January 25

How to stay motivated in uncertain times


Life throws curve balls at everyone. This past year has thrown more than a few at many of us, so how can we stay motivated in uncertain times? My coaching clients have seen race cancellation after race cancellation, postponement after postponement. The latest blow was Marathon des Sables now postponed for a 3rd time. If you feel like you lack a bit of motivation right now, it would be understandable.

Research shows that having a hopeful attitude can help us stay motivated through tough times. It can make us optimistic rather than pessimistic. So, what makes up a hopeful attitude?

How Hope Theory can help us stay motivated

According to Hope Theory we have hope when three conditions are present:

  1. We have a goal to work towards;
  2. We can see several routes to achieving our goal & move past obstacles that we encounter;
  3. We believe that we are capable in achieving our objectives (self-confidence).

Unfortunately, we can easily envision future failure and problems. This can paralyse us in making decisions & spiral us into hopelessness.

The good news is that research suggests:

  1. We exaggerate the impact we think potential future negative life events will have on us. Basically we depict the future as more dark than it actually turns out to be.
  2. People who are positive in regards to future outcomes are better able to persevere when things get difficult.

So, there is a great case for actively working on your hope & optimism. 

Silhouettes at sunset hope motivation

How to increase hope and optimism

So, what does this mean in in terms of staying motivated in general and for Marathon des Sables in particular? Here are some tips on how you can go about creating hope and optimism to stay motivated in uncertain times.

Goal setting

Your goal of MDS has moved in time. Actually it might not be a bad thing. One thing that is important in terms of goals is that they should be relevant and realistic. You now have more time to prepare, and you can train in the summer which is a better climate for desert training. If it feels far away, take a break now and regroup. You have time. Sit down and answer these questions:

  • Do you feel that you have a realistic goal in terms of MDS and that you have the capacity to reach it? If not, what can you do, or who can you talk to to feel more in control?
  • Is your goal SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound)? If not, how can you reformulate it to be?
  • List at least ten benefits with the race being postponed until October.
  • Define two races or self-organised events that can serve as interim goals before October. One in April/May and one in July/August for example.
  • Take stock of your preparations in regards to the following areas and decide when and how you will now tackle them:
    • Nutrition and food plan
    • Training
    • Equipment
    • Foot care, shoes & gaiters
    • Race strategy
    • Travel logistics and camp life
    • Heat acclimation


Make a list of your strengths. 

  • What strengths do you think you have in general?
  • What strengths would your friends/partner/family point out in you?
  • What strengths do you have that will serve you well in Marathon des Sables?
  • What strengths do you have that will help you in the period leading up to the race?

Creative Problem Solving

Do you face any problems right now or has the postponement of the race given rise to a problem for you? Then:

  • Look to past successes & see how you have dealt with relevant situations before. How did you cope? What strengths did you use? What resources did you summon?
  • Make a list of 20 solutions, even if they feel “out there”. Does it make you look differently at the problem?

Also see my post on achieving your goals here. Good luck, and if you need more support I offer consultations and coaching.

(Source: Invitation to Positive Psychology by Dr. R. Biswas-Diener)


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