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"It's hard to be 20 in 2020!"

"It's hard to be 20 in 2020!" proclaimed the French President Emmanuel Macron when the curfew was instituted in France on October 14th 2020.

They endure a terrible sacrifice:

  • canceled exams and ceremonies

  • anxiety for training 

  • anxiety to find a first job

  • not to mention their internships or opportunities for quarters abroad that were simply deleted

Thomas' father contacted me in mid-June: “I am looking for a coach for my 20 year-old son. He is a sophomore at UCSD and is struggling with motivation that has been exacerbated by the distance learning situation precipitated by the  COVID pandemic”.

Max's sister writes to me in July: "My brother has been idle since confinement". All of his professional plans fell apart. He had just obtained his sports coach diploma and was supposed to teach in a gym. Everything stopped overnight and since then he has done nothing.

Natalie's mother mid-August: We are reaching out to ask you if you have time this week or early next week to start up a few sessions with our daughter again. We spoke with her tonight and she is feeling a bit anxious about the upcoming virtual school schedule.

They all talk to me about willpower, motivation...goals

Being motivated and having willpower is already difficult in normal times. Motivational coaching accounts for more than half of my clients' requests today, where they amounted to only 1/3 of them 4 years ago. Therefore, in times of Covid-19 and isolation, being motivated is even more complicated. Some teachers seem to think that "those who cannot handle distance are the ones who would have dropped out regardless". I don't quite agree with that statement, as I think it just adds another layer. At the start of summer 2020, 84% of young people had declared that they were dropping out, recalls the president of the FAGE (Federation of Student Association in France).

And our young people are the first to suffer. They feel that part of their education is being stolen from them, that they are missing steps. Kind of like there's a blank in their resume, a blank that will last an indefinite time.

Motivation Levers

There are several motivation levers according to the experts: the feeling of

  • learning

  • progress

  • being useful

  • belonging

  • recognition

  • autonomy


  • the quality of the relationships

  • the passion for what we do

  • the positive future

This last lever is one of the levers we work with the most in motivational coaching. 

Today it is difficult to project yourself into a positive future, and just as difficult to work with the other levers.

There are those who will use this time to continue learning for themselves, who do not need anyone to move forward, who are motivated from within and who will always find something to do, something to learn, a way to meet with their friends even virtually, a way to do yoga, pilates or cross training in their living room... no matter what.

And then there are those who need external motivation, a gym to go to, class schedules to respect, friends to meet in a bar or at the library, someone to come motivate them to go out...

These are Thomas, Max and Natalie

For 8 months they have spent most of their day in bed playing video games, watching tv shows or surfing social networks, feeling guilty for doing nothing useful, not learning anything, no longer having social relations, no longer projecting themselves.

With them today, it is not yet time to talk about Motivation, Will or Goal.

My job is week after week, to give them back the desire, the taste for the pleasure of the little things in life: going for a 30-minute walk (we started with 15), doing a yoga session, preparing a salad for lunch...

It is Max who tells me today that he got back to playing the guitar, that he fixed his bike, that he is doing sports and that he brought out books from his library. "I don't even want to play video games anymore", he told me. He saw an ad for a job in a store and plans to go check it out by the end of the week.

Natalie, to whom I asked to set up 20 minutes a day (no more), every day at the same time, to write her worries in a journal, feel much less stressed the following week. "The fears that one avoids turn into panic, the fears that one faces turn into courage". She went back to cooking and set up her room to take her online classes. Sometimes, changing the environment is enough to change the dynamic.

Thomas, who finally completed his summer classes and is enrolled into fall semester, plans to keep going this school year in video gaming. He still struggles to complete his homework on time and manage it all on his own (we are working on it), but he has created new habits to be a little more productive and feel like he's doing something right in his day.

All 3 are starting to want more, they are ready for the next step

To sum it up, maybe the lesson we need to take from 2020 is to take time and rediscover our pleasures, to find our desire again, and to focus on the now when projecting oneself in the future isn't an option.

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Jun 02, 2022

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