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Do. It. Anyway.

How these three words can keep you motivated when you’re not feeling it.

Key points

  • Balancing what we need to do every day with the energy that we have isn’t always graceful.
  • There is an intrinsic reward felt by just showing up and committing to something.
  • We are dynamic beings, meant to move, connect, and inspire one another to keep going.

I went to the gym this morning and noted this quote on the motivational whiteboard at the entrance:

“The Magic you’re looking for is in the work you’re avoiding.” (Anonymous)

I almost didn’t get to the gym today, and most folks would say I have a good excuse. I struggle with chronic lower back pain stemming from a fused sacroiliac joint and broken vertebrae from an accident many years ago, so morning stiffness is always rough. I also wear a prosthetic leg, and some days the fit is more “off” than others. I joke that I’ve got an unpredictable body, resembling the volatility and instability of the weather.

Like many folks with chronic conditions, my energy reserves wax and wane. Pain and limitations can truly take their toll, but I know these two simple truths: Movement and connection are good. Isolation and stagnation are bad.

I truly understand that on some days it's an incredible challenge to feel motivation. My work at a rehabilitation hospital puts the potential inertia brought on by physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges front and center. Without a doubt, some days really do suck! It can feel next to impossible to get out of a rut. But, in the long run, the pain of staying stuck in thinking and nonacting mode is way worse than taking the crucial steps to keep moving.

The “spoon theory” is a relatively new analogy used by the chronic pain and illness community, where “each spoon represents a finite unit of energy. Healthy people may have an unlimited supply of spoons, but people with chronic illnesses have to ration them just to get through the day.”1 Writer Christine Miserandino coined this term while trying to explain her day as a chronic illness sufferer to a friend. “Each person has a finite number of spoons to use every day. And once you use them, they’re gone. On a relatively high pain day, a simple task can take four spoons, and on a low pain day that same task can take one spoon.”

Here's where things can get tricky. Balancing what we need to do every day with the energy that we have isn’t always graceful. With bodies and feelings and responsibilities that can feel unwieldy at times, it’s important to commit and to stay the course to wellness, whatever it means for you to “be well.”

Things I’ve Learned

Feelings can be our friend or our enemy. When they are the enemy, we must override them with action.

Sadness, pain, and loss are part of life. These feelings in and of themselves are not bad. In fact, it’s important to acknowledge them, because repressed feelings can lead to illness and disease. But when we allow ourselves to become paralyzed by these feelings, consumed by them and allowing them to control our lives, a sense of nihilism can begin to creep in, and that’s when we’re in trouble.

A phrase I’ve come to embrace in lifestyle and practice is this: “Get out of your head and into your body.” It has never let me down! On the days when I’ve played out my excuses like my last round of aces, it’s movement, nature, and being around others that synergistically provide the much-needed reboot and endorphin boost2that are needed to keep going, especially on the hardest of days.

Connection is good. So is honesty.

I’ve lost track of all the times I’ve shown up at my Monday morning bootcamp class late, sharing how hard it was just to get out the door. Countless other friends utter the same sentiments, and by the end of class, we’re all joking and laughing together about how good we feel after moving our bodies for a whole 45 minutes. “I’m so glad I got here.” “Now I can start my week feeling motivated.” The sheer acknowledgment of pushing through our stuck feelings is a bonding force in human nature, and it's one that we all need.

Showing up is the important first step. When we entrust others to help buoy us up, cheer us on, and provide encouragement, not only does it validate our worth, but it also validates theirs.

Good days and bad days are part of life, but inertia feeds on inertia, and growth always lies just outside of your comfort zone.

Source: Riku Lu/Unsplash
Source: Riku Lu/Unsplash

There is a lot of wisdom in the words of Jedi Master Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.” This saying is an inspirational reminder that it’s within our power to either move our energy forward, remain stagnant, or slide backward.

Inaction is always an option, and there certainly is value in rest and self-care. But it’s also important to acknowledge that we humans are comfort seekers. We’re programmed to seek the path of least resistance.

As a person with a disability who works closely with others with challenging life circumstances in health care, it’s not lost on me what a herculean effort it can be just to keep going on some days. Our feelings can keep us trapped and alone with our thoughts. We must resist the urge to remain stuck by committing to something—anything outside of ourselves to keep moving ahead.

To not want to do something, but to do it anyway is one of the best gifts we can give ourselves. The intrinsic reward felt by showing up and committing to something is proof that we’re dynamic beings, meant to move, connect, and inspire one another to keep going.


1. Latifi, Latesa. Spoon theory: What it is and how I use it to manage chronic illness. Washington Post. January 14, 2023.

2. Mayo Clinic. Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress.

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