Typically, I don’t like winter. Two years ago, after selling my apartment with a goal of avoiding New York winters, I embraced a metaphorical winter in Panama, where it was 95 degrees every day. That’s my ideal weather.
This winter, I’m embracing winter by shoveling snow. A lot of snow: I’ve shoveled 4 times in the last 5 days, ranging in duration from 1.5 to 3 hours at a stretch. It can be strenuous work, exhausting at times.
Surprisingly, I am finding it rewarding. Dare I say, I actually like shoveling snow.
Of course, nothing is ever only about the thing on the surface. Uncovering why we enjoy something can give us clues to how to create these conditions in places where we struggle to generate motivation.
With that in mind, I did some reflection.
Here are 5 things I’m loving about shoveling snow. Perhaps they’ll help you find motivation to get out and shovel after the next storm.
(1) The Workout
Shoveling snow is an intense, fully-body workout. It requires hinging, squatting, pushing and pulling. There’s a balance component. It’s lower body, upper body, and core work.
It’s been more intense and rigorous than my typical pandemic workouts, and has pushed me to my physical edge — the place where we build muscle. It feels good to see that I can keep going even when my mind wants to tell me I’m tired.
After the first shoveling session my body was physically worn out. But each time I feel better and stronger.
As a workout, it gives me the many benefits of any other workout: clearing my mind, boosting my mood, creative inspiration, and confidence that comes when I push my edge and prevail.
It’s showing me what I’m capable of. That translates to my work. Confidence is contagious.
Shoveling the driveway is a bit like solving a puzzle: part logistical challenge and part experimentation.
I’ve been experimenting with the different tools — four different types of shovels — and various techniques to determine which combination is most effective.
Push the snow with the rounded shovel or pick up the snow with the flat shovel bit by bit? Start near the edge and work backward, or push a whole row of snow to the edge? Which shovel works best for dealing with the hard-packed icy snow? Which is best for the light powdery snow? Is it more effective to shovel across or down?
How do I pile the snow along the edges in a way that leaves room for more when the next snowfall comes?
The endeavor gets my creative juices flowing.
(3) Practice With Pacing
The driveway is big and it’s a lot for one person to shovel. I like to work until something is finished, so hanging up the shovel midway through is uncomfortable.
This has been a good place for me to practice pacing myself: recognizing my limits and when my efforts are “good enough for now.”
Sure, nature will take care of melting the snow, in time. But there’s no harm in helping nature alone. I like the feeling of collaborating with nature’s process. It feels like “I do my part and nature does it’s part.” We’re in it together.
We all love instant gratification, and shoveling snow offers that. Even in the moments when I’ve looked at the driveway and thought “there’s so much more to do,” I can see how much I’ve done.
There’s something to be said for working hard and seeing immediate results and progress. In so much of creative work the fruits of our labor come only after much waiting. You create something and put it out and wait to see what happens. Sustaining motivation when you can’t see the impact of your efforts can be a challenge.
When I’m shoveling snow, I can see it, instantly.
And then there is the satisfaction of a job well-done and complete. Feeling the soreness in your body and seeing the results you created.
The driveway, once covered in snow, now clear. A result created by hard work and physical labor.
Efforts creating grace.