How To Keep Going When Lacking Motivation
Jan 25, 2023
Do you find it hard to stay motivated? If so, you are not alone, because it is not possible to stay highly motivated at all times. Of course there are people who seem to have a higher level of motivation ongoing, however, it does not mean they actually do. It is likely more about their mindset and their ability to push through and to keep going despite challenges or discomfort.
As someone who is trained in motivational interviewing and who teaches strategies that help dial up and sustain motivation, I know too well how motivation can come and go. What typically happens is that we get excited about doing something new, we are energized and ready to take action because something is important to us, and then things get hard, uncomfortable, boring, frustrating, or challenging. When this happens to you, your brain will try to tell you all the reasons why you should stop working towards the thing you are trying to achieve and as a result, your motivation drops.
Part of your brain is very old and it is the part of the brain that your ancestors had many, many years ago when they were living in caves and were in real physical danger much of the time. This old part of the brain had only one job back then, and it has the same job for you today, and that job is to conserve energy and keep you safe. The idea of “safe” not only applies to physical danger, but also to discomfort. As I mentioned above, when you are trying to do something new, especially if it is something that is a challenge for you, you will feel discomfort. That is where this old part of your brain wants to pop in and tell you to conserve your energy, put in less effort, or even better, to quit to avoid the discomfort completely.
When you understand this, you will be better able to push through challenges because you will understand what is happening in your brain. I tell clients to talk back to their brains and say things like, “I know you are trying to protect me. I can see what you are doing here but I’m okay and I am going to keep going”. It sounds strange but it can have a significant impact in you taking control of your brain instead of it controlling you. Knowing this about your brain, plus having some other tools to help you keep going when you are lacking motivation can be helpful as well. The bigger the goal, the more energy it will require, and the more discomfort you will potentially experience. Try one or more of the tips below when you want to keep going, despite feeling a lack of motivation to do so.
Tips to help you keep going when lacking motivation.
- Keep it simple. Keep it small. Keep going. As mentioned above, when things start to feel too challenging, boring, or you are starting to get frustrated about the lack of progress you are seeing, you may want to give up. When this happens, do what you can to simplify what you are doing and dial it back if needed…but keep going. For example, with exercise, maybe you are not longer as motivated to go do your hour-long workouts. If this starts to happen, dial it back to thirty minutes or less and/or dial back the intensity. The goal is to stay in the habit of exercising, even if it is not the initial vision you had when highly motivated. Once you do this, your brain will stop resisting the idea of exercise because you will no longer be using as much energy or feeling as much discomfort. Once you reset with this and your mind starts to see exercise as positive again, you can then start to increase the length or intensity of your workouts again.
- Break big goals into smaller goals. Similar to above, if you have a big goal you are working towards, you may initially be very excited about it, however, when it feels like achieving this goal is far away you may want to give up. Let’s face it, we all like to feel like we are making progress and achieving results. When you take your bigger goal and break it into smaller goals, you will start to focus on achieving the smaller goals which should be more “doable”. As you are doing this, be sure to give yourself credit for each smaller goal you accomplish instead of only looking at what still lies ahead. When you keep taking action towards your smaller goals, you will generate momentum and likely more motivation so that you ultimately achieve your larger goal.
- Do the hardest thing first. The hardest thing will likely be the thing you want to keep putting off, however, when you do the hardest thing first, you are taking care of your future self. You are getting a win and you are eliminating the dread you may have all day if you keep putting it off. When you notice the dread bubbling up, ask yourself if putting the hard thing off will make the dread go away, or if it will just prolong the dread until you finally get it done…or give up on it completely. Also, when you think about doing the hardest thing first, adjust your mindset to work for you, rather than against you by following the tip below.
- Shift your mindset about the process. When you are working on something challenging you may be inclined to think that you will feel proud, happy, or satisfied only when you achieve what you are working towards. This is a motivation crusher and potential dream killer if you have a big, longer term goal. Instead of only focusing on the finish line, focus on the process taking place as you work to get to the finish line. As mentioned above, celebrate the smaller wins too, but more importantly, appreciate the person you are becoming on the journey to the finish line. With challenge and discomfort comes growth. When you notice those emotions, instead of telling yourself things like, “It’s too hard”, “I’m not cut out for this”, or “I can’t do this”, try telling yourself, “It’s hard because it is new but I will keep going and I will keep growing”, or “Of course it’s hard, the challenge is what will make me a better version of myself”. You have a choice to put your inner critic in the driver's seat and beat yourself up on your way to the finish line, or you can put your inner coach in the driver's seat and cheer yourself on to the finish line. Your inner coach is more likely to get you to the finish line, and more likely to get you there faster.
- Remember you WHY. When I have clients who decide to do something challenging, I often tell them to write a letter to themselves at the start when they are feeling highly motivated and energized. I advise them to write out as much detail about why they are wanting to achieve their goal, why they are willing to get uncomfortable and do the work required, what it will mean to them when they accomplish their goal, and how it will change them and their lives. When the reality of the challenges, frustrations, doubt, and boredom set in, I tell them to take out the letter and read it to themselves. This helps them get really clear on their WHY again which takes them back to why they started in the first place and helps dial their motivation back up.
- Have powerful affirmations. Affirmations are positive statements that generate positive emotions, motivation, and inspiration. They sound like an inner coach when you say them and they counteract the negative messages that pop in telling you that you should quit when things get challenging. When you use affirmations you are taking control of your mind in a positive way, which will generate positive emotions. When you have positive emotions you will take positive actions that will move you in the direction you want to go, instead of holding yourself back. For examples of affirmations that will help you brainstorm what affirmations may work for you, you can download my Free Guide - 25 Powerful Positive Affirmations HERE. You can also follow me on Instagram where I post a new affirmation in my stories every day. You can check it at @bestbossladylife on Instagram.
- Recharge and reset. When you are feeling really challenged, take a break. Move your body, stretch, meditate, get some sleep if you are sleep deprived, make sure you are hydrated, take a bath, or do some other activity that allows you to take a break from what you have been trying to work on. Doing this can allow you to come back to it with fresh eyes and a clear mind.
Any or all of these tips, along with understanding what is happening in your brain, can help you push through the discomfort you will experience when challenging yourself. When you manage your brain, you can achieve more of what you want in your life.
Live your best boss lady life!
Karen Vincent Solutions
PS: If you are interested in information about additional ways of managing your brain by learning to manage unhelpful thinking patterns, you can grab my free 5 Common Thought Distortions Guide HERE.
PPS: Did you know that I host the Women’s Success Coach Podcast? It is a podcast created to inspire growth and to help you learn, achieve, and evolve in your life ongoing…regardless of your age. You can listen to it anywhere you listen to podcasts. Just type in Women's Success Coach Podcast Karen Vincent and check it out. If you find the content valuable, subscribe so you will be notified when a new episode is released.
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