Getting Motivated and Happy 2018

December 29, 2017

by LIOR ZOREF @lior

As we approach the new year and unplug during the holidays, I hope that this email will give you a few insights about how to re-charge and get energized towards meeting your goals for 2018.

Following a talk I recently gave to young students, I received this moving email in which one of the students asked me how to maintain motivation over a long period of time. I asked her permission to share her question and my answer.

Dear Lior,
My name is Maya, and I am a third-year student in biomedical engineering.
Last week, I attended the event in which you presented, and I wanted to thank you for your lecture – it was very interesting and inspiring.
To tell the truth, I came to this event after almost giving up on college. Last year (due to personal difficulties), I failed several courses which meant that my degree dragged on for another year (5 years instead of 4), and the whole situation made me doubt whether this was the right direction for me. Somehow, in your talk, you managed to change my feeling. I left energized and motivated to overcome the difficulties that were created and to succeed despite them. I had a feeling that everything was possible and that I just needed to choose what I wanted to do.
When you asked if we have a dream, it made me think. I suddenly understood that I often don’t dare to dream big, and I dismiss my thoughts on the grounds that there is no chance for me to succeed. This is mostly because of financial difficulties, fear of being laughed at when I am wrong or simply being insecure and have no self-confidence.
I wanted to ask you, how did you choose your field? How did you know it interested you and was something you wanted to do in life? (When I’m asked what I’m interested in, I say biomedical engineering, but I do not have anything else on my mind.)
How do you maintain that sense of motivation? On the day of the lecture, I felt that I could move mountains, but this feeling has already faded.
Your lecture really opened my eyes and made me think about my future.
I have not reached conclusions yet, but at least I am on my way there. 🙂
Thank you,

Here is my answer.

Dear Maya,

Thank you for your email and your wonderful questions. The answer to your first question is easy (though the answer is simple, the journey is not easy at all).

How did I choose my career path? When I was a child, I went to many after-school classes. I studied aviation, judo, basketball and more. I hated most of those classes. Then, in 8th grade, I went to the computer programming class. During the first lesson, I knew I wanted to explore new technologies throughout my life. Many years later, when I retired from Microsoft and began my PhD, I had the same passion. During those years, social networks emerged. But the process of finding the field of research was long and took two years of reading, thinking, many conversations with my PhD advisor and more. During those two years, I read ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’ and immediately knew this was the field I wanted to explore.

If you still haven’t found the area that inspires you, it’s perfectly ok. You’re still young and at the beginning of your career. As long as you stay curious and open to new experiences, and if you don’t give up, you will find that thing that will make you super excited.

With regard to your second question of how I stay motivated in the long-term, that is more difficult to answer. The truth is that I too often struggle with this. There are times when due to my everyday routine, physical weakness or illness, my energy drops. I’m not sure if my habits will relate to you because it’s very personal. But I’m happy to share with you what I do in such cases as it might ignite some ideas that are right for you.

First and foremost, I try to be aware of my energy, and I try to do something about it. There are many things I choose to do spontaneously and some of them I plan ahead of time.

Part of my work is writing. Whether it’s an academic paper, a blog post, or a book, I can write anywhere. I try to take advantage of opportunities and go to places that inspire me. For example, two weeks ago, I had a meeting in a place located near Tel-Aviv port. I took my laptop in my backpack and went biking from Tel Aviv to Jaffa. I stopped on the way a few times, opened my laptop, and wrote. For me, every time I’m near the sea (especially during sunsets), I get a big dose of energy. I am thankful that I can do that at least twice a week.

There are other ways I gain energy and motivation. For example, every year, I clear 5 days to watch live broadcasts from TED (link). I also take advantage of opportunities for quality time with my wife, kids or good friends. I have a lecture soon at the Dead Sea, so I invited my two best friends to spend two days with me after this talk.

Sometimes, inspiration comes from the simplest things, such as playing with my kids or watching Master Chef on TV with them and deciding what we want to cook for dinner the next weekend.

Sometimes, inspiration comes from conversations with interesting people. I had a wonderful conversation recently with a nice security guard who agreed I could leave my car in a reserved spot for a few moments. We can always learn something from anyone.

Our motivation increases and decreases as days go by. It’s a bit like a mobile phone battery. Our job is to recharge our battery and use this energy to fulfill our goals and dreams.

Good luck in your studies and in making your dreams come true.

Thank you for reading and I wish you happy holidays and a great new year!

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