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Published on January 11, 2021

12 Things to Do When You Have No Motivation to Do Anything

12 Things to Do When You Have No Motivation to Do Anything

If you’re reading this article it’s likely that you’ve had it up to the eyeballs with requests and notifications bombarding you, your world is constricted, and you likely feel tight. When you feel like you have no motivation to do anything, the last thing you want is convoluted reams of advice that make your head spin.

In order to address this in the best way possible, I’m going to give you some practical pointers to gently steer you in the right direction and get you back on track.

It’s perfectly okay to feel this way. No matter how senior, important, or famous we become, we all get demotivated from time to time, and especially at times of heightened global uncertainty like we are currently facing.

The key is to recognize the signs and swiftly implement the 12 practical steps below so that you embrace your full potential, reconnect with your bigger vision, and reignite that spark of excitement inside that fuels your motivation once again.

1. Banish Your Inner Critic

From the moment you recognize that you have no motivation to do anything, the first thing you must do is forgive yourself. It’s important that you don’t judge yourself or feel guilty for not being as active or motivated as you would like.

There is a tendency for go-getters to view themselves as bad, unworthy of success, or less than, simply for not meeting a certain standard, which can compound the feelings of exhaustion, mental fatigue, and lethargy that we are trying to prevent.

If this is you, stop right here and vow to be more conscious in your approach and mindful around judging yourself for needing to spend time rejuvenating rather than pushing forward constantly.

2. Reframe What It Means

That said, it brings us to the next step, which is to reframe what it means to prioritize your own rejuvenation above all else. This can be uncomfortable for some people, me included.

There was a time when I found it hard just to be still with myself, but over the years I have trained myself to enjoy the sanctuary of alone time and embrace stillness.

The goal is to shift your mindset so that you see rejuvenation itself as a step in the right direction, as progress and productivity. This way, you can stop seeking forward momentum from alternative means (e.g. doing more work) and let the process of rebuilding unfold.

Set aside time to reframe and take ownership for your inner replenishment. All high performers make this connection eventually, and once they do, they never go back.

3. Recognize Your Emotional State

When you give yourself the space to honor your feelings, you actually create distance between yourself and your emotional reaction. In this space, even if you have no motivation to do anything, you can choose how you want to show up to the world and for yourself.

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“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” – Vicktor Frankel

The best bit here is that you can then anticipate that you are likely to have a short fuse due to your lack of motivation and low tolerance for nonsense, obstacles, and petty annoyances.

Of course, this can be anything from your cab driver getting lost, infuriating phone operators, a frustrating payment system, or processes that make no sense. Trust me, it happens, and it can drive you up the wall if you don’t get hold of your emotions and give yourself the love you need by creating the space to react differently.

This takes practice, but it is the way forward.

When you have no motivation to do anything, it means you’re depleted and need to urgently focus on replenishing all areas, including your mind, body, emotions, and spirit on all levels.

4. Reduce the Complexity

As an optimist, it’s all great. You’re excited about the big picture of it all, and making progress is your middle name. As a result you invariably say “yes” to everything, leaving no time to process how you actually feel about the things you’ve said yes to!

Your life becomes a conveyer belt of experiences, and like anything done excessively, it slides into an unrelenting pattern of dullness, lack of motivation, and potential burnout.

Living in this state of high alertness and constant reactivity, it’s no wonder we get a little frayed around the edges if we don’t take the time to recuperate.

This means the way forward is found by taking a break from the immediacy of life, shutting off the noise, and reducing the complexity.

All these extra commitments chip away at your core essence. You must guard your energy like gold.

“The fastest way to raise your level of performance: Cut your number of commitments in half”. – James Clear, Atomic Habits

By stepping away, you regain a place for yourself to exist in the present moment, you put your needs front and center, and this act will catapult you back on to the right path.

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By eliminating the social “have to’s,” the excess Zoom calls, and persistent notifications, it gives you the bandwidth and the boundaries to prioritize the next few crucial steps to finding your spark.

Airplane mode isn’t just for flights! Make sure you use it.

5. Get to Bed, Sleepy Head

When we are severely depleted, it’s hard to find our inner spark of genius, and our passion for life is muted, temporarily lost even.

High quality sleep needs to become a priority, and fast.

Getting into the habit of knowing what your body needs and adapting will accelerate the process. Aim to get to bed before 9-9.30pm each night.

Resist the temptation to check work emails just before you nod off. I know that is a tough one, but it’s worth it. Better yet, put your phone on airplane mode while you sleep to reduce the chance of an interruption to zero.

6. Value Yourself for Being a Learner

What you base your self-worth on matters[1]. When you base your self-worth on being a top performer, sales figures, or having the right answers, it unravels when your performance dips, taking your self-esteem with it.

This is a not a recipe for contentment and success.

Tom Bilyeu, co-founder of Impact Theory, talks about having a white belt mentality and the importance of valuing yourself because of your willingness to learn because it is antifragile.

When something is antifragile, it means that it gets stronger the more pressure you put on it, rather than reaching a maximum breaking point and snapping.

As author Nassim Telab puts it,

“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”

7. Avoid Negative Influences

Staying away from energy drainers and negative people is crucial for you right now.

When we are feeling like we have no motivation to do anything, our decision-making abilities are impacted. Being around pessimistic, negative complainers will serve only to darken your day.

The way to move from darkness and into the light is to connect to your inner self.

8. Take Inspired Action

Taking action around the things you can control helps reduce overthinking and anxiety because you initiate momentum. The key is to do this without triggering a state of overwhelm.

To begin, write down your goals and figure out the skills you need to learn to get there. This is what I call “proactive progress” – it moves you away from simply wishing something would happen and instead into taking actionable steps toward its attainment.

Next, break each goal into very simple, clear objectives.

With your energy levels severely reduced, we want to be decreasing the cognitive load without wasting energy on trying to recall what to do next. The way to do this is to keep a list of the top 3 things you want to accomplish above all else in the notes section of your phone.

This helps you stay focused when energy and tolerance levels are at a minimum.

With little energy to give, you need a tool or system that can help quickly remind you of where you are going and what you need to do next. This is important because the act of ticking off key things from your list (no matter how small) helps you to feel empowered.

9. Visualize Your Success

The more you train yourself to visualize yourself as successful (every day) and move into this space regularly so that see yourself already in possession of that which you want to obtain, the more possible it will become.

Commit to spending 30 minutes a day visualizing yourself actually living your dream.

What you focus on becomes your reality, and it all starts with the energy you put out in the world, starting with your thoughts and beliefs.

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10. Focus on the Possibilities

When we are out of gas and running on empty, it’s no surprise that our motivation is at an all-time low. It’s hard to be enthusiastic and full of life when you aren’t filling the tank with the right fuel.

Part of that means giving yourself permission to take the day off, to leave the emails and watch your favorite TV program while eating your favorite snack. This is absolutely acceptable.

What this also does is give you a window of opportunity to let you mind flow back to a state of possibility, to wander and to dream. This, in turn, helps you connect back to your bigger vision and have a clearer understanding of what’s been taking your energy that doesn’t deserve it.

Sometimes, when we are in the thick of it, we end up solving problems for others, trying to be the hero to everyone and putting their needs above our own.

By taking a step back and focusing on your self-growth, ideas, potential, and mission, the fire inside will start to burn brighter.

What we are aiming for here, as Idil Ahmed says, is to recognize our inner glimpse. According to Ahmed, an Inner Glimpse is:

“The moment you experience a spiritual revelation that reminds you of your potential, your power and the ability to see in your imagination the multitude of possibilities that are within your grasp.”

11. Help Another

When we are feeling out of sync with the world, with no motivation to do anything, often one of the quickest ways we can bring ourselves back into alignment with our bigger vision is by helping someone else. This could be by listening to a friend talk about their own life story or helping them prepare for an interview.

Giving doesn’t have to be financial. It can be as simple as making someone feel a little better about their day or more empowered.

12. Watch Your Language

To move yourself swiftly from lounging about on the sofa, barely able to exert the mental energy required to decide which show to watch on Netflix, to a hot ball of enthusiasm and drive, you need to watch how you talk to yourself.

Particularly, this involves watching the words you use both silently and aloud. They should reflect abundance, positivity, solutions, optimism, and passion rather than defeatism, self pity, and hopelessness.

You are at war with yourself. Set yourself up for success by correcting yourself as you go and raising the standard of what you will tolerate in your life as a result.

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More About Finding Motivation

Featured photo credit: Wes Hicks via unsplash.com

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Tim Castle

Bestselling Author, Coach and Co-Founder of My Book Habit

12 Things to Do When You Have No Motivation to Do Anything The Real Reason Why You Experience a Loss of Interest in Life 30 Powerful Quotes to Motivate You to Build Good Habits How To Embrace Change In Life (Even If It’s Hard to Change)

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Published on February 17, 2021

How to Hack the Reward System in Your Brain And Stay Motivated

How to Hack the Reward System in Your Brain And Stay Motivated

How do we achieve our biggest goals in life? Hard work, learning new skills, and staying focused are definitely important things, but one of the most important things we need is motivation. Losing motivation can stop us in our tracks. It can make us procrastinate, doubt our skills and abilities, and take us off the path to success. In the worst cases, a lack of motivation can destroy our goals and kill our dreams.

Where does motivation come from?

It starts with thoughts and chemicals in the reward systems in our brains. It continues to develop in our brains and is further shaped by our behaviors. This is why neuroscience, which is the study of the function of the brain, is so important.

When we understand the basics of neuroscience, we can hack the reward system in our brains so we can stay motivated to achieve our biggest goals.

The Neuroscience of Motivation

At the most basic level, humans want to avoid pain and experience pleasure. Our pleasure-seeking behavior is based on a mental reward system that’s controlled by our brains. This reward system is what keeps us motivated and helps us achieve our biggest goals and dreams.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals in our brains that help shape our thoughts and behaviors. One of the main neurotransmitters in our reward system is the “pleasure” chemical dopamine. Dopamine is produced mainly in the mid-brain and then moves to other areas of the brain, such as the amygdala, which plays a big role in our emotional development. It also moves to the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for thinking, feeling, planning, and taking action.[1]

When you do something pleasurable, your brain releases dopamine to make you feel good mentally and physically. This commonly happens when we eat our favorite foods, have sex, have a great conversation with someone, or do something else we really enjoy. Each time we feel pleasure from doing something, our brains remember what made us feel good. It actually assigns a reward value for everything we do.

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For example, eating a slice of our favorite pizza may have a higher reward value than drinking a smoothie. Being on that tropical vacation will have a higher reward value than watching that water fountain downtown.

Our brains even release dopamine before we engage in those things that make us happy. It’s the expectation of the reward rather than the reward itself that has the strongest influence on our emotional reactions and memories of what’s pleasurable.[2] Just planning that tropical vacation by checking out different locations on a travel site or looking at things we want to buy on Amazon stimulates our reward system by releasing dopamine.

Thinking about starting a project at work that we’re really passionate about also activates our reward system. This act of feeling the pleasure generated by our mental reward systems is what creates reward-seeking behavior and is a big part of motivation.

Vanderbilt University researchers discovered that “go-getters” who are more willing to work hard have greater dopamine activity in the striatum and prefrontal cortex, two areas of the brain that influence motivation and reward.[3]

Hacking Our Brain’s Reward System

Here are four ways to hack the reward system in your brain to stay motivated.

1. Keep Growing

When you do the same things over and over, that dopamine rush tends to get smaller and smaller. A great way to stay motivated is to keep growing by doing bigger and bigger things.

Take on bigger, more challenging projects at work. Once you’ve reached a running or fitness milestone, start working toward a bigger one. If you’re fluent in a foreign language, learn how to have more complex, philosophical conversations. If you have your own business, find ways to acquire more clients so you can generate more profit. Keep learning new skills that will push you to the edge of your comfort zone.

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Taking on greater challenges helps our brain’s reward system continue to assign high reward values to things we do. Start by accomplishing small goals. As you accumulate more and more small wins, work your way up to more challenging goals.

2. Use Visualization

“Visualization is daydreaming with a purpose.”—Bo Bennett

A great way to stay motivated is to visualize accomplishing a goal—even though you haven’t completed it yet. Visualization actually causes the brain to release dopamine. This makes us see our future rewards more clearly and go after them more fervently.

When our brains release dopamine and we feel that rush of euphoria, our hippocampus, which is part of our brain’s limbic system, records those pleasurable moments in our long-term memory. The more we visualize success, the more our brains associate this visualized success with pleasurable feelings.

When we can imagine a better future, we’re motivated to keep pushing forward and overcoming obstacles in our path. This is why people work hard to get raises and promotions, invest their money, put their kids thru college, and do other things that help them or others prosper later in life.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, and other famous and influential people have used visualization to achieve sky-high success.[4] It’s a great way to use the power of your imagination to keep you motivated to succeed.

3. Avoid Excessive Stress

High levels of stress are associated with chronic inflammation, which can cause our motivation to decrease. Researchers at Emory University have theorized that chronic inflammation from stress may cause a chemical reaction in the body that decreases dopamine supplies in the brain.[5]

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Low levels of stress can actually help us perform better by making us more alert. That adrenaline rush we get from stress can give us the energy and the edge to do our best. But when stress levels are high, stress can be damaging to our bodies, minds, and motivation.[6]

High-stress can lead to burnout. In the worse cases, it can cause people to quit projects or quit their jobs. It can cause mental problems such as anxiety or depression. It can lead to health problems like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other illnesses. Reduce stress by doing deep breathing exercises, meditating, running, or exercising regularly.

4. Reframe Challenges

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.—Wayne Dyer

Another great way to hack your brain’s reward system is to change how you look at challenges in your life. A common problem is that many people see difficult work as an obstacle or simply something they don’t like doing.

A good strategy is to look at difficult situations and obstacles as opportunities that will help you and those around you grow. This will help us look at difficult things in a positive light and actually look forward to doing them instead of dreading them.

For example, if three employees on your team aren’t getting along with each other and two of them are thinking about quitting, don’t look at this as a very stressful, terrible problem. Instead, look at the situation as an opportunity to use your interpersonal skills to gather the angry employees together, let them voice their concerns, and then resolve the problem.

It will help them improve personally and professionally. It will also help you and your company prosper as well. You can also apply this same way of thinking to your personal life. If your friends or family members aren’t getting along, use the disagreement as a growth opportunity that will benefit them and you.

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When we can see difficult things as great opportunities, we’ll start to look forward to them. When we look forward to doing things, it makes the reward system in our brains reward us with more dopamine, and it increases the chances that we’ll look at future problems as opportunities to grow.

Conclusion

Motivation is a challenging part of personal and professional development. This is why motivational videos and motivational speeches are so popular. A central part of staying motivated, even during the most challenging times, is to understand how our brains work. Science has given us a good understanding of our brain’s reward system and the chemicals and pathways that allow it to shape our behavior.

Hack that reward system in your brain by taking on bigger challenges, visualizing success, avoiding excessive stress, and looking at difficult situations as opportunities to help others and help yourself grow.

When we begin to master our brains, we’ll be better able to master our lives and achieve those big goals.

More Tips on How to Stay Motivated

Featured photo credit: Giorgio Trovato via unsplash.com

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