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Last Updated on March 11, 2020

How to Find Motivation When You’re Totally Burnt Out

How to Find Motivation When You’re Totally Burnt Out

I was weeping in bed for the third time that week and I’ve never been a crier. But eight months after having my daughter, and four months after going back to work, the motivation and energy I’d originally felt returning to my job had completely subsided and I’d hit a wall of fatigue and exhaustion of epic proportions.

As I sat there red faced and sobbing in my pajamas (a great look for me), my poor husband laid there staring at the wall, not sure what to say at this point. He’d already told me I should leave my job multiple times during previous crying sessions. But instead of feeling relieved by his blessing, it only made me feel guiltier and cry even more.

I could never quit, I thought to myself. What if he’d resent me for not bringing in income eventually? I was afraid of being perceived as lazy. Plus we live in an area of the country that pretty much requires dual incomes to live comfortably. How could I leave a steady paycheck and put that kind of pressure on him? Plus I had some people’s dream job! Why couldn’t I just be more grateful!

So I cried. Because I felt trapped. I wondered how to find motivation because I felt so tired but couldn’t not be a mom, or work, or keep showing up in my life. But I felt like I was failing at all of it and in that moment I just wanted to disappear.

Burnt Out? You’re Not Alone.

Have you been there–so burnt out and exhausted that it’s hard to remember a time when you were bright eyed and optimistic, motivated to take on the world?

If you’re feeling unmotivated, tired and lost, and have still found your way to this article, I already know two things about you:

  • You’re more motivated than you think you are; and
  • You’re going to come out on top.

How do I know this? Because you’re burnt out enough to read an article about burn out but you still found the motivation to find it and read it. You’re actively taking action to stay motivated, which actually means you are motivated! Yay you!

Now that we’ve established you are motivated to get to a more energized place, let’s get down to the practical strategies I applied to pull myself out of my epic rut so you can start applying them to your own life ASAP.

How I Find Motivation with “The Princess Bride” Strategy

When I think about my experience with burn out, I can’t help but get a visual of when the hero Wesley is declared “mostly dead” in the classic 80’s movie The Princess Bride.[1]

(If you haven’t seen the Princess Bride, keep reading because it’s not critical to understanding the strategies. But, also, it’s a classic, please see the movie! Sounds like you could use a break anyway!)

In case you haven’t seen the movie, let’s set the scene: Our hero Wesley is flat on his back, seemingly lifeless with heavy limbs and no strength left in his body after being tortured to (almost) dead. Hope is bleak. It this point it seems impossible he has any fight left in him to take on his nemesis Prince Humperdink and rescue his lady love Buttercup.

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But with the remaining air in his lungs, he mutters two words: True love.

This leads us to the first strategy for finding motivation even when you’re completely burnt out:

1. Focus on Your True Love

Our hero Wesley had one thing that motivated all of his actions, Princess Buttercup: His true love.

If you really think about it, the same is true for you. Whether it’s an actual person (or people) or a passion, remember your WHY.

What is your reason for rising from this rut? Who or what was your motivation for reading this article? There’s something driving you to not stay stuck. There are some people who are counting on you or some mission that’s bigger than you that provide a clear purpose for everything you do.

All of your efforts should be focused on your true love and getting back to being the person who can show up for that noble cause.

Knowing your true love is your compass. Whenever you’re feeling lost or uninspired, remembering the people or passion that make you uniquely you gives you that sense of purpose that you need to feel motivated to rise, even when you feel like you have nothing left.

In my case, I had to eventually realize that my true love (my husband) wanted his true love back–not this sobbing, miserable zombie I’d become. Like the old adage goes, “Happy wife, happy life.”

As a bonus, you can find out more about this point here: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up

When I realized that my complete lack of motivation and burn out was really affecting him, I knew it was time to get to the root of what was really wrong which leads us to step 2:

2. Identify Your True Adversary (And Focus Your Limited Energy There)

There’s always someone or something that has to be defeated in every hero’s journey. In the case of our hero Wesley, he had to defeat Prince Humperdink in order to rescue his true love Buttercup. This singular mission helped him reserve his energy for the most critical moment, when he finally met Humperdink face to face.

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In the case of your burn out, there is most likely a root cause that has to be addressed in order to reclaim your motivation. Getting clear on what that is will prevent you from running around trying to fix every aspect of your life and allow you to simply focus on the one or two things that are really the reason everything’s feeling so hard.

When you’re truly burnt out it’s likely that it’s negatively impacted multiple areas of your life so it may feel impossible to identify the root cause of your struggles at the moment. I know I felt that way.

My health was the worst it had ever been, my social life was bleak because I didn’t have the energy for fun or making plans, my career was stressing me out, being a new mom was hard… and so on.

Here’s my advice on how to get the root cause of your burn out: Do a gut check. What are the first 3 reasons that you think have caused you to burn out? What were the first things that popped into your mind? Write them down!

If you’re stuck, you can also rank each of the following categories of your life from 1-10 (10 being awesome, 1 being awful):

  • Career
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Money
  • Contribution
  • Personal Growth
  • Spiritual Life
  • Health
  • Romance
  • Fun

The aspects of your life with the lowest numbers should help you identify the true root cause of your burn out.

Ask yourself, why is that area a 1? One way to really figure out what’s wrong is to imagine what a 10 would be to you in that area. For example, if you rank your job a 2, what would a 10 be to you? Describe it in as much detail as possible and compare it to your current situation.

For example, maybe your 10 job would be remote but your current job forces you to commute and travel constantly. This has the potential to affect every area of your life but really, the solution to most of your woes is to get a job that lets you work from home and doesn’t require so much travel.

When you’re clear on what’s not working, you can start to see a way out, which leads us to step 3:

3. Remember You’re the Hero

It would have been easy for Wesley to play the victim. After all, he literally was tortured to death and endured unimaginable pain in the Pit of Despair.

But instead of focusing on what had happened to him in the past, as soon as Wesley was brought back to life, he focused on what needed to be done in order to get his girl. He remembered he was the hero, despite how things may have felt or appeared in the moment.

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When we’re burnt out, it’s easy to want to play the blame game or feel victimized by our circumstances. I’ve been there.

The thing is that isn’t motivating because it prevents us from having any agency or creative point of view on our situation.

If anything is going to change in our life, we have to always remember that we’re the hero of our own stories. Despite what circumstances come at us, our responses are 100% our responsibility.

In my case, I knew the commute and stress from my job was one of the major sources of my burn out. I also knew something was wrong with my health but didn’t have any answers or solutions yet. What was clear was that the stress I was feeling wasn’t going to get any better if I kept doing what I was doing.

What I really wanted to do was leave my job and start my own business from home. But it felt too selfish. Even though my husband told me to leave my job, for some reason I still felt the obligation to make myself a living sacrifice for our family.

But one night after weeks of having to take naps in the mother’s room at work just to make it through the day, it dawned on me that I was the reason I was miserable.

I’d convinced myself that my husband didn’t mean what he said, that I had to stay at my job for him; but the truth was I had to give myself permission to make the changes I needed to make to be happier. He’d already done that! The only thing trapping me was… me.

I had to save myself. He couldn’t fix my health. He couldn’t resign for me. I had to do the work and perhaps I was using him as an excuse because in admitting I needed a break or help, in my mind I was admitting weakness.

I was afraid to be that vulnerable and to ask for and expect his complete love and support when I wasn’t “working for it”. I was more comfortable playing the victim of my circumstances and falling on my noble sword because somehow in my mind it made me feel strong.

Can you relate? If so, spend time to answer these questions:

  • If you’re honest with yourself, have you been playing the Hero or the Victim of your story?
  • Claiming your role of hero, what’s your next play?
  • What are you secretly wanting permission for that you need to grant yourself?

Once you take complete responsibility for your circumstances and for saving yourself, there’s another key thing you’ll need:

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4. Accept Help from Your Friends

Our hero Wesley was “mostly dead” and unable to walk, feed himself or hold his head up when his friends Inigo and Fezzik found him. If it wasn’t for them, he would have died in the Pit of Despair. But they held him up, found Miracle Max, advocated for a remedy and carried him on their backs until he could stand on his own again.

My story is no different. In order to find my motivation again and recover from burn out it required me to rely on my husband more than I ever had before. It also required doctors, life coaches and the support of friends and family.

It required me to give up my attachment to being tough and not needing help. But at the end of the day, I figured out my happiness and being fully honest with myself about my limitations was the only way to have what I really wanted: Myself back.

Sometimes showing weakness is the ultimate show of strength.

You are the hero and you’re also human. None of us can do this on our own, nor are we supposed to. When you’re burnt out, it’s important to ask for help and seek out a support system while you find your way back to yourself.

Final Thoughts

Remember, burn out happens to all of us from time to time and we just can’t get motivated.

Sometimes, finding your motivation again requires making a huge life change, as in my case. But sometimes, it can be fixed with a new habit as simple as shutting down your computer, putting your phone out of sight and giving yourself some down time.

My burn out was severe and it took overhauling my entire life to dig my way out. But I’m so much more motivated, re-energized and happier for it.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities on your plate and with all of things you’re thinking you need to change, remember to focus on the ONE thing that’s going to make the biggest impact. You can do it too:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

My thing was leaving my full time job. Which, after months stressing about it, was accomplished in one 10 minute conversation with my manager. And as soon as I did it I instantly felt more motivated and relieved.

Save your precious energy for only doing the things that truly matter right now and your motivation will start coming back sooner than you thought possible.

More About Finding Motivation

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

[1] The Princess Bride, Reiner et al., 1987

More by this author

Kristina Voegele

Author and Success Coach | Founder of Grit & Grace Living | Creator of the Writerpreneur Workshop

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life

How to Get Unstuck in Life and Live a More Fulfilling Life

We all know the feeling—when you sense that you are not completely happy and fulfilled with your life—things are not where and how you envisage them to be. You go through the motions everyday, angry with yourself and the universe for throwing you such an unfavorable dice.

You can’t help yourself but feel a perennial envy towards those who are smiled upon by karma—the lucky individuals who seem to have the Midas touch and everything they undertake ends up with success, recognition and greater opportunities. Life must be so exiting.

Unlike yours.

We call this sensation many names: I’ve hit a wall; I’m not making progress; I’m stagnant; I’m moving in loops; Something is off in my life; I’m off balance.

Or simply: feeling stuck.

In this article, we’ll look into the reasons behind this feeling and how to get unstuck in life and live a more fulfilling life.

Is Being Stuck Really Such a Bad Thing?

Is it really so bad to be stuck in the status quo? After all, not everyone can be a super-star, right? What’s wrong with living a quiet life, with not many turns and twists and just going with the flow?

True—there is not much fun in this, but there is not disappointment, anxiety, stress and ill-ambition either. Life is easy and uncomplicated.

So why do we keep hearing over and over from the greats that staying is one place is not a good thing?

Tony Robbins gives us an elegantly simple answer to this question:

“If you are not growing, you are dying. “

“Progress equals happiness,” he says. “That ’s because reaching a goal is satisfying but only temporarily. Life is not about achieving the goals, life is about who you become in pursuit of those goals.”[1]

There you have it—staying in one place makes us unhappy.

We all know that the comfort zone can be great. It’s like a warm old blanket you wrap yourself around on a cold winter night, cuddled in front of your favorite TV show.

But just because something feels comfortable, does it mean it’s ok to stick to it forever?

Progress equals happiness, remember.

You may not even fully be aware of the small voice in the back of your mind that’s been bugging you, but you better learn to listen carefully—because you may wake up one day and realize that your productive life is gone and you haven’t achieved many of the things you wanted for yourself.

Pretty gloomy picture, indeed.

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Simply put, what the wise men advise us of is not just some self-help fluff for them to gain more popularity or sell more books. It is true—as you will learn below—that not moving forward, not even making the effort to do better or become better—even if you don’t always succeed in these endeavors—is a mental demise and a waste of your potential.

The Common “Stucks”

There are many reasons why you may feel stagnant in your life—some may be completely out of your control even. The main thing, though, is to be able to identify the reasons and then try to take some remedial actions.

But it starts with an awareness—because you can’t fix what you don’t know about, right?

Here are some of the main contributors to your feelings of stuck-ness:

You Lack Purpose in Your Life, or the “Why” of What You Do

Simon Sinek, the best-selling author and motivational speaker tells us in his famous TED talk that every successful endeavor—be it related to an organization, your career or personal life needs to begin with defining the “Why.” You need to be able to explain to yourself why you do what you do and what drives you.

It is the thing (s) that gives meaning and inspires you to wake up in the morning and to want to take on the world. It is your reason for being.

You Like the Status Quo

You may like your comfort zone. After all, it’s…well, comfortable. But as we established, the good old blanket is not necessarily going to make us fulfilled in life. You can watch so many TV shows wrapped in it before you get bored.

We, humans, still carry our ancestors’ fighting instincts—for hunting, for self-preservation, for taking actions to make our lives better. Inaction is not what made the mankind create all the innovations we enjoy today.

The Good-Old Fear of Failure and of the Unknown

Admittedly, it’s not an emotion to be taken lightly—it can be quite real and powerful for many of us.

According to a Gallup poll done a while ago among U.S. teenagers, the fear of being a failure and not succeeding in life was at number four.[2] More specifically, this feeling was described as “making mistakes that will mess up my life,” “not measuring up,” “not leaving a mark.”

So, fear can be a powerful paralyzer and can elicit a “safe-mode” response—i.e. stuck-ness.

Your Crowd

We all know the famous adage that we are the average of the five people we rub shoulders with. So, if your in-crowd is similarly stuck as you are, although it may be consoling at times, you won’t be motivated to make much progress yourself.

It’s called a social proof bias—if everyone around you is doing (or not doing) something, then it is ok for you to follow suit.

Comparisons to Others

While comparisons are not always bad, according to the Social Comparison Theory,[3] they have to be handled with caution.

Faring against others can make you very unhappy with yourself. Failing to recognize that your path is not the same as others’ and that there are many ways to get to an end-point (goal) can be very discouraging to taking the first step to unstuck-ness.

Personality

Our temperaments can also contribute to a sense of feeling stuck. For instance, you may be more of a passive, dreamy kind of person who prefers observing to taking action, pensiveness to gregariousness, solitude to venturing out in the world.

That is, you have more of a slow-burn personality vs. a fiery one—therefore, it takes you longer to contemplate all alternatives before taking the plunge.

And that’s ok. But you need to recognize that this may also be the reason why you are not progressing as fast or as much as you would like towards your goals.

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And while changing who you are is hard (impossible even, according to some psychologists), there are things that can be done to make it so much better for yourself, which I will discuss a bit later.

A final point to note here is that, paradoxically, it is possible to feel both stuck and unstuck at the same time. For instance, you can have a great career, but your family life may feel a bit stale, or wise versa.

As our personal and professional lives constantly fight for the top spot on our attention list, the feeling of stuck-ness may also depend on where you are on your life’s trajectory.

For someone who is younger and single, stagnation may be felt more vividly in their professional lives, as opposed to someone who is in their mid-life, where family takes priority—such individuals may not feel as down-hearted that they are not progressing quickly enough professionally.

How to Get Unstuck in Life

The neat thing about your path to becoming unstuck is that it follows the so-called Principle of Equifinality,[4] which states that the end state can be reached by many means.

It’s not just one thing that can help you to start moving forward again. There are many avenues you can explore to find out what works for you and with your own story and personality.

1. Show up and Be Willing to Do the Work

Woody Allen has famously said that “80% of success is showing up.” That is, you need to begin with the right motivation and willingness to take action towards unstucking.

You must want to improve your current state. And you must follow through.

2. Self-Reflection

Spend some time alone. You need to figure out why you are stuck—that is, what is the root of your discontent. Meditation may help here too. But this step is essential:

Packing on some self-knowledge and awareness on why you are where you are in life can help you discover a whole new universe of ideas on how to make it better for yourself.

It is as the saying goes: Identifying the problem is half of the solution.

Start to do self-reflection with the help of this article: The Power of Self-Reflection: Ten Questions You Should Ask Yourself

3. Break a Sweat

There is an avalanche of research on the benefits of exercising for the body and the mind. The latest research tells us that if you want to put your mind in the best possible focus shape, a 15-minute jog will do the job better than 15 minutes of relaxation and meditation.[5] It also clears your thinking, improves your attention spans, and can generally make you feel like a “brand new person.”

4. Find a Purpose

As I already touched-upon, the “Why” behind your actions is a prime driver of self-progress. If you link your goals—be them personal or professionals—to a “bigger-than-me” aspiration, then it will be so much easier to convince yourself to keep moving.

According to recent research,[6] we all have a specific purpose-seeking style—similar to our own way of writing, dancing or speaking.

There are four types or “Whys”—creative, prosocial, financial and personal recognition. The prosocial approach to finding meaning, though, which is based on kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others, is the best one in the long-run—it was shown to lead to greater caring, integrity and personal growth.

Here’s How to Find Purpose in Life and Make Yourself a Better Person.

5. Find a Passion

It’s barely a secret that if you enjoy something, you will want to do more of it and it won’t feel like an obligation. You will have an internal motivation to keep going despite setbacks, despite the stress or the tiredness you may experience at times.

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So, find what thrills you and makes you come alive and strive to become better, the best even, at it. The more progress you make, the more confidence you will have that you can apply the same passion and dedication to all other parts of your life that feel stagnant.

Learn How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life.

6. Nudge Yourself

The Nudge Theory[7] has been around for a while and has shown some wonderful results in positively influencing people’s behaviors—from making us conserve more energy, to improving the payment rates of fines, to making job-seekers more engaged and involved.

Small things as daily reminders in terms of micro-goals you can set on your phone, for instance, can have a profound favorable effect on becoming unstuck.

Nudging can also help overcome some of these personality traits we talked about—like passiveness or acute proneness to procrastination.

7. Seek Different Experiences

Even if you are in a happy relationship, you may still feel stuck—i.e. you may be unfulfilled, uninspired, or bored even of doing identical things over and over. The same rings true for your professional life.

The end-point is that you need to feed your brain different experiences if you want to get unstuck. If you repeat more of the same thing, you will end up with more or less similar outcomes. Change requires taking the path less trodden, experimenting, learning new ways, seeing new places, reading, travelling—it’s an endless list, really, to personal growth.

According to research covered in Psychology Today,[8]

“Activities that lead us to feel uncertainty, discomfort, and even a dash of guilt are associated with some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of people’s lives. Happy people, it seems, engage in a wide range of counterintuitive habits that seem, well, downright unhappy.”

8. Leave Behind the Things That Are Not Constructive for You

Arianna Huffington put it in a great way:[9]

“You can complete a project by dropping it.”

Assessing the things that make you feel stagnant is important. But equally valuable is to recognize that just because it may be hard or even impossible to get something that you really want, it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed or that you are necessarily stuck.

Maybe it’s simply not your thing. For instance, you may want to become a professional golfer. You practice and practice but you can’t quite reach the level of Tiger Woods that you aspire to. Perhaps it’s time to take stock of your life and shift your focus.

9. Compare Wisely

Comparisons can often make you feel down and create a sense of stagnation, which may not always be valid. You must realize that your pace of progress differs from your friends’, neighbours’, siblings or even significant others’.

Just because you are not a millionaire by the age of 30, or haven’t started your own business, or written your third bestseller yet, doesn’t mean that you are not moving forward.

So, mind how you measure your progress and your state of stuck-ness. Your perceptions may differ from reality.

Besides, it’s never ever too late to start things over! Here’s how:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

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10. Ask for Help

Finally, remember that you don’t have to do it all alone. If you feel stuck in your personal life, you can speak to your close ones and find a solution together. Maybe they feel the same way.

At work—raise your hand, speak to your manager, volunteer to do things that can help you learn and become more valuable.

You don’t have to come up with all the answers right now. The most important thing, going back to the first idea, is to be willing to make a change.

When Is Enough Enough?

Seeking progress is a great thing. Who wouldn’t want to become a better version of themselves after all?

But the pursuit of growth should be handled with caution. It can become very addictive and sometimes even be counterproductive.

It’s true—you may experience a “runner’s high” and success can make you overflow with dopamine, but the constant chase of “more” can toss you into a never-ending spinning wheel.

You will never be happy with the status quo and won’t accept things as they are—which, naturally, can open a Pandora box of mental health issues.

That is, too much of a self-improvement drive may leave you unable to enjoy your life, to be fully present in the Now and to appreciate the person that you are.

And this is not necessarily a good thing.

So, should you strive to improve yourself, so that feel unstuck and free again? Absolutely.

But remember to take a breather and be grateful for what you have.

Summing It All Up

The feeling of being satisfied or unsatisfied with one’s life is very personal. Similar to its cousins—happiness and success, it is best measured by and depends on our individual histories, personalities and paths—i.e. my trajectory is different than yours and what makes me feel content may not create the same feeling for you.

For instance, you may be happy to be in a position where you help others and their gratitude is sufficient enough reason for you to wake up in the morning. But for someone else, this situation may create a sense of stuck-ness.

The main take-away here is that you shouldn’t compare your story to anyone else’s because you may end up feeling constantly stuck. And this, speaking from experience, is not the best place in the world to be.

Progress is great, but don’t forget that your life is here and now.

So, try to enjoy yourself some too, while making your grandiose plans to take on the world, will you please?

Featured photo credit: Camila Cordeiro via unsplash.com

Reference

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