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How to Effectively Overcome a Lack of Motivation

How to Effectively Overcome a Lack of Motivation

If you are not motivated from the outset, you won’t have the impetus to take the first step you need to accomplish what you want. If you don’t find a way to stay motivated until you reach your goal, you won’t have the energy you need to get there.

Getting motivated about what you want to do is always easy; but staying motivated afterwards is far more challenging. It is far simpler to get motivated than it is to stay motivated.

How easily do you go from motivation to apathy? Zig Ziglar said it perfectly when he said that motivation doesn’t last, just like bathing, which is why it is recommended daily.

Here are 4 common reasons why you lose motivation and what you can do about it

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1. It is too far out of reach

One of the most common reasons to start losing motivation is when the task starts to get more difficult than anticipated. Have you ever felt really motivated to begin with, but as time goes by your motivation quickly disappears as you realize how challenging it really is? If you don’t feel confident that you can do what you want to and your goal seems too far out of reach, you won’t feel very motivated to take action.

  • If you start to lose confidence and hesitation occurs, don’t give up. First ask yourself; “What is making this so difficult for me?” You want to identify what is causing you to feel this way and what would give you more confidence to continue. Write down whatever comes to mind. It could be that you lack some skill, self esteem, clarity, or time, etc
  • Once you have identified what is causing this, you can now come up with ways to overcome this and you will feel motivated to keep going forward. Instead of giving up on your goal, find a way to feel more confident about your abilities, create mini-goals to support your bigger goal and get motivated again. If you give up because it becomes to difficult, you will be giving up on a lot of things in your life.

2. Feeling trapped

Have you ever felt motivated about what you are doing but felt stuck to take action on it at the same time? If you feel stuck you will procrastinate and quickly start to lose motivation to keep going.

Whenever you want to do something new or take action on a goal, you need to have your feelings and actions aligned. When your feelings are not aligned with the action, nothing will flow and you will feel stuck.When you feel trapped, check in with yourself and identify whether it is the action or your feelings that are stopping you. What are your thoughts and true feelings towards this goal and the actions that you need to take to get there?

Let’s say you are a freelancer looking to take on more clients, this is your main objective. One of the strategies you chose is to send out your portfolio and pitch potential clients. You know this strategy has a high success rate so you have decided to include it in your plan.

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  • If your feelings and thoughts are not aligned, you would think this is a good step to take, but you might then feel stuck because you lack confidence in approaching potential clients and selling yourself. You will get stuck and lose motivation.
  • If your actions are not aligned, you would feel confident in your abilities to sell, but you don’t think this is the best action to take to reach your goal, you reluctantly chose it because you read it was a good thing to do. You will get stuck and lose motivation.

Identity what is keeping you stuck and change what needs to be. Get unstuck and you will get the motivation you need to push forward.

3. You cannot see the return on your investment

Just because something is good for you, it doesn’t mean that you will immediately be motivated by it, you need to have a high return on investment. You need to see a clear and motivating connection between the efforts you put in and what you get out.  A huge mistake is ‘assuming’ that you will be motivated by something and riding on a false sense that ‘this should be motivating’ when it simply isn’t.

You will start to lose motivation when you feel that you have to put in much more effort than you what you think you will get out in the end. There are two ways things you could do in this situation, either decide that it isn’t worth it or spot the reasons why this is something really awesome to do.

  • Intrinsic rewards are more motivating than extrinsic rewards so you can start by connecting your objectives to your values. When your objectives are aligned with your true values, you will find it easier to put the effort in and stay motivated.
  • Then, link as many benefits to what you want to do and bi-benefits, the benefits of those benefits. Find as many meaningful reasons why your intentions would be good for you as you can. Challenge yourself to come up with a list of at least 10 benefits to renew your motivation again.
  • Lastly, you could also get clear on what will happen if you don’t take action. You might find that you are more motivated to move away from what you don’t want than to move towards something you do want.

4.  Feeling disappointed

Ever felt like you were on a canoe rowing upstream, against the current? It is a constant struggle and it feels like you are just not making any progress not matter what. When there are so many struggles, obstacles and challenges ahead and you go from disappointment to disappointment, you lose motivation very quickly.

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Imagine turning the canoe around and letting it flow downstream instead. You can do this by changing the way you are looking at the situation. Feeling let down is not a nice feeling, no one wants to feel let down. Is it possible that there is a message in the ‘let downs’, they are neither good nor bad? Often we keep attracting the same experience until we learn how to manage it in a different better way.

Sometimes you just need to keep hearing the ‘no’s to get to the right yeses’ or sometimes you need see the gift in the situation instead of reacting blindly and only seeing what you want to. These could also be the exact challenges you need to overcome to grow and support you when you reach your goal in the end. If you feel disappointed it is because of the way you see the situation, is it possible there is a better way to look at it? If there is, you will no longer feel a lack of motivation in anyway.

 

If you want to effectively overcome your lack of motivation, identify why it went and then, take massive action to seek out that motivation again – it is always there, you only need to take that extra step to find it and bring it back.

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To your success!

More by this author

Kirstin O´Donovan

Certified Life and Productivity Coach, Founder and CEO of TopResultsCoaching

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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