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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Things That Cause a Lack of Motivation (And How to Fix Them)

7 Things That Cause a Lack of Motivation (And How to Fix Them)

If a lack of motivation is affecting your life, you’re in luck, because you’re about to learn the 7 major reasons why you’re short on the motivational energy you need to successfully accomplish your goals and exactly how to fix each of them.

A lack of motivation can cause many problems for each of us. We may have trouble getting projects done, keeping our house clean, or giving the necessary energy to a new relationship. When we don’t have the motivation to improve our lives, we may find our overall well-being takes a hit.

Fortunately, by the time you’re done reading this, you’ll have the knowledge you need to unleash the motivational powerhouse within you. Here are the main causes of a lack of motivation.

1. You Don’t Know What You Want

Of all the reasons responsible for why you might be lacking in the motivation department, this first one is by far the most common: Either you don’t know what you want, or there’s a lack of clarity about what you want.

Whenever I do goal-setting workshops with people or with organizations, one of the first questions I ask is, “What do you want?”

You’d be surprised by how many people are unable to give me a compelling response to that question.

In other words: What’s the outcome you’re after? What would it look like if everything were to go exactly as planned or better?

It’s tough to get motivated to do anything at all when we’re unsure about what we’re after in the first place. Conversely, once we take those fuzzy dreams we have and bring them into focus by writing them out as goals, then the motivation will flow naturally.

If you ask a typical sports fanatic about their favorite team, they can give you so many statistics it would make your head spin. They can give you all the details you need to know about a team and its players–from speed to points per game, etc.

But when someone asks them about the details of their own life, they can barely remember what they had for dinner last night. And it’s not a matter of intelligence, either. It’s about focus.

If you lack motivation in any area of your life, it’s likely because you haven’t decided in detail what you want in that area. And we can’t focus on something if we don’t know what we’re aiming for.

Solution

If you’re experiencing a lack of motivation, keep in mind that you can’t hit a target that you can’t see. Identify some compelling, exciting goals for yourself in each of the major areas of your life – physical, financial, emotional, spiritual, etc. – and write them down.

You may also want to ask your self these 7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life.

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2. You’re Not in Control of Your Physiology

Take a moment to picture in your mind what a person who has a lack of motivation actually looks like, physically.

If a person is unmotivated, how do they stand? How do they sit?

Do they have good posture or bad posture? Are their shoulders pulled back, or are they slumped over forward? Is their back upright or rounded?

Now imagine what a person who’s totally motivated looks like.

How does a person with motivation stand? Close and narrow, or open and upright?

Do they walk with their head held low, or head held high? Are their shoulders slumped forward, or pulled back nicely as they walk?

Is their back bent forward, or are they sitting upright?

What if I told you that you could instantly motivate yourself by mimicking the body language of a motivated person that you just pictured in your mind’s eye?

Solution

Motion leads to motivation. If you want to get motivated, learn to control your physiological state. Here’s how:

  • First, figure out what kinds of movements you naturally make when you’re feeling motivated.
  • Then, do those things, and your mind will follow your body.

You’ll begin to feel more motivated when you put yourself in a position to actually feel more motivation.

3. You’re Not Aiming High Enough

Whatever we seek to accomplish – writing a book, losing weight, achieving the perfect relationship with our significant others – it’s the degree of desire we have to accomplishing those goals that ends up becoming the crucial element to achieving them.

But too many people try to set limits on their desire, which can cause a lack of motivation. They tell themselves and others that they don’t need wild success. This kind of thinking is dangerous because when we limit the scope of our desire, we limit the scope of what we’re willing to do to reach our goals. And when we limit the scope of what we’re willing to do, we limit the scope of our motivation.

A lack of exciting and desirable goals easily takes far too many people down the road of lackluster levels of motivation.

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The solution to this problem is what’s known as The 10X Rule, which states that:

You must set targets that are 10 times what you think you want, and then do 10 times what you think it will take to accomplish those targets.

10X-targets—commonly called “stretch goals“—will spur you on to do more and try more than you ever have before.[1] Besides, even if we fall short of achieving our 10X-level aims and ambitions, better to fall short of achieving a massive target than merely achieving a tiny one.

But setting a high target is only the first step. The second step is to take 10 times the amount of action you think is necessary to reach that target.

Solution

When we’ve got puny, uninspiring goals, we tend to feel lethargic and unmotivated to achieve them. On the flip side, when we’ve got huge and ambitious goals, we feel empowered and invigorated to take action towards achieving them.

The solution: Set massive goals. Take massive action.

Push yourself to your outermost limits. You’ll find that the more action you take, the more motivated you become to continue doing even more.

4. You’re Overwhelmed

Have you ever been so stressed, so overwhelmed, under so much pressure – that you’d rather say, “Screw it. I don’t even care,” than to continue marching forward with whatever you’re trying to do?

Whatever the cause, one thing we know about feeling overwhelmed (or stressed to the gills) is that it can drain motivation, big time.

Solution

Maybe you took that point I made earlier — about aiming higher and 10X-ing your goals to get you motivated — to heart. But maybe you also aimed a little higher than your current capabilities. If that’s the case, lower the bar bit-by-bit until you hit your sweet spot (which is somewhere between your current capabilities and a goal that’s just hard enough to achieve that you have to stretch a bit to achieve it).

Or, maybe you’ve just got way too many things on your plate. If that’s the case, it’s time to pare down and focus on crushing one big goal at a time, rather than trying to do too many things simultaneously. It’s like that old saying,

“If you chase two rabbits, you won’t even catch one.”

5. You’re Prone to Procrastination

Another thing that can cause overwhelm – which leads to a massive lack of motivation – is when we don’t have enough clarity about what to do next. This ambiguity leads to procrastination, and procrastination leads to a lack of motivation.

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Solution

Take whatever it is that you lack the motivation to do, and chunk it down to an immediate, doable next action you can take immediately.

For example, I’m working on putting together a major personal development course right now that’s designed to help people transform their lives. This involves a ton of work on my part: from structuring the curriculum, to putting together worksheets, to recording the audio sessions, to a million things in between.

I was thinking about this workload recently, and I felt incredibly overwhelmed and demotivated because of the sheer volume involved with a project like this. And just as I was about to curl up in the fetal position in the corner of my office, I realized I needed to take my own advice and chunk this thing down.

Instead of thinking about everything that needed to get done, I decided to ask myself, “What’s one thing I can do right now to make progress on this goal?” The answer to that, for me, was to write the outline, which I did. And the sense of motivation that began to bubble up as I started doing it was remarkable.[2].

Procrastination and action

    6. You’re Not Being Specific Enough

    Motivation is like a fickle, fleeting, emotional creature with ADHD. It’s difficult to get it to focus on a single thing for an extended period of time…unless you provide it with very specific directions.

    One reason you might have a lack of motivation is because you’re leaving things too open. When things are vague, you may experience a lack of motivation.

    When you’re unable to tap into the motivation you need to succeed, it might be because whatever thing you want to get motivated for is too vague. For example:

    • Wake up earlier.
    • Exercise more.
    • Eat healthy.

    If you were to choose any of the above examples, here’s how things would most likely play out:

    You’ll start off with tons of motivation at the very beginning, but after a little while, you’ll notice that the motivation fades away and loses its potency.

    Solution

    Give your brain specific and actionable directions. Doing this will provide it with the controlled focus it needs in order to unleash the motivational energy you’re looking for.

    An excellent way to drill down and get specific is to ask yourself questions. Here’s a great one that can narrow things down and, as a result, spark some motivation:

    “How will I know that I’m successful?”

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    Answer that question with something specific and measurable.

    The more specific you make the actions and habits you need to take up, the smaller they become, and the smaller the action, the easier it is to motivate yourself to do it. Eventually, those small, specific steps you take on a daily basis will stack on top of one another––which leads to a sustained sense of motivation and accomplishment.

    7. You’re Seeking Motivation Where You Should Be Seeking Habits

    The final reason most people suffer from an ongoing lack of motivation is simply because, at the end of the day, none of us can be motivated all the time. Often times, people say to me, “Wow, you’re so motivated.” But here’s the truth: I just look like I’m motivated all the time, when in reality I’ve just been diligent about installing several keystone habits in the areas of my life that matter to me.

    You see, I don’t have to muster up the motivation to get up at 5AM every morning and go to the gym, because it’s a habit.

    I don’t have to motivate myself to focus on writing on this article right now, because I’ve developed a habit of writing every day.

    I don’t have to motivate myself to do anything that I’ve become habituated to in my life, because habits are things we do regularly and automatically with little or no conscious thought or effort.

    So, here’s the real question: How do you develop habits?

    Solution

    You can cook an egg if you go outside on a sunny day and hold a magnifying glass over it. This is because the magnifying glass harnesses the power of the sun’s rays and puts them towards a singular aim—cooking that egg.

    But if you go outside and repeatedly wave the magnifying glass side-to-side over the pan, you’ll never cook that egg. That’s what happens with most people—they’re unable to build habits and maintain the motivation to achieve their goals because they’re outside waving that darn magnifying glass over a pan full of uncooked eggs that they’ll never be able to enjoy.

    A better way to approach your goals, and the habits you’ll need in order to achieve them, is to harness all your energy and focus towards approaching each of them one at a time, as follows:

    • Choose your goal: What’s one major, long-term goal you’re absolutely dedicated to achieving over the next 12 months or more?
    • Choose your habit: What’s the ONE new habit you can form to achieve or exceed your goal?
    • Next, learn everything you possibly can about how to do it right. Go deep.
    • Identify a habit you can do all the time. It needs to be something you can incorporate into your schedule and execute on a daily basis, no matter what. Eventually, it’ll be something you can do easily, without thinking about it or needing to get yourself all motivated.

    Learn more about how to build habits in this article: What Is a Habit? Understand It to Control It 100%

    The Bottom Line

    What’s causing your lack of motivation? Overcoming a lack of motivation involves identifying why you feel unmotivated and tackling the root cause with the solutions above. Soon, you will find yourself staying motivated and feeling good even during the most challenging times.

    More Motivational Tips

    Featured photo credit: Kreated Media via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dean Bokhari

    Author, Entrepreneur, Podcast & TV Host

    50 Self-Affirmations to Help You Stay Motivated Every Day Why You’re Not Interested in Anything And Have No Motivation How to Actually Make Your Goals Happen 7 Things That Cause a Lack of Motivation (And How to Fix Them) books about spirituality 7 Science-Backed Books About Spirituality That Will Change Your Life

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

    Why Intrinsic Motivation Is So Powerful (And How to Find It)

    Motivation is one of the main reasons we do things — take an action, go to work (and sometimes overwork ourselves), create goals, exercise our willpower. There are two main, universally agreed upon types of motivation — intrinsic motivation (also known as internal motivation) and extrinsic motivation (external motivation).

    The intrinsic kind is, by inference, when you do something because it’s internally fulfilling, interesting or enjoyable — without an expectation of a reward or recognition from others. Extrinsic motivation is driven by exactly the opposite — externalities, such as the promise of more money, a good grade, positive feedback, or a promotion.

    And of course, we all know about the big debate about money. It’s surely an external driver, but is it possible that it can sometimes make us enjoy what we do more? A meta-analysis that reviewed 120 years of research found a weak link between job satisfaction and money[1].

    And what’s more — there is some evidence to suggest that more money can actually have an adverse effect on your intrinsic motivation.

    Regardless of its type, motivation is still important to get you moving, to improve, excel, and put that extra effort when you feel like you don’t have a single drop of energy left to keep going.

    So, let’s see some of the best things you can do to keep the fire going, even when you’d rather just indulge in pleasant idleness.

    Why Intrinsic Motivation Tops Extrinsic Motivation

    “To be motivated means to be moved to do something.”[2]

    Generally speaking, we all need motivation.

    An avalanche of research, though, shows that when it comes to finding the lasting drive to “do something,” internal incentives are much more powerful than extrinsic rewards.

    Why? It’s simple.

    There is a great difference when you engage in something because “I want to,” as opposed to “I must.” Just think about the most obvious example there is: work.

    If you go to work every day, dragging your feet and dreading the day ahead of you, how much enjoyment will you get from your job? What about productivity and results? Quality of work?

    Yep, that’s right, you definitely won’t be topping the Employee of the Month list anytime soon.

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    The thing with external motivation is that it doesn’t last. It’s susceptible to something psychologists call Hedonic Adaptation[3]. It’s a fancy way of saying that external rewards are not a sustainable source of happiness and satisfaction.

    When you put in 100-hour weeks in order to get promoted, and you finally are, how long does your “high” last? The walking-on-a-cloud feelings wear off quickly, research tells us, making you want more. Therefore, you are stuck on a never-ending “hedonic treadmill,” i.e. you can progressively only become motivated by bigger and shinier things, just to find out that they don’t bring you the satisfaction you hoped for, when you finally get them.

    Or, as the journalist and author Oliver Burkeman wonderfully puts it[4]:

    “Write every day” won’t work unless you want to write. And no exercise regime will last long if you don’t at least slightly enjoy what you’re doing.

    If you want to find out more about the different types of motivation, take a look at this article: 9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams

    Benefits of Intrinsic Motivation

    If you are still unconvinced that doing things solely for kudos and brownie points is not going to keep you going forever, nor make you like what you do, here is some additional proof:

    Studies tell us that intrinsic motivation is a generally stronger predictor of job performance over the long run than extrinsic motivation[5].

    One reason is that when we are internally driven to do something, we do it simply for the enjoyment of the activity. So, we keep going, day in and out, because we feel inspired, driven, happy, and satisfied with ourselves.

    Another reason has to do with the fact that increasing intrinsic motivation is intertwined with things such as higher purpose, contributing to a cause, or doing things for the sake of something bigger than ourselves or our own benefit. A famous study done by the organizational psychologist Adam Grant is case in point[6].

    By showing university fundraisers how the money donated by alumni can help financially struggling students to graduate from college, their productivity increased by 400% a week! The callers also showed an average increase of 142% in time spent on the phone and 171% increase in money raised.

    Internal motivation has been found to be very helpful when it comes to academia, too. Research confirms that the use of external motivators, such as praise, undermine students’ internal motivation, and, in the long-run, it results in “slower acquisition of skills and more errors in the learning process.”[7]

    In contrast, when children are internally driven, they are more involved in the task at hand, enjoy it more, and intentionally seek out challenges.

    Therefore, all the research seems to allude to one major revelation: intrinsic motivation is a must-have if you want to save yourself the drudgery we all sometimes feel when contemplating the things we should do or must do.

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    6 Ways to Enhance Your Intrinsic Motivation

    So, how does one get more of the good stuff — that is, how do you become internally motivated?

    There are many things you can do to become more driven. Here are the ones that top the list.

    1. Self-Efficacy

    The theory of self-efficacy was developed by the American-Canadian psychologist Albert Bandura in 1982[8]. Efficacy is our own belief in whether we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves. In other words, it’s whether we think we “got what it takes” to be successful at what we do[9].

    Find intrinsic motivation with self-efficacy.

      It’s not hard to see the link of self-efficacy to higher self-esteem, better performance, and, of course, enhanced motivation. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to put extra effort in what they do, to self-set more challenging goals, and be more driven to improve their skills[10].

      Therefore, the belief that we can accomplish something serves as a self-fulfilling prophecy — it motivates us to try harder to prove to ourselves that we can do it.

      You can learn more about self-efficacy in this article: What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours

      2. Link Your Actions to a Greater Purpose

      Finding your “why” in life is incredibly important. This means that you need to be clear with yourself on why you do what you do and what drives you.

      What is intrinsically rewarding for you? Find that out with this free Worksheet For Instant Motivation Boost. Get your free worksheet here.

      And no matter how mundane a task may be, it can always be linked to something bigger and better. Psychologists call this “reframing your narrative.”

      Remember the famous story of John F. Kennedy visiting NASA in 1961? As it goes, he met a janitor there and asked him what he did at NASA. The answer was:

      “I’m helping to put a man on the Moon.”

      Inspirational, isn’t it?

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      Re-phrasing how your actions can help others and leave a mark in the universe can be a powerful driver and a meaning-creator.

      3. Volunteer

      Volunteering is a great way to give back to the world. It can also help boost your internal motivation by making you feel important in supporting the less fortunate, learning new skills, feeling good about yourself, or linking to some of your inner values, such as kindness and humanitarianism[11].

      When you remove any external reward expectations and do something for the pure joy and fulfilment of improving others’ lives, then you are truly intrinsically motivated.

      4. Don’t Wait Until You “Feel Like It” to Do Something

      A great piece in the Harvard Business Review points out that when we say things as “I can’t make myself go to the gym” or “I can’t get up early,” what we actually mean is that we don’t feel like it[12]. There is nothing that psychically prevents us from doing those things, apart from our laziness.

      But here’s the thing: You don’t have to “feel like it” in order to take action.

      Sometimes, it so happens that you may not want to do something in the beginning, but once you start, you get into the flow and find your intrinsic motivation.

      For instance, you don’t feel like going to the gym after a long day at work. Rather than debating in your head for hours “for and against” it, just go. Tell yourself that you will think about it later. Once in the gym, surrounded by similar souls, you suddenly won’t fee that tired or uninspired.

      Another way to overcome procrastination is to create routines and follow them. Once the habit sets in, suddenly getting up at 6 am for work or writing for an hour every day won’t be so dreadful.

      5. Self-Determination, or the CAR Model (As I Call It)

      The Self-Determination theory was created by two professors of psychology from the University of Rochester in the mid-80s—Richard Ryan and Edward Deci[13]. The theory is one of the most popular ones in the field of motivation[14]. It focuses on the different drivers behind our behavior—i.e. the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators.

      There are three main needs, the theory further states, that can help us meet our need for growth. These are also the things which Profs. Deci and Ryan believed to be the main ways to enhance our intrinsic motivation—Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness (CAR).

      If our jobs allow us to learn and grow, and if we have enough autonomy to do things our way and be creative, then we will be more driven to give our best, and our performance will soar. In addition, as humans are social beings, we also need to feel connected to others and respected.

      All of these sources of intrinsic motivation, separately and in combination, can become powerful instigators to keep us thriving, even when we feel uninspired and unmotivated .

      6. Tap Into a Deeper Reason

      Some interesting research done in 2016 sought answers to how high-performing employees remain driven when their company can’t or won’t engage in ways to motivate them—intrinsically or extrinsically[15].

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      The study tracked workers in a Mexican factory, where they did exactly the same tasks every day, with virtually zero chances for learning new skills, developing professionally, or being promoted. Everyone was paid the same, regardless of performance. So there was no extrinsic motivation at all, other than keeping one’s job.

      A third kind of motivation was then discovered, which scientists called “family motivation.” Workers who agreed more with statements such as “I care about supporting my family” or “It is important for me to do good for my family” were more energized and performed better, although they didn’t have any additional external or internal incentive to do so.

      The great thing about this kind of driver is that it’s independent of the company one works for or the situation. It taps into something even deeper—if you don’t want to do something for your own sake, then do it for the people you care for. And this is a powerful motive, as many can probably attest to this.

      If you want to tap into your deeper motive, join the free Fast-Track Class – Activate Your Motivation. In this focused-session, you’ll learn how to figure out your deeper cause for life and build a more sustainable motivation engine. Join the free class here.

      Final Thoughts

      Frederick Herzberg, the American psychologist who developed what’s perhaps still today the most famous theory of motivation, in his renowned article from 1968 (which sold a modest 1.2 million reprints and it the most requested article from Harvard Business Review One More Time, How Do You Motivate Employees? wrote:[16]

      “If I kick my dog, he will move. And when I want him to move again, what must I do? I must kick him again. Similarly, I can charge a person’s battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again. But it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation. One then needs no outside stimulation. One wants to do it.”

      Herzberg further explains that the so-called “hygiene factors” (salary, job security, benefits, vacation time, work conditions) don’t lead to fulfillment, nor motivation. What does, though, are the “motivators”—challenging work, opportunities for growth, achievement, greater responsibility, recognition, the work itself.

      Herzberg realized it long ago…intrinsic motivation tips the scales when it comes to finding long-term happiness and satisfaction in everything we do, and to improving our overall well-being.

      In the end, the next time when you need to give yourself a bit of a kick to get something done, remember to link it to a goal bigger than yourself, and preferably one that has non-material benefit.

      And no, don’t say that you tried but it’s just impossible to find internal motivation. Remember the janitor at NASA?

      Because once you find your internal generator, you will be truly unstoppable.

      More Tips to Boost Motivation

      Featured photo credit: Juan Ramos via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Harvard Business Review: Does Money Really Affect Motivation? A Review of the Research
      [2] Contemporary Educational Psychology: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
      [3] Scientific American: The Science of Lasting Happiness
      [4] The Guardian: Is the secret of productivity really just doing what you enjoy?
      [5] European Journal of Business and Management: Impact of Employee Motivation on Employee Performance
      [6] Adam Grant : Impact and the Art of Motivation Maintenance: The Effects of Contact With Beneficiaries on Persistence Behavior
      [7] Grand Valley State University: The Effect of Rewards and Motivation on Student Achievement
      [8] Encyclopedia Britannica: Albert Bandura
      [9] Pinterest: Self-Efficacy Theory
      [10] Educational Psychologist: Goal Setting and Self-Efficacy During Self-Regulated Learning
      [11] University of Minnesota: The Motivations to Volunteer: Theoretical and Practical Considerations
      [12] Harvard Business Review: How to Make Yourself Work When You Just Don’t Want To
      [13] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivations: Classic Definitions and New Directions
      [14] Richard Ryan and Edward Deci: Self-Determination Theory and the Facilitation of Intrinsic Motivation, Social Development, and Well-Being
      [15] Nick Tasler: How some people stay motivated and energized at work—even when they don’t love their jobs
      [16] Harvard Business Review: One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?

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