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A couple of days ago, my motivation disappeared. One day it was here, and the next, POOF! I didn’t know how to regain my motivation – I just wanted to lay on the couch on my patio and sleep the day away in the sunshine, without a care in the world. Except, of course, that I had cares – quite a few of them in fact.
I had a whole list of activities I wanted to accomplish. The motivation to do them wasn’t there. I couldn’t truly relax, because I was frustrated about not getting anything done. But I didn’t feel like doing anything on my list, or anything else, for that matter, which only increased my frustration. Do you see the endless circle I was getting myself into?
I had to do something.
How did I regain my motivation? By researching the topic of motivation – understanding the theory behind it gave me insight into what was going on inside my own head.
I took some time to learn about the nature of motivation, how it naturally ebbs and flows, and ways to build it back up when your cup is feeling empty.
Guess what? Learning about motivation really made an impact. Once I understood more about what factors were holding me back – and how my own behaviors were contributing – I was able to step forward and get back to my project. I feel like I “got my groove back”.
How to Regain Motivation When You Can’t Seem to Find Any
What’s Going on in Your Mind?
Do you lack clarity about what you want? Are your goals fuzzy, or do you have a clear sense of what you are trying to accomplish?
Are you clear on what your next action needs to be? Not the final project, but the next thing you need to do.
Do you know HOW to do your next step? If not, do you know what to do in order to learn how to do it?
Do you understand your “why”? What is your reason for wanting to do whatever it is you want to do but lack motivation for? If you don’t know why you want to do something, is it any wonder you don’t feel like doing it?
Is there fear involved? Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of criticism, fear that you won’t get the results you were hoping for – all kinds of fears can be subtly creeping in, and any one or combination of these fears can zap your motivation.
Where Can You Find Support?
Consider your past successes. How did you feel when you completed a task similar to the one you are currently undertaking? Was there a sense of pride and accomplishment? Can you transfer those positive emotions you felt then to how you will feel when you complete your current activity?
Find inspiration from other people. There is a reason that people love “before and after” stories and case studies. The success others have can definitely stir your motivation and give you new resolve. “If they can do it, I can, too!” is a common response when you learn about others succeeding.
Make your goal public. Tell others what you are planning, and find others who will take on a challenge with you, or will check in on you to see that you are moving forward. Feeling that responsibility when you have committed to someone else is a powerful motivator. If you don’t have anyone in your immediate life who will support you, look online for support groups.
Can You Take Smaller Steps Toward Your Goal?
If you feel overwhelmed by a task, and lose motivation just thinking about how much effort is involved, try breaking the task into very, very small bites. Don’t commit to an hour a day at the gym. Try a two-minute exercise video at home first. Then a four-minute video. Build up. If two minutes seems like too much, make your first task even smaller – just put on your workout clothes. That’s it. Start with the SMALLEST task you can do that takes you in the direction you want to go.
Reward yourself after each step. Just something small. As your motivation begins to return, maybe space your rewards out to every three steps. Or a certain amount of time that you are focused on reaching your goal. Gradually increase both the size of your rewards and the amount of effort needed to reach the next one.
Focus on only ONE goal at a time. This can be a real challenge, but it is important to do, especially if you are taking these small steps. One tiny little step followed by another on the way to the same goal will create momentum. One tiny step toward one goal, then a tiny step toward a different goal, followed by a third tiny step toward yet another goal, will get you nowhere fast. Choose ONE goal at a time.
What Can You Control?
Reframe your negative thoughts into positive ones. “I have to write this article” becomes “I have chosen to write this article in order to benefit my career path”; “I can’t have a slice of cake because I have to lose weight” becomes “I have chosen to eat nutritiously because I want a healthier body”; “My kitchen is a hopeless disaster” becomes “I am looking forward to having a cleaner kitchen.”
Create a schedule. Determine how long you will work on any particular aspect of your activity. Identify time to plan and organize, time to do particular steps, and a time when you will stop for the day. Knowing you have already built in a stop time will mentally cue you to focus during the time you are working.
Establish Good Habits. Ever notice how professional athletes all maintain pre-game rituals to help prepare themselves mentally and physically for the game? They may eat the same meal, recite the same mantra, kick the dirt three times before they go up to bat – all of these little rituals are habits that remind them that “this is what I am about to do.” If you lack motivation about a routine activity, try creating your own pre-game rituals so that moving into it becomes somewhat automatic.
Accept that burnout is real. You may truly be at a point where you cannot keep working on your project. You must take control of your burnout, however, and not let it ruin what you have worked for up to this point. Take a break, but plan your break wisely. Set a time frame, and do something very different from the actions involved in your project. If you are doing a mental project, go for a run or other physical activity. If you have been working on a computer, take a walk outside. Whatever you do for your break, it must really be a break.
Final Thoughts on Regaining Motivation
Motivation is such a complex subject, and very hard to address thoroughly in a short post such as this. There are methods to regain motivation when you are running low. Several methods include:
Understand your activity, why you want to accomplish it, and the steps involved. Pay attention to knowledge gaps and emotional reactions.
Get support from past successes and other people.
Focus on only one goal at a time, and break it down into the smallest steps possible.
Determine what you can control. Reframe your negative thoughts, get organized, establish good habits, and recognize when you need to take breaks and do something different.
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