Getting Uncomfortable #8: Motivation Without Anxiety

This week I look at how to get motivated when you're not driven by anxiety.

4 minutes
Haley Stomp

Super Chill

During routine maintenance at the doctor this week, I took a depression/anxiety quiz. I scored zero on the anxiety test, as chill as can be. These results pair well with my overall feelings of low pressure, a gas with nothing to shape it. A blank slate big nothingness. I’m not sitting around worried about anything (as long as I’m not social media scrolling), but I’m also not jumping out of bed to take on the world. It’s a blessing and somewhat of a curse.

The old burned out me wants to hold on to this peace as long as possible. The current me knows I am a coil of potential energy, waiting to be released, knowing that some pressure is good (insert your “solid” pun here). A new summit is out there if I can just find the trailhead.

I’d Like to Move It, Move It

This got me thinking again about what drives and motivates us to be productive, contributing human beings. We work hard. We get educated. We strive to make enough money and move up in the world, reaching for standards we are fed from various sources, adjusting as targets change and as we gain experience and age. We have dreams and desires and visions of what a good life will be, and we are anxious to achieve them, anxious when we don’t and anxious to lose what we’ve gained once we have it.

Brene Brown quotes author Elizabeth Gilbert in Atlas Of The Heart, “You are afraid of surrender because you don’t want to lose control. But you never had control; all you had was anxiety.” It makes sense to me that there is a COVID-related lesson here. During COVID, we hit an anxiety threshold, unable to control everything, white knuckling it until there was no choice but to surrender. This crisis uncovered the weak links, places needing attention; the need for maintenance or a new approach; the places where it fell apart to be put back together better. It also showed us that not everything falls apart when you let go.

I Should Give Some Fudge

In the absence of anxiety or the desire to control everything, what drives us? When you’ve finally achieved Mark Manson’s goal of The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fudge, what’s next?

Purpose is a driver, seemingly a much better one than anxiety. Purpose is defined as the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. Purpose sounds much more deliberate and truly more in control than anxiety, but it can also be elusive.

The Hills Aren’t Alive Yet

Some people have a calling, loud and clear. They use trauma, talents, or once-in-a-lifetime ideas as a springboard. Religious leaders feel a higher calling to serve. Professional athletes are gifted physically. Brett Goldstein of Ted Lasso said he felt a calling to be Roy Kent and swear a lot, for which I’m thankful. Maria is told by the Reverend Mother in Sound Of Music, “It seems to be God’s will that you leave us.” She finds her purpose bringing love, harmony, and an impromptu, professional level, yodeling puppet show to the whole clan.

We aren’t all so lucky to have a kind, wise Austrian nun to point the way to our calling, and maybe that’s not the goal. Maybe the goal is simpler. Instead of an overarching calling, maybe it’s finding momentum in the next month or two on something meaningful. Instead of hearing a calling, maybe it’s making a call, taking a call, or walking through a door. Maybe it’s taking the next step on the thing that keeps tapping on your shoulder, reminding you there’s something there. Maybe it’s setting a deadline for a decision and making it. It’s making a bunch of base hits, consistently driving your average up until you’ve secured your spot as a valuable player on a team that matters to you.

Mom! Is Only One of My Callings

I’ve realized life doesn’t have to be a three-alarm fire to feel like I’m getting somewhere. Wins come in many forms and callings can be whispers, except for the days when the calling is, “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom!”

Or my favorite repeating text:






For now, I’m not worrying about finding my calling, but I am answering the phone for freelance writing, business consulting, kid chauffeuring, cat nurse duties and my role as Chief Operations Officer and construction manager of our house. I have confidence the blank slate will be painted soon with purpose if I focus on what’s directly in front of me.

In the meantime, if you’re trying to control everything in vain, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“If you ever drop your keys in a river of molten lava, let ’em go, because, man, they’re gone.” — Deep Thoughts By Jack Handey