I like coffee because it gives me the illusion that I might be awake. —Lewis Black
If you know me, live and in person, chances are pretty high we have chatted at some point over a cup of coffee. Coffee has been a staple in my diet since I was a teenager and is, most notably, a central part of almost any social event or occasion in which I might participate. I take coffee so seriously that my fiancè used to work at Starbucks, we buy multiple pounds of beans, and we fresh grind every pot we make. We don’t do sloppy coffee.
I can make do without a lot of things, but coffee isn’t one of them. I need that hot, black, motivating liquid in my life or I’m not a pleasant person. Not that the coffee itself makes me happy, but being without it makes me more irritable than normal. Coffee is an important part of my life.
Chances are, coffee is an important part of your life as well. How many people have I met for the first time at a coffee shop? There are new coffee shops popping up all the time, as well. I saw just this morning a request from a new coffee shop for wall art. There are mobile coffee trucks that make the rounds. And in places other than Indiana, there are coffee shops specifically for those with an S&M kink in their lifestyle. I’ve even heard of coffee shops with attractive baristas that were topless, but I’m not sure they’re still in business. Coffee is an important part of American life.
While I probably could sit here and sing the praises of coffee all day, that is not my purpose. I want you to think of coffee as a metaphor for everything that motivates you. Whether you are pushed forward by a sense of obligation, or family, or finances, or something esoteric, compare what that element does for you and then put coffee in its place.
Think of how dependent you are on the things that motivate you. Consider how encouraging those motivators are. When you wake up in the morning feeling tired and groggy, those motivators are what convince you to put your feet on the floor, get dressed, and start your day. When you hit a slump in the middle of the afternoon and just want to give up, those motivators are what keep you going, push you forward.
We all have something that motivates us to do what we do. Like coffee, they empower us, make us happy, and give us a sense that all is right in the world. Coffee and motivation seem like a good combination.
When Disaster Strikes
Now, imagine that you wake up one morning and are out of coffee. The motivation is gone. You’re not sure how it happened. There was plenty of coffee yesterday. You’re not aware of anyone stealing your coffee. You’re not sure what happened, but the coffee is gone. Can there be a bigger personal disaster?
Thankfully, we’re not there yet, but that seems to be where we’re headed. Like peering into my cup and finding it less than half-full, I worry that we’re running out of coffee and there’s not going to be another pot made anytime soon. The bag of beans is empty.
We’re forced to make some difficult decisions. Do we go somewhere else for coffee, even if that means a complete change in style and roast? Do we try doing without coffee for a few days in hopes that our coffee might magically return? Or do we move to Brazil and grow the damn beans ourselves? Dealing with a loss of motivation puts us in a precarious place of potentially upending our lives in search of a reason to continue.
Drink The Coffee Slowly
This is where I’m at this morning: there’s not much coffee left in my cup. I’m running out and I’m not sure I even want to make another pot. What motivated me in the past just doesn’t have the same pull now. I need more depth of meaning. I need stronger justification. I need to avoid those blends that leave a bad feeling in my stomach. As I take another sip from the cup, I realize this coffee isn’t as satisfying as it was when the cup was fresh.
I drink the bottom half of this cup more slowly. I don’t want to run out because I’m not sure I’ll like what replaces it. Coffee cups don’t stay empty for long. There’s always a barista or someone running around refilling everyone’s cup. They don’t always know what you’re drinking, though.
True story: I stopped by an IHOP Sunday night hoping to get some quiet reading time. I ordered a cup of coffee and opened my book. The waitress soon appeared with a fresh cup of coffee and set it on the table. I waited a few seconds then took a sip. This wasn’t coffee. This was tea. I knew it before the rim of the cup hit my lips. This wasn’t what I ordered.
Change Is Not Always Good
I don’t want tea in my cup. I’m sure of that. Granted, tea is the same color as coffee, has as much or more caffeine as coffee, can be modified in ways similar to coffee, and at times is a much more flexible drink than coffee. Still, tea is not coffee, is it? The two taste quite different.
Motivation is the same way. Not everyone sees the change the same way. What appears to be an even adjustment on the surface may mask the fact that a new motivator is not nearly as effective as the previous one. Changing what motivates us can change our mood, our willingness to cooperate, our desire to push forward. Change can take us from democracy to fascism. Change can take the free and make them slaves. No matter how well slaves might be treated, it’s still slavery. Do we really want to substitute our coffee for tea?
The Problem With Metaphors
Do you understand what I’m saying? I almost feel as though I’m writing in riddles this morning. The problem with metaphors is that not everyone sees the connections the same way I do. What coffee is to motivation might be totally lost on everyone except me. You may not have understood a word I’ve said. You might be sitting here totally confused.
Know that just as my coffee cup will soon be empty, my motivation is in a similar state. I’m almost empty. I’m not sure things will be the same tomorrow. Maybe there’s more coffee in the pot. Maybe not.
Tomorrow may be different. Maybe I’ll just drink water. Go ahead, chase that metaphor if you will. My cup is almost empty and I’m not sure I’m getting a refill.