Day 83: Motivational hopelessness

Read an inspiring quotation or poem which motivates you to achieve your goals.

I don’t like motivational quotes. I like to read them, and I like that people use them to achieve more, but I don’t like to use them myself. Like quotes from this list: If you can dream, you can achieve it. Dream big and dare to fail. You become what you believe. Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful. If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on. Dream big and dare to fail.

Yeah, yeah. You can do anything. But to me, this is armchair philosophy. These are word you whisper to yourself when you sit in your living-room and  you doubt if you can ski across Greenland or make your first million. Once you’re out there, fighting with the elements (across Greenland or making your first million, or both), these quotes won’t help you at all. Once you’re doing what you motivated yourself to do, you need something else.

For me, this “something else” always including swearing, often in French. It includes self-derision. Oh come on, I say to myself, this is nothing, it’s just a few drops of water. Jeez, I thought you were made of sterner stuff. It’s just a few degrees below zero. You wanted this, and now you’re backing out? It’s not even a storm. If you don’t go on, I’ll nail your head to the floor and burn all your books with motivational quotes. Coward.

“If you can dream, you can achieve it?” Oh, shut up. I’ll be having nightmares about this expedition for months, don’t talk to me about dreaming!

No, what you really need, is something bleak, something disillusioned and without hope. You don’t want hope: it takes energy to dream about your goal. You just want to go on, spending just enough energy to move forward, not thinking about anything else than the present. You want to hear that everything is hopeless (because that’s what you feel, and some confirmation is always good), but that there is nothing else to do than to continue. This is terrible, so let’s continue.

The author who more than anyone has written like that,at least as far as I know, is Beckett. I give you three Beckett quotes. If you can’t use them for motivation, I know I can.

“All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”(Worstward Ho)

“You must go on, that’s all I know, you must go on, I can’t go on, you must go on, I’ll go on, you must say words, as long as there are any, until they find me, until they say me, strange pain, strange sin, you must go on, perhaps it’s done already, perhaps they have said me already, perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story, that would surprise me, if it opens, it will be I, it will be the silence, where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on” (The Unnamable)

“Where now? Who now? When now? Unquestioning. I, say I. Unbelieving. Questions, hypotheses, call them that. Keep going, going on, call that going, call that on.” (The Unnamable)

Of course, I can’t mutter these quotes to myself while I’m fighting my way  though the winter storm. They usually boil down to these phrases: Keep going. Fail better. You snotty-faced heap of parrot droppings.

I sometimes get angry with myself for being so rude towards myself. But when I reach my goal, all is forgiven.

You see, most motivational quotes are big on forgiveness. And we should always listen to motivational quotes when we come back to our comfy armchair. Which, after all, was the ultimate goal.

It’s just that once there, we realize that the detour through the winter storm was much more interesting.