Some Thoughts On Anxiety As A Motivator
Disclaimer – in this article I’m speaking more about anxiety in the sense of a short-sighted, strictly fear driven emotion. Not existential anxiety as I do see how that could be beneficial.
I’ve been pretty introspective lately, I’m writing this from Mexico City. I can sense that Mexico City may turn into another Rome for me. Where I spend hours walking alone through the city, thinking about life. Rome wasn’t the easiest time in my life, but I did learn a lot about myself. Lately I can feel that same pensive, melancholic mood returning. A big part of me re-diving into myself is because of someone who came into my life for the last few months. She taught me a lot about myself, and about the world. While things didn’t work with us, I appreciate her, and even though I can’t show it now, I am still, and always will be in her corner. I owe a lot of my current understanding of myself to her.
One thing that she showed me was how harmful my anxiety is. For a long time, and in more ways than one, I held onto anxiety as a motivator.
Realizing how effective anxiety has been for me, I started consciously inviting and entertaining thoughts of anxiety. I would hold onto thoughts of my business falling apart, and all of my clients leaving me to drive me to continue working. Motivation is a tricky thing working for myself. So any motivators I found I held onto. I also lost my most important motivator a while ago, which left me feeling quite unmotivated, happy but unmotivated. With this huge void in my motivation, I was even more desperate for anxiety to come and save the day. However, anxiety is not my friend, and it’s hurting me.
Does anxiety work as a motivator?
Yes it does, but it works in a horrible way. It works via a narrative of fear “you don’t deserve how much money you’re making”, “this client’s going to leave you unless you do X”, “It’s all going to disappear unless you busy yourself”. What this starts doing is associating my businesses with thoughts of anxiety and fear. I pair working on my businesses with anxiety and fear, and it results in my quality of life diminishing because working no longer feels good, and exciting.
So how do I motivate myself if I’m not using anger or anxiety anymore?
Remembering my why, why am I doing this. I’m doing this so I can make enough money to help my mom and loved ones out. I’m doing this because I love watching small businesses grow. I’m doing this because I love seeing metrics go up, and being able to attribute that to my work. I’m doing this because I love to troubleshoot and find solutions and beat problems. I’m doing this because it affords me the lifestyle that I currently have, a lifestyle I was too scared to even dream about only 5 years ago.
Those motivators don’t burn as hot as anger and anxiety though. There’s a reason why I used those for so long because they’re immediate for me. I don’t have to sit and think about them, or ponder them to get me moving. They’re right there and as soon as I feel them, I react right away.
Fear Vs. Positivity
This constant state of anxiety isn’t any better for me than the anger that drove me before and I would argue that both of those motivators all derive from the same root anyway, fear. When I was angry I was afraid that others wouldn’t see me for all that I am. Now that I’m anxious it’s the fear that it’s all going to disappear, and I’m going to let others down.
I want to live my life stemming from a place of positivity, not negativity. This was a big reason why I decided to put less of an emphasis on goal setting. Becoming conscious of how I use anxiety is a great first step, and it will help me identify it when it comes up. However, I need to ensure that I’m remaining cognizant of my “why’s” because if I lose sight of those, then I’ll invariably fall back on anxiety and negativity to get work done.