Finding Our Motivation and Rekindling Our Fire During Tough Times

By John Runza, Assistant Head: School Life

We are heading into our fourth week of Learning With Lakefield – Remotely.  At this point science, and researchers who have studied learning in this environment, tell us that the honeymoon phase may feel like it is ending, if it isn’t over already, and the ‘dog days’ of remote learning begin to bark louder.  The novelty of the program is gone and motivation wanes.  

How do we rekindle the fire? Where do we find the strength to dig that much deeper?

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Chaplain’s from other Ontario schools and we all identified the fact that our schools are grieving.  We are grieving the loss of being together, the loss of our community.  

In his recent Harvard Business Review article That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief  Scott Berinato speaks to this exact issue. He calls us to acknowledge the grief, to accept what it is, and to work together to live with it.  According to Kessler and Kubler-Ross’s classic work on the stages of grief (On Grief and Grieving) we are supposed to accept grief.  I prefer to think of this as ‘living with it.’  


The challenge with the grief we are currently experiencing is that we are all experiencing it together.  Normally when there is a loss in life, we can turn to others who are not experiencing the same depth of sorrow as we are, and it is our friends who we lean on to help us pull through.  In this case, a global pandemic, the whole world is experiencing the same sorrow.  But not necessarily at the same time, it wanes in and out of our bloodstreams.  

One tip for dealing with this ‘macro grief’ is to identify it and reach out to others who may not be in the same depth that you are at the moment. Berinato reminds us, when we are called upon to support others, we must build up our stores of compassion so that we are ready and able to care.

Shifting Our Mindset From Grief to Celebration

Another tip is to do our utmost, with the help of friends, to shift our mindset from the grief of loss to the celebration of life. Someone who can help us with this is our friend Dr. Lea Waters.  You may remember Dr. Waters from her visit to  Lakefield College School in 2018 when she worked with our staff and spoke to our community.

Dr. Waters is the author of the Strength Switch and a leading expert in the area of positive psychology. She calls us to savour and celebrate the small blessings in life that we take for granted.  In Silver Linings: How to Stay Positive During the Coronavirus Crisis she reminds us to appreciate the warmth of a hot shower or the smell of freshly brewed coffee.  These reminders help boost our serotonin, the calming hormone that elevates mood.  The way we feel drives the way we think, it fuels our mindset.


It’s not only serotonin we need in the battle for motivation, but we are also in need of oxytocin.  The hormone that overrides stress (cortisol) and comes from embracing our connections with our loved ones.  We get this best when we engage in deep conversations with those we love when we hug our kids or siblings and cuddle our pets.

Yes, this is all nice and warm and fuzzy, but then there is still work and school and school work, and finding the strength to tackle schoolwork can be a challenge.  Motivation runs thin and we all just want to pull the sheets over our head and wake up when it’s all over.  We need to dig deep, we need to push through, we need to be resilient, gritty.

Finding Resilience, Being Antifragile and Gritty, Even

Author Angela Duckworth reminds us that life is a marathon, not a sprint. We all need to set goals and work hard through life to achieve them  (She wrote a great book about it, that I recommend Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance).  She calls us to never give up on ourselves and to remember that we are the authors of our own futures and most importantly perhaps, in our current CoVid19 world, she reminds parents that we need to be grittier at helping our kids be gritty.  It’s not always the easiest route, but it is the one we are called to take to help our kids be at their best.  

In The Coddling of the American Mind, Lukianoff and Haidt suggest that the best thing that we can do for our children is to raise them to be antifragile, to face challenges, and to persevere through them.  Like an immunity to a virus, it gives us the strength to conquer future challenges with less fear.  With every challenge defeated we are stronger to face the next.


Mens Sana in Corpore Sano

Tackling the challenges of motivation during our time of social distancing and remote learning can be tough.  I hope that some of the resources I’ve shared have been helpful to you. There is so much more out there,  In the end, I come back to us, Lakefield College School, to who we are and what we stand for.  

Our school motto, Mens Sana in Corpore Sano, A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body,” says it all.  If we honour these words every day, we will find the motivation to get through this.  Here’s one way we can do that:

  • On Sundays, set and write down daily goals for yourself and your family to achieve throughout the week.
  • Check them off daily, as you achieve them.
  • Review your week’s progress on Saturday and set new goals again on Sunday.
  • Your goals should be more than just academics.  Set social goals like picking up trash, helping a neighbour with yard work, delivering food, doing good deeds.  Set physical goals, like walks, runs, push-ups, and healthy eating.
  • Share them and complete them as a family as often as you can.
  • And as you achieve them, celebrate your success and then set some more!

We’ve been saying, “We’re Lakefield, we’ve got this!” and we do.  We do because we believe in you. You are Lakefield, you’ve got this!

Watch the video: Finding Our Motivation and Rekindling Our Fire During the Tough Times