As I write this, it’s been almost seven weeks since I’ve been to my office. My town has been under stay-at-home orders for about a week less than that. Like so many people, I’m suddenly co-working from my home with family members, having put anxiously awaited plans on hold, worried about the state of the world, and unsure of what comes next.
I’ve also ended up with a few opportunities to talk about the psychology of motivation as it relates to the coronavirus and being in social isolation. It’s a side effect of having a book come out right as the world shut down (note: try not to have your book release coincide with a global pandemic if you can). Motivational psychology offers some insights into why suddenly being tossed out of your routine is so incredibly anxiety-provoking and hard, as well as ways you can help restore some sense of balance within a new reality. But. But.
Every time I write or speak about this, there’s a voice in my head that reminds me that anyone worried about supporting their sense of competence right now is so lucky. It’s privilege to get to worry about this stuff.
There are people right now without a safe place to sleep. People forced to sleep in the same places as their abusers. People without a job or an income. People struggling to feed themselves and their families. People ill and dying.
Those people are not worried about their basic psychological needs. They’re worried about survival.
When the actual pandemic part is over, I fear that it will have widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots. This crisis is not going to stop when the virus does. We are in deep shit and it’s going to last for a long time.
So yeah, I feel guilty talking about what the lucky among us, who have our health and our homes and our work but feel bored and anxious and helpless, could be doing right now to feel more motivated. I guess I just wanted to give voice to that, to say that I recognize my own privilege and that I am giving advice to my fellow privileged people.
I hope that we’re all trying to find ways to use our resources to help people who need it. Tipping the delivery person $15 isn’t going to solve society’s problems, but it might mean a lot to that one person right now.
I also hope that those of us lucky to be able to focus on our own motivation and basic psychological needs are taking a spirit of preparing to serve others in some way. Even for the lucky ones, this really is a hard and soul-draining situation. But we who have the most will be the first ready to pitch in the aftermath, and if attending to motivational needs gets us ready, then let’s do it.