#UCTLockDownLetters is a new feature on the University of Cape Town (UCT) news site. Staff, students, parents of students: we want to hear about your experiences of work and life in lockdown. Emails, audio and video clips, prose and poetry are also very welcome. This is your space.
This contribution comes from Terence Chikwavira, a UCT student in the Faculty of Commerce.
5 May 2020
I just wanted to share an anecdote on a topic that has really been so relevant to me and possibly for others: the search for passion.
In these times of being physically secluded from proper interaction with the greater part of society, a bit more alone time is the result I’ve faced. And when I’m alone, my mind races.
I usually aim to keep it in check but stumbled upon a deep-rooted paradox that afflicts many people – our life purpose. We’ve all heard the benefits of living with drive and purpose; however, I realised my drive and purpose fell by the wayside for a good 20 or more days, and I couldn’t appreciate why. I knew it would help to get lots of work done in this “added” time. Alas, the grind never happened.
With time it became clear. When society all around you is progressing in all the ways it can, one may just go with the waves too, like an invisible influence. I share goals with a lot of peers, so I automatically moved with the pace of my comrades who I saw on a daily basis, but afterwards the drive was gone.
“We’ve all heard the benefits of living with drive and purpose; however, I realised my drive and purpose fell by the wayside.”
I didn’t have my own personal drive and purpose, a sense of meaning that eclipses the social situation I’m in, and this was due to not knowing myself at all (fundamentally speaking). Since I didn’t know myself, what I really wanted was unknown to me and my self-initiated actions were thus a mere candle in the wind.
I have steps that I personally have taken to get across the line in my work, though I feel this is subjective and possibly better implemented according to each person. The only universal step that I think exists is first looking into ourselves.
When I did this, I started looking into highlight moments in my academic life, along with other important hurdles, and saw the greatest driver for me personally was a mix of seeking approval or avoiding disapproval, and gradual interest I acquired in learning a subject after taking time and being able to make sense of ideas.
So, it was then when I was able to see the need to self-motivate through this very process of self-reflection, as there was an aspect riding on the momentum of the social context. I found myself relying on this time and time again to push me; a context that I realise is ever-changing and wouldn't be strong enough in other circumstances, like when there are no defined deadlines or external due dates for me and my peers.
“The greatest driver for me personally was a mix of seeking approval or avoiding disapproval.”
There are steps that a person can take in doing their work, like improving efficiency, avoiding procrastination, etc. The ones I’ve come across may sound familiar, but will work to subjective effect, such as meditation to improve focus, changing the learning space to better remove any hesitance from actually starting tasks, and developing a positive view on the benefits of the task and its importance.
These methods are all a Google search away and can in fact help. But what’s not a Google search away is understanding ourselves – so I wouldn’ t want to start prescribing any productivity actions, as the likes of Thomas Frank have much more helpful and detailed practices to try out (look him up he’s good).
I don’t claim to know myself fully at this point now, but I do believe I’ve gained some insight after some reflection, and have taken a great first step, ironically due to this lockdown – a step that I hope can help myself and someone else align their aims and actions better and cultivate self-motivation.
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