How to Overcome Lack of Motivation: 5 Steps to Become Driven

A driven person standing on top of the hill with arms up
Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Have you ever set an exciting goal for yourself, but after a few weeks, you realize you weren’t as committed as in the beginning?

I know I have. Who hasn’t?

It sucks.

That’s why I decided to find ways to overcome that sudden lack of motivation that sometimes can unsettle many of us.

I wanted to learn how to develop a sound foundation to become driven and more consistent with my decisions and goals.

To do that, I combined some strategies and principles from high-performers. Those who consistently accomplish greatly. Despite pressure, uncertainty, fear and internal or external doubts.

And this post will cover a process born out of those practical strategies and proven principles.

So tell me:

Do you want to overcome your fears and crush procrastination?

Perhaps you’d like to learn how to conquer those insecurities and past failures that haunt you and stop you from starting something important. Is that it?

Or do you want to become more committed, more consistent and disciplined and be able to take massive action towards your goals?

Whatever it is, there is a way to get there.

Next I will show you how you can develop that ultimate drive to stay true to your decisions and goals.

Let’s get started.

Table Of Contents

1- Understanding the Rules of the Game
2- How Can the Dark Side Help You Overcome Your Lack of Motivation?
2.1- Why You Must Embrace Pain
2.2- Using What Hurts You to Make Progress
3- Entering The Dark Room: Develop Your Ultimate Drive
3.1- Step 1: Get a Journal to Write On
3.2- Step 2: Get Honest and Get Disturbed
3.3- Step 3: Answer These 4 Questions Honestly
3.4- Step 4: Take Extreme Ownership
3.5- Step 5: Repetition Is the Mother of Skill
4- The Dose Makes the Poison
5- Over to You

Understanding the Rules of the Game

As you may know, human beings will do almost anything to avoid pain and to gain pleasure. This is called the Pleasure Principle, used by Sigmund Freud in 1895, to express our innate tendency as humans to avoid painful experiences and to seek pleasurable ones.

In general, the need to avoid pain is stronger than the desire to pursue pleasure. The reason for that is our survival instinct: It’s more important to stay alive than to receive gratification. Pain is part of our survival mechanism and that’s why it is built into our nervous system.

Here’s why that’s important to you:

This means that you must learn how to use pain effectively, as the powerful incentive that it is, to move you towards what you want, rather than away from it.

Not only use pleasure — positivity and good emotions — but also have that controlled aggression to count on when nothing else works.

“Pain unlocks a secret doorway in the mind, one that leads to both peak performance, and beautiful silence.” — David Goggins, former Navy SEAL and ultramarathon runner.

Once you learn to master pain, you will develop a savage mentality, as Goggins calls it. And it will serve you as a powerful gateway to a vast and untapped reserve of tenacity.

Fortunately, you can learn to do that. And use the same principle that many world-class performers use.

There is a method to leverage pain and your instinct for survival, that can unleash within you a surge of energy to help you take massive action, follow through, and achieve your goals.

To do this, you must go into your Dark Side.

This is how you can turn your “shoulds” into “musts”. This is how you stay committed to your decisions and become driven.

That’s where you can find reasons to keep moving towards your goals. Despite fear, uncertainty or pain.

Whenever you feel like quitting, like there is nothing else to do. When you fail and get discouraged, or when you feel weak and burned-out.

This is how you stay in the game. And how you play it to win.

How Can the Dark Side Help You Overcome Your Lack of Motivation?

A person in a dark room
Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

The dark side is a metaphor about facing your deepest fears, insecurities, worries and frustrations, and using them as fuel to move you forward. Relentlessly.

There you can find the people who want you to fail. Anyone who has ever told you that you couldn’t do something. Anyone who has ever doubted you, who made you feel less capable. Anyone who wants to hold you back.

It is the place where you secretly harbor everything you hate and despise. Your fears and insecurities. Where you can explore your bitter mistakes, your embarrassing failures, your weaknesses and your shameful vices.

Anything you fucked up and let yourself get away with, because you didn’t have the courage to hold yourself accountable to a high standard.

Also, it is anything you desperately try to hide from yourself. With lies, white lies, or by pretending it isn’t that bad. In a way, it’s the real you — just short of embellishment.

But more than that, it’s how you can push yourself beyond what you think is possible, and how you don’t become a victim of lack of motivation.

The Dark Side is the place you go to ignite a wavering spark of motivation, into a raging inferno of relentless drive. It urges you to do whatever it takes to succeed. No matter what.

But before we go into the method itself, we must address a few things first.

Why You Must Embrace Pain

Only by embracing pain and learning from it, we let go of what prevents us the most from getting what we really want in life.

Some people believe it’s wrong to allow ourselves to think negative thoughts, or to feel any negative emotions. That we should always be positive.

We instinctively want to avoid this painful confrontation with our fears. But this avoidance comes at a heavy price.

By avoiding this discomfort of deep self-awareness, suffering will follow in the future. Because you will avoid discomfort at the price of self-honesty.

And without self-honesty, without self-awareness, how can you know what you really want and what matters to you? Who you are and who you want to become?

How can you know what drives you? How can you know what are your fears, so you can use them and not let them control you?

Regret, bitterness, constant frustration, lack of progress, indecisiveness and boredom. These are all symptoms of not deciding to face the truth.

Not the objective truth, necessarily, but your own truth. What you can feel in your body, what your mind may be desperately trying to avoid looking at, what your ego tries to protect nearly at all costs. Those things you know to be true to you.

That’s why embracing the pain of your Dark Side is so important.

Only by embracing pain and learning from it, we let go of what prevents us the most from getting what we really want in life.

Tom Bilyeu, the co-founder of billion-dollar brand Quest Nutrition, and Impact Theory, talks about making good use of what nature gave us:

“Nature only gave us 2 things to motivate us: Pleasure and Pain. Those are the two macro-level motivators. So if nature only gave you two things to motivate you — pleasure and pain, why would you eliminate half of them?”

It just doesn’t make sense to don’t use both, right?

Remember: There is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to feel what is painful, or to feel anger, frustration, and all the other emotions we tend to avoid. As long as you do it strategically.

Using What Hurts You to Make Progress

Quote by Ray Dalio, pain plus reflection equals progress
Image by Igor Schimidt

Painful experiences help us understand how reality works, so we can interact with it better next time, and get what we want. Once we reflect on what is painful, we can learn from it and make progress.

This is one of the principles of the phenomenal book “Principles”, by Ray Dalio. A multibillionaire and founder of Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund.

Though this idea may seem obvious to some, most of us are experts in recognizing the obvious but not using it in our lives, aren’t we?

So allow me to say this again, in the hope that you can start to actually use it: Pain + Reflection = Progress.

Simple. Elegant. Effective.

But so hard to practice it. To allow ourselves to feel bad and upset, and reflect about it, in a way that is productive and helpful.

As I said before, we naturally tend to avoid pain, and most of the time this is unconscious. So we tend to avoid it even when in the long term it can really benefit us, and even when we are aware of that fact.

Okay, but, how can we actually confront it then?

How can you overcome the barrier of reflecting on what is painful, in order to make progress?

You must link massive suffering to not confronting that pain right now, knowing that if you don’t, that pain you are avoiding will inevitably grow stronger, more real and intense.

Simply put: Consciously decide you HAVE to confront it. Make it massively more painful not to do so.

Embracing pain and deeply reflecting on it, is a critical step in the following process. So you must commit to this.

Decide to start this journey of self-discovery, of radical self-honesty. Step up and take charge. You owe this to yourself.

Then, you can follow the process of harnessing the power of the Dark Side.

Entering The Dark Room: Develop Your Ultimate Drive

Now that you made that decision, I will share the 5 steps to create massive leverage and become driven.

Here is how you do it:

Step 1: Get a Journal to Write On

Writing on a journal
Image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay

As Stephen King says, “Writing is refined thinking”. Writing helps us process our thoughts and emotions more clearly. If you do this just in your head, it won’t be as effective.

And better yet, is to write by hand on paper, so you can feel the most out of this process.

Also, make it simple: Don’t overthink it, and don’t judge yourself. Write whatever comes to mind.

Step 2: Get Honest and Get Disturbed

Benjamin Franklin quote, that which hurts also instructs
Image by Igor Schimidt

Honesty, even when it’s uncomfortable, creates freedom.

Nothing gets better unless you admit it’s wrong. And if it’s not at the level you want, not at the level you are proud of, it is wrong.

David Goggins has a powerful metaphor for this, he calls it the Dark Room.

He talks about it in this short video from an interview on Impact Theory:

For him, it’s where you face yourself and realize you want to become better. Realize that you don’t want to be a weak and insecure person, who accepts that as their limitation. So you must hold yourself accountable for your own mistakes and for your own progress.

You need to look yourself in the mirror, straight in the eye, and call out all the lies you’ve been telling yourself. As Goggins says:

“The most important conversations you will ever have are the ones you have with yourself”.

So it’s time to be brutally honest. Don’t hold back. If anything about you or your life isn’t the way you want, if it’s not enough for you, admit it. Define what is disturbing you, so you can change it. That’s what the next step will be about.

Step 3: Answer These 4 Questions Honestly

Truth spelled in letter blocks
Image by Here and now, unfortunately, ends my journey on Pixabay from Pixabay

Be specific and define clearly where you will end up if you fall off the path you chose for yourself. Define what exactly is that pain you would do the most to avoid.

Some parts of your answers may overlap, but that’s good because that will reinforce the emotional state you will be in.

Here are the questions:

1 - What am I lacking the motivation to do or follow through?

Define the situation you’re feeling unmotivated about in simple and clear terms. For instance: unmotivated about working out consistently.

2 - What disturbs me about not following through on that?

You can complement your answer by journaling also on this related question:

What is it that makes me feel ashamed, upset, or frustrated about not doing it or following through, if I were honest about it?

3 - What would my life look like in 2 to 5 years if I stay where I’m at right now and don’t do this?

Describe with some vivid details your life on such circumstances. How miserable, disappointed, or bitter, you would feel about yourself and your life.

4 - What are the worst things that will happen to me if I don’t commit myself to do this right now?

Remember, be real, don’t soften it.

If you’re having trouble journaling on that last question, you can also journal on these 2 other questions:

What will it cost me if I don’t follow through? What would be the consequences to other people around me that I care about?

That’s it.

Journal on all of these questions, in that order. Make sure to follow the guidelines from Step 1 and Step 2.

Don’t use white lies and don’t use softeners to make yourself feel good, as in “it’s not that bad yet”, or “the chances of this happening are low, so I shouldn’t worry” or “if in 5 years I don’t accomplish nothing in my life, it would be an inconvenience”. Do not comfort yourself. That’s how you will lose your drive to change and grow.

Tell yourself it would be awful, frightening, disgusting, terrible. Feel free to exaggerate here. Make it as real as possible in your mind, even worse than it would be in reality. That’s how you get leverage over your brain.

Would you feel weak and incapable? You wouldn’t be able to provide for your family or loved ones? Would you be miserable and depressed for letting fear control you? Find out what that is for you, and don’t shy away from it.

  • TIP: You can also think about — or write about — the ones who have ever wanted you to fail. Anyone who has ever doubted you, criticized you, the ones you secretly want to prove wrong. How would you honestly feel if, in the end, they were right about you? Imagine your ego feeling all of that embarrassment, humiliation and defeat. Use all of that as fuel!

If you feel bad enough about anything, you got to do something to change that. It’s human nature.

So find a way to make it painful and disturbing enough to get you moving.

Then go to step 4.

Step 4: Take Extreme Ownership

Letter blocks for decide, commit, repeat
Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels

While you are disturbed, make a decision.

You can’t let who you are stop you from who you could be. You must decide not to watch your life turn into a living hell, and commit to doing whatever it takes to avoid that.

Create urgency in yourself to act right now. No one is coming to save you. You must do it yourself.

Embrace the harsh truth that if you don’t take extreme ownership of your life, all that chaos and suffering will be inevitable.

You don’t have to wait for life to get unbearable so you can finally take charge. You don’t need to waste years of your life limiting yourself because of fear. You can step up and take extreme ownership of your life right now.

Decide to make that reality unacceptable and raise your standards. Because we don’t get what we want, we get what we tolerate.

A real decision is when you take immediate action the moment you decide. That’s how you commit yourself to it and signal your brain that it’s something really important to you.

That’s why before you finish this exercise, you must take action on something. It can be something simple but relevant, or something bold and radical. It’s up to you to decide that, based on your particular situation. So commit and act.

Harness all of that suffering, and associate it with not being utterly committed to your goals and not doing what you must to succeed, to not getting there.

Refuse to let fear and your insecurities dominate you. Don’t allow other people to hold you down and define you. Refuse to give them the joy of seeing you fail.

In short, don’t settle for less than what you can be, have and do.

Because that’s a choice. And as hard as it is, it’s a choice only you can make for yourself.

As you now know, in short bursts, there is more power in needing to prove somebody wrong, more power in rage and anger, than in being positive all the time.

But also, after you made that decision, aim at where you want to go. It’s not about just running away from something, in any direction. You must also have a goal, a purpose, or some direction of where you want to go. Having only pain to move you can be very corrosive.

So once you have something to run away from and something you are running towards, that’s heaven and hell. And they are as real for your mind as you make them.

Step 5: Repetition Is the Mother of Skill

As with most everything, this isn’t something you do once and expect it to last for a lifetime. This is a skill, and as with any skill, it takes practice and repetition.

Get back in that zone from time to time, whenever you need to, and spend some time there. Read again what you answered, journal again on those same questions. Think about them. With practice, it will become more accessible to your mind and easier to use it.

Whenever you need to hold yourself accountable, when you are about to give up, when fear and doubt creep in, go back in that Dark Room, and remind yourself of all your reasons to keep pushing. Get the drive you need to overcome procrastination, conquer fear and take action, consistently.

Make your reasons strong enough through that process, and you can use any obstacle to your advantage so that nothing can stop you.

The Dose Makes the Poison

A purple flask of poison on the table
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

“A good ratio is to be at least 80% of your time in a positive state, focusing on the bright sides of life, and no more than 20% in your Dark Side.”

By now I hope you have a better understanding of why the Darkness can be so powerful and how to use it in your life. But don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying to focus only on the ugly side. Far from that.

Do keep focusing on the things you are grateful for, on the beauty that inspires you, whatever that may be for you. And do focus on positive things that make you feel good and drive you forward as well.

Just also understand that you can benefit a lot from incorporating this tool into your toolkit, and it would be remiss not to.

Because leveraging your Dark Side is not about being pessimistic, diminishing yourself or beating yourself up for no reason. You only do it if it moves you towards your goals, and only for as long as it helps you do that.

And that’s the caveat to this process.

A good ratio is to be at least 80% of your time in a positive state, focusing on the bright sides of life, and no more than 20% in your Dark Side.

This is a reliable estimate to keep you from overusing it and from going beyond the point of diminishing returns, where it becomes destructive.

As Paracelsus points out, in his adage “the dose makes the poison”, anything beyond moderation or the proper amount can be dangerous.

This is very important. So keep in mind to continue focused most of the time on what brings you joy, what inspires you. Or else there is a high risk of it becoming something harmful to you, instead of serving you.

Over to You

Now you know what to do whenever you are lacking motivation, to become relentlessly driven.

You know how to integrate your Darkness and use it for good, to push yourself. By being honest with yourself, and having that savage mentality to do whatever it takes to live life on your terms.

Also, you can appreciate any doubt, criticism, hate and fear. Because you understand all of that is fuel. You welcome it, and you can become better because of it.

This is how you can follow through and keep moving to achieve your goals.

Now is up to you:

Follow the 5 step process as described, immerse yourself in it and use it to move you towards your goals.

How do you stay driven and consistent with your projects and goals? What’s your preferred method that works for you?

Let me know in the comments below.

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Igor Schimidt

Igor Schimidt

Igor is a personal development blog writer who writes on mindset and success topics. You can hire Igor’s freelance writing services at achievethroughmindset.com