The subtext or unstated mission of last week’s quick comments on quarantine or caution fatigue was to find out how people can be encouraged to keep their focus on doing the right thing. Without doubt, this is one of the overarching lessons from the changes that are being foisted on communities by the Covid-19 environment.
One of the dichotomies in the present situation is looking at how well intentioned policies and regulations, to save both lives and economies, instead have the real possibility of worsening the situation.
Global media reports have attested to the sad and worrying possibility of rising rates of infection even as countries around the world relax lockdowns. Recurring questions on resource limitations including the absence of any specific vaccines or medicines for the Covid-19 disease make the situation more difficult to navigate.
After an international group of scientists argued that the virus can stay aloft for hours in stagnant air and infect people as they inhale, the World Health Organisation announced this week that it would issue a scientific brief within days as governments and health authorities across the world redouble their efforts to keep infections under control.
Gary Drevitch has noted that, “the most carefully crafted incentives from cash rewards to social props routinely backfire. It’s not difficult to incentivise people to complete a one-time task.” It, therefore, seems that the challenge arises when the aim is to encourage and foster long-term motivation at both the individual and community levels.
Motivation science expert Kou Murayama has written that, “motivation is important in almost every aspect of human behaviour. When you make a decision, your choice is certainly influenced by your motivational state.”
As one follows the unrelenting onslaught of the Covid-19 crisis, it is worthwhile to remember that although we cannot control what happens, it is still possible to control our responses.
The essence of life shines through when we avoid looking at the unwinnable contests with surrender. Instead, the focus remains squarely on perseverance.
Yet regardless of how lofty and sincere one’s ambitions and endeavours may be, they remain vulnerable to ambushes by hordes of perilous challenges. Inherent in every step of every undertaking is the possibility of missed targets or goals, and more painfully, the burden of discouragement.
Psychologist Benjamin Hardy says that, “decisions, both daily and the big ones, shape your desires. Train your desires to want success, happiness, health and deep connections.”
Having the presence of mind to constantly search for motivation is thus important because demotivation does not only hamper our work. It also has a negative effect on mental health. Scientists in the Malaysian Journal of Psychiatry have noted that, “we expect to see an upsurge in anxiety disorders, posttraumatic stress disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders and aversive effects of isolation.”
Writing in The Atlantic newspaper two days ago, Jacob Stern said that, “depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence almost always surge after natural disasters. And the coronavirus is every bit as much a disaster as any wildfire or flood.”
The Covid-19 environment challenges the dangerous comfort of a fixed mindset and calls instead for a growth mindset. A large part of the so-called new normal points societies to the key role of motivating people to remain hopeful about the light at the end of the tunnel.
David Cuschieri writes that, “the mind is a powerful force; it can enslave or empower us. Learn to use the power wisely.”