What To Do When You’ve Lost Your Motivation
Get your mojo back in three steps
First things first, it is a barefaced LIE that you need motivation in order to do anything.
It’s much easier to do something when you actually want to do it, but the truth is that if you want to master a skill, whether that is weight loss, playing guitar or entrepreneurship, then you need to do stuff even when you don’t feel like doing it.
In fact, especially when you don’t feel like doing it.
I know, I wish it was easier!
Sometimes you get into a situation where you recognise you have no motivation and that this would be a perfect time to practice discipline, but you still
You consciously make a poor choice that does not help to move you forward and then, of course, you beat yourself up about it.
I was feeling like this for a few weeks this summer. I really did not want to write or work on my business and would literally do anything else instead.
The dog needs a walk? No problem
You need some shopping from the store? I got your back.
Windows need a clean? On it!
A must-read new book? You don’t have to tell me twice!
I don’t know if it was the hot weather…side note, the UK just had an amazing period of warm sunny weather which has been so wonderful as us Brits don’t always get a good summer and I am a real sun bunny, like my spirit animal is lizard that likes to lie on a hot rock.
I digress. Perhaps it was the sunshine and I wanted to make the most of the delightful weather… it is surprisingly difficult to work outside with a laptop, although by golly I did try. Perhaps I needed a bit of a vacation, or perhaps there was something else entirely that was filling my head with other stuff so I didn’t have the mental space to sit and work.
Whatever, the reason doesn’t really matter that much because you are not looking to excuse your behaviour. Instead, the goal is to work through this extreme resistance and try and remain on track (or at least not go off on too long of a detour).
This is what I did to get my mojo back.
Step 1. Accept Where You Are Is Temporary
Know that this feeling is not forever, it won’t always be like this, it won’t always feel this hard.
It’s helpful to live in the world as it is, rather than as you want it to be. And in the world as it is, you are human and you are allowed off days and even off weeks. Its fine to aim for optimal all the time, but just be kind to yourself if you fall short sometimes.
Note the keyword, sometimes.
Don’t use self-compassion as an excuse for every misbehaviour.
It’s helpful for me to think of my internal states as a seesaw
I find I teeter-totter between acceptance/self-compassion and kicking my own butt. It’s useful to hang out in either state for a little while, although probably not very psychologically healthy to experience the extremes too often or for too long.
If you find yourself hanging out in kicking your own butt too much, then you might be burning out. It’s okay to take a break, head on over to the sunny side, grab a beer and enjoy the view and have a little kindness vacation.
If you recognise that your low motivation has come after a rather generous period of #selfcare, then accept that this is also a temporary phase, and start the slow scooch over to butt-kicking city.
Step 2. Get Certain
The human brain tends not to cope too well with uncertainty because back in the early days (or so the theory goes), uncertainty could be fatal. If there was a rustling sound in the bush and you didn’t know what it was, then you didn’t know how to tackle it. Maybe it was an angry venomous snake that you should run the hell away from. But on the other hand, it might be a rabbit that you could capture and kill for dinner.
We all have a self-preservation instinct, we are motivated to stay alive. If you are in doubt that you will survive the encounter, then chances are you will engage panic mode and flee the scene.
Nowadays our problems aren’t life-threatening but the uncertainty that surrounds them still makes us feel threatened and want to “run away”. If you have ever:
- not opened an official letter in the post
- worked on your emails all day instead of starting a project that your boss asked you to do
- avoided a confrontation with your partner
then you know that it is easier to ignore your problems than to investigate them and face up to what you might find.
So if you have no motivation, then it may be that your goal is frightening you. Your goal is the unidentified rustling in the bush and you are the hunter-gatherer desperately wanting to dive in, but also terrified that it might eat you (or in today terms, you will fail).
The best way to not overwhelm yourself is to take baby steps towards the bush and shine a light on it bit by bit.
For example, I enjoy writing but I also know that audio and video are really effective mediums to share my message. There is, however, something that makes me feel extremely uncomfortable about recording a podcast or video. If I’m truly honest, I think that if I look into the bush of my fear I will see myself as I am, rather than what I can craft and mould and perfect through hours of typing and editing.
So I was procrastinating on starting a podcast. Just the idea of it was overwhelming me, plus I didn’t even know how to get it off the ground as there was so much technical stuff that was a foreign language to me.
In order to overcome this enormous uncertainty, I found out and wrote down exactly what I needed to do step-by-step:
- Watch YouTube video on how to start a podcast
- Research a suitable microphone
- Buy a microphone
- Research recording software
- Download recording software
- Think of a podcast name
- Create podcast thumbnail
- Draft episode plan
- Practice episode
- Record episode
- Edit episode
- Research podcast hosting sites
- Sign up to a podcast hosting site
- Fill in all relevant details including show notes
- Upload podcast
- Submit podcast RSS to iTunes/Google Play etc…
All of a sudden it seemed less intimidating. All I had to do was start with the first step and do it. And then move onto the next one, and do that. And then move on to the next one, and do that…you get the idea.
By articulating exactly what I had to do, I was slowly but surely illuminating what was inside my rustling bush.
This trick works for any goal. Want to lose weight? Plan out step by step what you need to buy, cook and eat every day. Want to learn a language? Plan out step by step what topics you will cover in which order. Want to start a business, plan out step by step how you will find an idea and take yourself to launch.
Each step should take you approximately one hour to complete, so if there is a meaty task to tackle, break it down further. For example:
- Write website home page 1
- Write website home page 2
- Write website home page 3
Now your sole task is to just do that one step.
Not so overwhelming now is it?!
Step 3 — Schedule One Step Into Every Day
When you are suffering from no motivation, you need to shrink down your timescale for success.
Stop thinking about the big picture! Your brain will naturally flit back and forwards between today and the uncertain (but hopeful) future. That’s okay, you can let it, but whenever you can bring your conscious focus to today only.
If your goal is to lose weight, don’t think about losing 10 kilos. Don’t think about losing 1 kilo. Bring yourself right back to what can you do today?
Look at where you are at on your steps list.
Pick the one that you are on.
Decide when you are going to do it.
Schedule it in your calendar.
Do it when the time arises.
CTFO for the rest of the day.
You can do more if you want to afterwards but don’t force yourself, you don’t have to. You can let yourself be a total mess for the rest of the day, just do this one thing!
And after you do it, celebrate like crazy. Tick it off your list. Draw a million smiley faces next to it. Have a dance party. Give yourself a pat on the back, you were shit scared and you felt like crap, but you still did it! Well done you!
If things are really really really bad and for whatever reason, you cannot commit to seeing your one step all the way through, then YOU MUST at least start it.
Planned to study for an hour but it feels impossible? Just do 1 minute. Whoever you are, there is no excuse.
You can bear one minute of any pain.
Set a timer and when it goes off if you feel like you can do another minute…keep going, If not, stop. Maybe you want to try again later. Maybe you don’t, it doesn’t matter because you can celebrate your achievement.
The aim is to build momentum. Once you have some momentum you see some progress, and when that happens I promise you that things will get easier.
Getting motivated and staying motivated are two entirely different states of being that arise from different circumstances. Your aim is to get motivated and you do that by building momentum.
I found it was easiest to do my power hour before my day officially started. If I waited until after work, I made excuses. I was tired/hungry/needed to exercise/had chores to do. So I went to bed a little bit earlier and woke up an hour earlier and, my sleepy self was more pliable to get shit done.
Soon I got addicted to the wonderful feeling that accompanies progress and I would brush my teeth with a big smug smile on my face.
The momentum may accumulate slowly at first, but crucially don’t stress about your lack of progress in building it up! Just keep focusing on what you could do today. I trusted the physics and after a few weeks, I realised I was resisting less and enjoying more. Either my bush was getting less scary or I was getting braver and able to face up to it.
You really think that I would have used a different metaphor right?!
Soon I didn’t need to break down my tasks in such a systematic way and I didn’t need to schedule each step in my calendar. Instead, it was just business as usual. I was doing more than I set out to each day and most importantly, actually liking the process.
I broke through the resistance and found my motivation again. You can do it too.
Please share your experiences in the comments below. Have you ever felt zero motivation towards achieving your goals? How did you overcome this?
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