cause to support
Caveat: When I say volunteering, I mean volunteering in your local community. Don’t start a fundraiser for a trip to Kilimanjaro or book a trip to rebuild an orphanage in Haiti – that’s not helpful, and it might actually hurt the communities if you don’t have the right skill set.
Pick a local cause and go volunteering to the best of your ability. Staff a food bank. Feed the homeless. Pet abandoned cats and dogs. Find something outside of your life that you can give your time and efforts to because it is how you build up a stronger sense of self. Dropping a lot of assholes from your life tends to free up a lot of time, and you need to fill it with something lest they tempt you back.
Day 16: Get brutal about social media
If you kept your promise from day 2, and you were brutally honest with yourself, you should have noticed that your social media circle can do with a cull. Or, at the very least, a very big muting. It’s not starting drama – it’s taking a break from acquaintances that didn’t even know you’d broken up with your jerk boyfriend until he changed his status.
Day 17: Beware the energy vampires
Typically when you assert a boundary, one of two things happen. People are either cool and respect your need for space, or they double down on efforts to drag you into their drama. The former are good apples. The latter are energy vampires. Luckily, that’s what the block button is for.
Day 18: Go do something you always wanted to do.
Bonus points if your ex-man or ex-friends would absolutely hate it. Go, give yourself space to have fun, indulge your inner kid, and remind yourself: You can be surrounded by the biggest crowd alive and still be lonely if you are not enjoying yourself.
Day 19: Promise yourself that you will never use the word “adulting” again
You’re not a child pretending to be a grown-up; you have only one precious life, and you owe it to yourself to live it. The point of this challenge is to make you accept your own strength and to see yourself as a capable human being. There’s a reason why the last 18 days have been about small steps like tidying your house, making a plan for your career and taking on challenges you are passionate about – this is your life. You need to take ownership of it, and you need to own the fact that you are an adult in charge of your own destiny, which means it’s time to delete the self-infantilizing language from your vocabulary.
Day 20: Try to come out of your shell at work or in your volunteering role
Maybe you are a social butterfly already, but I’m not talking about superficial connections here. Try – even if it scares you – to have a conversation with someone about a serious topic. Something you care for a lot, something that you don’t know but you want to learn more of. We’re afraid of being uncool, or to talk about the things that truly weigh heavy on our hearts. But that’s how we make true and real connections, and that’s how we find the people who will truly support us.
Day 21: Remember your career plan? Take a step. Or two.
Is there a course you need to enroll on? A performance review you need? A job to apply for? Today is the day for that.
Day 22: Change your locks
Remember those energy vampires from a few days ago? A few of them might have a key to your house? Around the third week of this exercise is usually when the more determined jerks in your friend circle (and your ex) might want to strong-arm their way into your life. They’ve realized you’re serious, their usual tactics aren’t working, and they’ve decided to lay it on thick in person. Don’t let them. You’ve got a purpose, and you’re on your way to making new friends already.
Day 23: Revise your home plan
You may have been a bit too hasty in the home plan you drew up in the first week. Today is a good time to rethink it again and ask some honest questions of yourself, having looked at your own finances already.
Day 24: Is there something you can change in your consumption to help yourself?
We consume a lot. We spend a lot on online shopping, we use up a lot of single-use plastics, we eat takeout when there is plenty of food at home. Even if there is one thing you can do, commit to doing it for the next three months. There’s nothing quite to temper your own determination than trying to do something like meal prepping or carrying only your own water bottle for an extended period of time. Other people train for marathons – you are training your motivation.
Day 25: Speaking of marathons, how do you feel about your physical fitness?
I’m not telling you to hit the gym every day if you don’t want to. But if your body is telling you it can do with some fresh air, why not commit to a walk every day? Or, if you like swimming, how about making plans to visit the pool this week. Conversely, if you have been overdoing it with the training, this might be a good time to re-evaluate where you are at and maybe committing to a more honest plan.
Day 26: Plan something fun for a new friend
One thing happens when we discover our own powers and start living with more purpose – we tend to attract cool people. You might have made a new friend at volunteering, or at work. This might be a good time to plan something with them – a trip to the cinema, or a nice restaurant, maybe even signing up for a marathon together. Discuss your own hopes and dreams. It’ll be good to have an audience that cares.
Day 27: Time to think about bigger goals
The first steps toward living with determination start close to home: sorting our your own living space, your friend circle, making sure you have enough to sustain yourself and then finding something to feed your soul. It’s about acknowledging your own power. Now, it’s time to think about where you want to go. What do you want to change? What do you want your legacy to be? Give yourself space today, and dream.
Day 28: Share a dream with your new friends
Dreaming big takes practice, and it takes practice to show your courage to the world. Share it with your friends. Let them help you.
Day 29: Give yourself permission to be fallible
You will get things wrong. One of the difficult things about living a driven, purposeful life is that we can often beat ourselves up for mistakes, or feel bad when someone tells us we’ve been doing something wrong. That’s okay – you’re only human. Take the feedback, thank the person who gave it to you, reset, and adjust. You are not going back to square one if you don’t do everything right the first time around – you are learning how to do it better.
Day 30: What kind of example do you want to set?
Somewhere down the line, you’ll end up in a mentoring role. This happens a lot because a purposeful life requires compassion, empathy, and strong moral values. People who are in touch with their core selves can be scary attractive, especially to people who are a little bit lost themselves.
So. What kind of example do you want to set for them?
Having boundaries but also compassion? Being able to give without expecting a return? Being able to show up? Treating your fellow adults with respect? All of it? None?
Have a think.
Then live it.