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Last Updated on February 16, 2021

12 Things To Do When You’re Feeling Discouraged

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12 Things To Do When You’re Feeling Discouraged

Everyone deals with discouragement at some point in their life.  It’s part of what makes the human experience rich—the highs and the lows.  If we didn’t experience the lows, then we wouldn’t appreciate the highs.

Discouragement, disappointment, failure, and setbacks—these are all things that can help us if we maintain an empowering mindset.  The key to life is to learn from these experiences, and minimize the amount of time that we allow ourselves to stay discouraged. So the next time you start to feel discouragement, here is what you should do:

1. Take the long view.

Discouragement generally occurs when our expectations (what we think should happen) don’t align with reality (what actually happens).  In many cases our expectations are unrealistic, and this often has to do with how long we think things should happen.  If we take a longer view, and relax our expectations a little, it can really help to decrease discouragement.  The reality is that most things that are worthwhile take a lot of effort and time to come to fruition.  So be patient!

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2. Remember, there is no such thing as failure. There is only education.

When we feel like we have failed at something, discouragement often follows.  However, failure doesn’t really exist, except for the meaning that we give it.  If we don’t get the result that we want, when we want it, we just need to take new action.  We can choose, instead of thinking of failure as bad, to think of failure as education, and therefore good.  When we view it this way we realize that failure isn’t something that is bad, or something to be avoided. It is simply feedback. It is simply education. When we think this way we ease discouragement.

3. Stay true to our vision. See it again in our mind.

If we are feeling discouraged, think about our vision.  Think about what we want to create in our life. See it clearly.  Feel what it would feel like if the image came into reality.  What would this mean for us?  How would we feel.  Once we see it, and feel it, we will also feel empowered and our discouragement will dissipate.

4. Don’t let our ego get in the way of our development.

Our ego is often the primary cause of our feelings of disappointment and discouragement.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  We can control our ego.  When we do this, we are on the path of development. When we are internally strong enough to handle constructive criticism, and feedback, we receive the rewards of growth.  Growth leads to happiness.  When we are growing we feel good, and we aren’t discouraged.

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5. Stop comparing ourself to others.  We’re on a unique path.

A sure fire, 100% guaranteed way to get discouraged is to focus on other people in a comparative way.  Here is why: we generally see their victories, successes, and strengths. We see what they have and what we don’t. We see why they are better than us. When we do this we get discouraged and we feel sorry for ourselves. We don’t as easily see their struggles, their fears, their setbacks, and their failures.  So don’t do it.  It isn’t empowering. Don’t compare. We are on a unique path.  It is great to be inspired by another, but if by hearing another’s story, we feel that we are lesser, then we need to just focus on our own path.

6. Detach from rewards, focus on our actions and giving our best work.

If our sole motivation for doing something is the reward that we might get from the action, then we are setting ourselves up for discouragement.  Action should be its own reward.  When it is, we are forever free.  Freedom is at the heart of happiness.  When we don’t need someone else’s praise for doing something, when we don’t need a “carrot” for performing our work, then we are truly free to just focus on our work and make it great.  When we create great work we are happy.

To help you focus on your actions easily, here’s a Worksheet for Instant Motivation Boost that can guide you to stay motivated and move foward. Grab your free worksheet and regain lost motivation quickly!

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7. Change our “rules” for being happy.

What rule do we have to be happy?  What has to happen for us to feel successful?  Is it in our control?  If it isn’t then we might be setting ourselves up for failure.  By rules I mean the set of circumstances that must be present for us to feel accomplished.  For example if I have a rule that says something has to happen to feel successful, what if I don’t ever reach it? Or even worse, does it mean that I never get to feel successful until I reach it?  That is a sad way to live.  We have to create rules that serve us. We have to live by rules that are within our control.  Here are some of my rules:  I am successful when I grow and improve.  I am successful when I give my very best.

8. Consider who we are spending time with.

The people who we spend the most time with might be a major contributing factor to feeling discouragement.  This can be a very hard one, especially if those people are family and loved ones. We have a tendency to become who we most frequently associate with, and if we spend all our time with people who are constantly negative, and feeling sorry for themselves, we can be influenced to see life through a similar lens.  So what can we do?  We can’t simply cut loved ones out of our lives. So what we should do is simply expand our social network.  Join a peer group that is positive.  Start to surround ourselves with positive people as a balance.  Over time we will start to take on their mindset and this will help with any feelings of discouragement we may have.

9. Get outside, move and breathe.

Fresh air and sunshine can have an amazing effect on our feelings.  Sometimes when we are feeling down, all that we need to do is simply to go outside and breathe.  Movement and exercise is also a fantastic way to feel better.  Positive emotions can be generated by motion.  So if we start to feel down, take some deep breathes, go outside, feel the fresh air, let the sun hit our face, go for a hike, a walk, a bike ride, a swim, a run, whatever.  We will feel better if we do this.

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10. Talk to our mentor.

Our mentor can be a great source of wisdom when we are feeling down.  So when discouragement rears its ugly head, go have a coffee with our mentor.  They will be able to give us wisdom based on experience.  In many cases they will also give us tough love and help us to snap out of it if we are feeling sorry for ourselves.  They will also help us to make a specific plan of action to work our way out of discouragement.

11. Do a mind map.

A mind map is a simple and empowering exercise that can help trigger our creativity and also pull us out of discouragement.  Take a blank piece of paper or a whiteboard. In the middle write out what it is that we want (our goal).  Then map our ideas that will get us there.  Use arrows originating from our goal and pointing to the various actions that we could take.  Break those actions down into sub actions.  Spend a good hour of so on this activity.  Once we are done we will have a great plan of action.  Then get to work.  Work will break the chains of discouragement better than anything.

12. Go find someone who we can help.

This is a great way to alleviate discouragement.  Go find someone who needs help, and then help them.  It is really that simple.  When we serve others, when we go out of our way to help other people in need, we feel better.  It is impossible to be discouraged when we are giving all our efforts on behalf of another.  Discouragement is a really a self-driven symptom.  We are focusing on ourselves.  That is why we feel bad.  Something isn’t right in “our” life.  However, when we stop thinking about ourselves, and when we direct our attention to another, we feel better.

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Featured photo credit: Ethan Sykes via unsplash.com

More by this author

Ryan Clements

A lawyer turned marketing professional, entrepreneur and writer who writes about entrepreneurship, career and personal development.

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Published on September 27, 2021

What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

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What Is Incentive Motivation And Does It Work?

We’ve all needed a bit of inspiration at some time in our lives. In the past year or two, that need most likely has grown. Who hasn’t been trying to shed those extra pounds we put on during the pandemic? Who hasn’t felt the need to fake a little enthusiasm at joining yet another Zoom call? Who hasn’t been trying to get excited about trekking back into the office for a 9 to 5 (longer if you add in the commute)? Feeling “meh” is a sign of our times. So, too, is incentive motivation, a way to get back our spark, our drive, and our pursuit of the things we say we want most.

In this article, I’ll talk about what incentive motivation is and how it works.

What Is Incentive Motivation?

Incentive motivation is an area of study in psychology focused on human motivation. What is it that gets us to go from couch potato to running a marathon? What spurs us to get the Covid vaccine—or to forgo it? What is it that influences us to think or act in a certain way? Incentive motivation is concerned with the way goals influence behavior.[1] By all accounts, it works if the incentive being used holds significance for the person.

The Roots of Incentive Motivation

Incentive motivation’s roots can be traced back to when we were children. I’m sure many of us have similar memories of being told to “eat all our veggies” so that we would “grow up to be big and strong,” and if we did eat those veggies, we would be rewarded with a weekend trip to a carnival or amusement park or playground of choice. The incentive of that outing was something we wanted enough to have it influence our behavior.

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Growing up, incentive motivation continues to play a major role in what we choose to do. For example, while we may not have relished the idea of spending years studying, getting good grades, pursuing advanced degrees, and graduating with sizeable debt from student loans, a great many of us decided to do just that. Why? Because the end goal of a career, a coveted title, and the associated incentives of financial reward and joy in doing something we love were powerful motivators.

One researcher who believes in the power of incentive motivation is weight management expert, co-author of the book State of Slim, and co-founder of the transformational weight loss program of the same name, Dr. Holly Wyatt. Her work with her clients has proven time and again that when motivation fizzles, incentives can reignite those motivational fires.

“Eat more veggies, exercise, keep track of my weight: These things and more DO work, but bottom line, you gotta keep doing them. Setting up rituals and routines to put your efforts on auto-pilot is one way. And along the way, the use of both external and internal motivators helps keep people on track. External motivation sources are those things outside of ourselves that help to motivate us. They’re powerful, like pouring gasoline on a fire. But they may not last very long. Internal motivators are more tied into the reasons WHY we want to reach our goals. In my State of Slim weight loss program, we spend a lot of time on what I call ‘peeling back the onion’ to find the WHY. I think the internal motivators are more powerful, especially for the long-term, but they may take longer to build. They’re the hot coals that keep our motivational fires burning.”

Examples of Incentive Motivation

In the way of incentive motivation, specific to the external motivators, Dr. Wyatt challenges her clients to commit to changing just one behavior that will help them reach their weight loss goals. Clients must then agree to a “carrot” or a “stick” as either their reward for accomplishing what they say they will do or as their punishment for falling short. Those incentives might be something like enjoying a spa day if they do the thing they said they would do or sweating it out while running up and down the stairwell of their apartment building a certain number of times as punishment for not following through.

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Whatever they choose, the goal must be something they really want, and the incentive must be something that matters to them enough to influence their behaviors in reaching those goals. Some people are more motivated by some sort of meaningful reward (a carrot) whereas, other people are more motivated by some sort of negative consequence or the taking away of a privilege (the stick).

Another example of incentive motivation is playing out currently with companies and government entities offering perks to people who get the Covid vaccine. Nationwide, offers are being made in the way of lottery tickets, cash prizes, concert seats, free admission to events and discounts for food, and even free drink at local restaurants and bars. The list of incentives being offered to the public to increase vaccination rates is pretty extensive and quite creative.[2]  These incentives are financial, social, and even hit on moral sensibilities. But is this particular incentive motivation working?

Remember that a key to incentive motivation working is if the individual puts importance on the reward being received on the ultimate goal. So, not all incentives will motivate people in the same way. According to Stephen L. Franzoi, “The value of an incentive can change over time and in different situations.”[3]

How Does Incentive Motivation Differ from Other Types of Motivators?

Incentive motivation is just one type of motivating force that relies on external factors. While rewards are powerful tools in influencing behaviors, a few other options may be more aligned with who you are and what gets you moving toward your goals.

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Fear Motivation

In many ways, being motivated by fear is the very opposite of being motivated by incentives. Rather than pursuing some reward, it’s the avoidance of some consequence or painful punishment that sparks someone into action. For example, married couples may “forsake all others” not out of love or commitment but out of a fear that they may be “taken to the cleaners” by their spouses if their infidelities are revealed.

Another example wherein fear becomes the great motivator is one we’re hearing about more and more as we’re coming out of this pandemic—the fear of being poor. The fear of being poor has kept many people in jobs they hate. It’s only now that we see a reversal as headlines are shining a light on just how many workers are quitting and refusing to go back to the way things were.

Social Motivation

Human beings are social creatures. The desire to belong is a powerful motivator. This type of social motivation sparks one’s behavior in ways that, hopefully, result in an individual being accepted by a certain group or other individuals.

The rise of the Internet and the explosion of social media engagement has been both positive and negative in its power to motivate us to be included among what during our school days would be called “the cool kids” or “cliques” (jocks, nerds, artsy, gamers, etc.). We probably all have experienced at one time or another the feelings associated with “not being chosen”—whether to be on a team to play some game or as the winning candidate for some job or competition. Social rejection can make or break us.

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Before You Get Up and Go…

Know that, especially during these challenging times, it’s “normal” and very much “okay” to feel a lack of motivation. Know, too, that external motivators, such as those we’ve talked about in this article, can be great tools to get your spark back. We’ve only touched on a few here. There are many more—both external and internal.

Remember that these external motivators, such as incentive motivations, are only as powerful as the importance placed on the reward by the individual. It’s also important to note that if there isn’t an aligned internal motivation, the results will more than likely be short-lived.

For example, losing a certain amount of weight because you want to fit into some outfit you intend to wear at some public event may get you to where you want to be. But will it hold up after your party? Or will those pounds find their way back to you? If you want to be rewarded at work with that trip to the islands because you’ve topped the charts in sales and hustle to make your numbers, will you be motivated again and again for that same incentive? Or will you need more and more to stay motivated?

Viktor Frankl, the 20th-century psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author of the best-selling book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is quoted as having said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” As important as external motivators like incentives may be in influencing behaviors, the key is always to align them with one’s internal “why”—only then will the results be long-lived.

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So, how might incentive motivation influence you and your behavior toward goals? Knowing your answer might keep you energized no matter what your journey and help to further your successes.

Featured photo credit: Atharva Tulsi via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Britannica: Incentive motivation
[2] National Governors Association: COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives
[3] verywellmind: The Incentive Theory of Motivation

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