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6 Ways to Get Motivated When You Feel Like Doing Nothing

6 Ways to Get Motivated When You Feel Like Doing Nothing

Even the most ambitious, motivated people occasionally have difficulties getting things done. The good news is that we can often discover why we’re in a slump. Even better, there are ways to get out of the slump and get motivated again.

Here’s 6 ways to get motivated when you feel like doing nothing.

1. Figure out why you’re in a slump.

Here are some of the reasons you may be in a slump:

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  • You’re dreading something you know you need to do. You’re procrastinating getting things done because you are totally loathing an upcoming task.
  • You’re tired. You’ve been lacking good nutrition, sleep, exercise, or have been ill and overall don’t feel well.
  • You’re lacking confidence. You are scared to get out of your comfort zone and do something.
  • You’re in the middle of a project. You’ve gotten past the excitement at the beginning, and you’re not yet near the end. You’re in the difficult part – the middle.

2. When you’re dreading something, make it almost impossible to NOT do the task.

For example, if you know you want to workout in the morning, try placing your workout clothes next to your bed so they’re the first thing you see when you wake up. Also, call a friend and make plans to meet them at the gym in the morning. Having an accountability partner will increase your likelihood of success.

3. When you’re tired, take care of your body.

Some days, you might need rest. Other days, your body might need exercise. Some days, you just may need to get away from your desk and get some fresh air. Think about how your habits have been recently. Have you been getting adequate rest? Have you been choosing healthy foods and beverages? Have you had a recent illness that has left you feeling rundown? Think about how you’ve been treating your body. Taking great care of your body may help you get out of your slump.

4. When you’re lacking confidence, think about WHY you’re doubting your capabilities.

Are you struggling with negative thinking? Has there been a recent negative comment or event in your life that has been bothering you? Are you comparing yourself to other people? When you’re struggling with negative thinking, give yourself a compliment, or do something fun to rejuvenate your joy.

5. When you’re in the middle of your journey, persevere.

When you set out to achieve a big goal, it’s usually pretty easy to be very motivated at the beginning. At the beginning, you think about the end result, and you are full of anticipation and enthusiasm. It’s also pretty easy to be motivated at the end of a long journey. Once the end is in sight, the excitement of seeing the finish line can propel you forward.

In my opinion, the middle of the journey is usually the hardest. In the middle, the initial excitement has diminished, but you haven’t gotten close to your goal yet. In the middle, you realize exactly how much time and effort is required to complete your journey. You get frustrated and frequently face the difficulty of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to move forward.

In the middle, keep thinking about your “why.” What are the personal, meaningful, and strong reasons you wanted to achieve your goal in the first place? Oftentimes, remembering our “why” can help give us a boost of motivation when we’re in a slump. Also, remember what Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” Keep moving when you’re in the middle. Commit to taking daily actions that move you closer to your end goal, even if they’re extremely tiny actions. Just keep moving.

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To learn more, check out this article about getting through the middle.

6. Remember that the slump won’t last forever, and take action immediately to start getting out of it.

Start moving forward with tiny little steps. Remember that perseverance can make a huge difference in your success. Remember that success is a wild journey with many bumps and bends in the road, and not typically the straight line that people envision. Remember that moving forward when you’re not feeling motivated helps you push through your fears, get out of your comfort zone, and win the mental battles you have with yourself. Each step you take during the difficult times helps you feel more confident and capable, and gives you the momentum to continue to move out of your slump.

Any time you set out to achieve something in your life, you will face resistance. That resistance can leave you feeling unmotivated and cause you to sink into a slump. However, pushing through the resistance and taking action to get out of your slump will help set you up for long-term success. When you realize you really can get yourself motivated on your bad days, you will know in the future how to get yourself through additional rough times.

Everyone has the occasional slump. Recognizing the cause of your lack of motivation, and taking action to quickly get out of your slump will help minimize your down time and maximize your success.

Featured photo credit: Looking Back/Dextroannie via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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