Finding and Sustaining our Motivation


6/16/20245 min read

In the demanding world of classical music, understanding what truly motivates us is crucial for sustaining our passion and achieving long-term success. Motivation fuels our dedication, drives our practice, and helps us navigate challenges. Over the years, I’ve discovered that maintaining motivation involves more than just willpower; it requires a holistic approach. Through journaling, nurturing a strong body-mind connection, finding my ‘why,’ dedicating time to self-growth, prioritising quality sleep, regularly reviewing my goals, and fostering human connections, I’ve reignited my motivation and found renewed focus. In this post, I’ll share how these practices have transformed my musical journey and offer strategies for you to keep your own motivation strong and your path fulfilling.

When we are highly motivated, we feel alive. Picking up our instrument every day and dedicating hours of concentrated practice to improve our skills feels natural and easy. The joy of experiencing progress is so strong that it carries us through the hours, days, weeks, and years it takes to master our craft.

I feel nostalgic for that time in my life. From the age of about 15-16, classical music became my main focus, and the flute was its expression. I practised on average three hours a day, listened to the classical repertoire whenever I had the time, and experimented with the instrument, especially with techniques that were said to be unnatural for the flute. I was highly driven, and after a few years and with the right direction, success followed.

Then an unexpected shift occurred. First, I noticed that my energy and will to play were evaporating quickly, soon to follow by deterioration of my health, forcing me to stop playing for three months. Only recently, after twenty years, have I managed to put the pieces together and gain a better understanding of my life before and after becoming severely ill and diagnosed with an auto-immune condition.

In my youth, while immersed in playing the flute, I never gave much thought to the physical and mental demands it placed on my body and mind. Family members warned me that I should engage in other activities as well, but I didn’t listen and kept pushing forward. Was I wrong? I am still undecided about that. What I do know today is that I lacked life skills, was striving for perfection, and feared letting go, which prevented me from noticing the mind and health shifts that were happening. When I finally acknowledged the decline in my motivation, I was hesitant to talk about it. Instead of seeking guidance, I pressed on. The result was predictable—my health deteriorated even further, and I began to feel disconnected from the goals I had been aiming for just a few months prior.

Understanding what motivates me, what I should do in life, and why my motivation declined twenty years ago has led me on a long and an enlightening path. I have learned that despite being on a very individual journey, the quest to find what motivates us is simple and universal. As humans, we are emotional creatures bound to our physical needs. Thus, recognising and understanding our emotions, while taking care of our bodies, are crucial for feeling motivated and energised. By sharing what I’ve learned, I hope to provide some guidance for your journey.

Here are the key lessons I’ve learned and what I have been practising daily for the last two years. This practice has helped me rediscover the joy of playing the flute, heal my body and mind, and find my own path and goals in life. As a result, I now experience a much more fulfilling life and higher energy levels than ever before.

1. Body-Mind & Human Nutrition: Proper human nutrition is the key to unlocking our body and mind's full potential. Contrary to today’s promotion of the virtues of plants and fibre, Homo sapiens (modern humans) have evolved over the last six million years as apex predators, obtaining their nutrition primarily from high-fat and protein foods, almost entirely from animal sources. We are carnivores. Switching to a Keto and later a carnivore diet has healed me from severe ulcerative colitis, chronic fatigue, adult acne, brain fog, difficulty building muscle, and more. The more I healed the more energised I felt to tackle what ever was holding me back in my life.

2. Finding My ‘Why’: The first step in discovering what truly motivates us can be accomplished by writing down all the significant moments in our lives. Once reviewed, most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, can recognise key moments when we felt most alive and in touch with what brings us joy and meaning. For me, a pattern emerged: My strongest positive memories involve helping others figure out what they truly wanted, express that to themselves and others, and, when possible, helping them find the courage and knowledge to make it happen.

3. Daily Hour for Self-Growth: I have transformed from a night owl into an early riser, using the early morning to improve my body and mind. This includes morning stretches/weight lifting while listening to non-fiction audiobooks about business, finance, high performance, psychology, meditation, etc. This is followed by writing (with a pen!) today’s goals, journaling, and a combination of Yoga Nidra (body scan) meditation and visualisation of my day and life goals. Starting my day before everyone else gives me the serenity, time, and consistency to do this every morning. Over time, I have experienced faster self-growth and higher levels of tranquillity and focus throughout the day.

4. Quality Sleep: To maximise my sleep, I’ve noticed a few practices that make a big difference. My nutrition, dinner timing, and shifting into a sleep mindset are crucial for me. By removing all carbs and stopping eating at least three hours before bedtime, I fall asleep faster, don’t have persistent thoughts, and wake up less frequently during the night, if at all. I also allow myself an hour to settle down, which includes putting away all screens outside the bedroom, getting ready for bed, and reading for thirty minutes before turning off the lights. These days, I have cut out coffee and aim to replace my cup of tea with a short nap of 25 minutes or a session of Yoga Nidra to regain my energy while allowing my body the rest it needs.

5. Regular Reviews: To help me figure out where I’m going and to stay on track, I break down my goals into smaller tasks. I start by setting yearly goals and breaking them into quarterly, monthly, and weekly goals. I review each when it is due and adjust according to my current situation, what I’ve learned, and recognising overdue tasks.

6. Human Connection: We are tribal animals. We need nature and human interactions for our mental health. Spending time outside in nature and face-to-face with family and friends has been crucial for me to feel part of something rather than going through life alone. When we seclude ourselves, we become the most important thing, which is known in psychiatry to be one of the causes of depression. By being with and giving to others, we grow our sense of worth and meaning. Living abroad, I am working on the habit of contacting family and friends regularly and have set up a weekly reminder to do so. Life gets busy, and with distance, it is too easy to let relationships fade. Though nothing compares to face-to-face interactions, a short call is still better than nothing. My goal is to develop this habit in myself and my friends, aiming for a weekly call to catch up and keep our connections alive and thriving.

Staying motivated is a lifelong commitment. There will be days when motivation effortlessly carries us through challenging tasks. On other days, staying on track might feel like trying to walk through a dense fog, where we can’t see where we’re going, can barely breathe, and feel a constant resistance no matter what we try to do. My experience has taught me to use the good times to clarify my ‘why’ and the challenging times to remind myself why I chose this path. Nothing is fixed in life, so learning to navigate both the ups and downs has helped me make the best of the way things are and stay motivated toward my goals.

No matter which practice you develop for yourself, making the time and effort to recognise your needs and keep improving yourself will maintain your motivation throughout your life. I encourage each and every one of you to create space in your life for growth. By investing only an hour a day, I am confident that with consistency, your experience of life will improve drastically, and you will achieve more of the goals you have set for yourself.