We’ve all been there at some point. There is a task ahead of us, we need to get to it and complete it, but we just don’t feel like it. We need to get off the bed, pick up the phone, and ring our doctor for an appointment. There’s a social event coming up and there are a million other things we’d rather be doing, such as shoveling in ice-cream and watching reruns of Friends.
It’s all okay. It’s all understandable. There are too many factors that can contribute to a lack of motivation or willingness to do something for us to avoid all of them. Now and then, it’s established that this is something that happens, more or less, to all of us. One question prevails, though: How can we overcome this general lack of motivation?
Here are 10 practical tips for taking action when you don’t feel like it:
1. Localize the problem
A good starting point is to uncover what it is exactly that’s making you avoid doing a certain something. In most cases, it’s because the task at hand is unpleasant or because we dread going to it. In other instances, it could be because the initial excitement has washed away and you’re stuck in the most difficult part – the middle.
“Life is in different stages. Every stage of life is the foundation for the next stage of life. Every stage of life must be fully-lived” – Lailah Gifty Akita
2. Set up the stage
Now that you found the catalyst, work towards combating it by making your task impossible to avoid. Clean out your entire schedule, do everything else you could possibly do first, and then you’ll end up stuck with this one thing and nothing else.
3. Keep the end result in mind
If we’re talking about something like making an unwanted call or going to an unpleasant meeting, thinking about the long game greatly helps. Just think about how short a phone call is and how it won’t matter at all a few minutes later. If you can’t get yourself motivated or to genuinely want to do this thing, just look forward to it ending instead.
4. Find motivation
Not in the literal sense. If we were able to get motivated on cue then we wouldn’t have a problem that needs to be solved by the tips in this article, right? Real motivation is finding this little spark that might trigger your desire to take the action. Set your eyes on someone that inspires you and use this admiration as a starting point. Pick out the positives from a task and focus on them to build excitement.
5. Show commitment
The keyword here is show commitment. If you’re a person that values the opinions and views of others, your biggest advantage might be putting your goal out there for the world to see. If you want to lose weight, for example, publish a post announcing your intention on social media. Saying it to someone’s face works too, but having it posted online is a lot more effective. After all, what’s on the Internet stays on the Internet forever.
6. Make Notes
Aside from commitment with the help of others, you can also do it all by yourself. Make some notes constantly reminding you of your goal and leave them in a place you know you’ll read them. Don’t lose sight of the goal and think about it on a daily basis. This technique will gradually lessen the weight of your task and it will make it seem more achievable.
7. Start small
Failures are a part of life just like successes. Don’t expect a huge result right off the bat. Start off small and gradually increase difficulty. If you want to work out, start with a short 10-minute routine. If you have to write a paper, tell yourself that you’ll write 200 words today, 300 words tomorrow, and keep increasing the number.
8. Find Joy
Find joy in these small successes. Go into the task with minimal expectations. When you manage to get those 10 minutes of exercise done, see it as a positive thing. In turn, it will boost motivation and it will make you realize that your goal is within reach.
9. Accept the fickleness
Another important thing is to realize the fact that, no matter how many tips and motivational exercises you will undergo, this is still a task that doesn’t exactly fill you with joy. If, after a few days of good work, you find yourself lack in motivation again, this is not the end. Motivation is like a rollercoaster. Take a break, repeat the previous steps, press the reboot button, and start over again.
“Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz
10. Reach for help
Don’t steer away from the support of others. You might actually need it, especially if you have difficulties picking yourself up again. The people who know about your goal will very likely be there to help you rather than to judge you.
The best advice I can give is to constantly keep your eyes on the benefits, to swap negative thoughts for positive ones. Find some sort of reward at the end of the task’s completion. If you can’t, follow these tips and accept the fact that you can’t be 100% committed to this particular goal, but that it can be done regardless.
What are some things you do to help yourself take action even when you don’t feel like it? Please share in the comment section below!
How to Stay Motivated to Achieve Your Goals
Time is the raw material of our lives. How we choose to spend it, shapes our life accordingly. So having the motivation to spend it on achieving goals is crucial to creating a life we want.
What is Motivation?
The Oxford dictionary defines motivation as the desire or willingness to do something – our drive to take action.
Scientifically, motivation has its roots in the dopamine pathways of our brains. When we do something that feels good, that’s dopamine kicking in. Our actions are driven by the desire for that reward (the good feeling).
Author Steven Pressfield describes motivation more practically. He says we hit a point where the pain of not doing something becomes greater than the pain of doing it. He sees motivation as crossing the threshold where it’s easier to take action than it is to be idle. Like choosing to feel awkward while making sales calls over feeling disappointed about a diminishing bank account.
However you choose to think about it, we all want to harness motivation to achieve our goals.
How to Get Motivated
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that most people misunderstand motivation. They think that motivation is what gets us to take action. In reality, motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Once we start a task, it’s easier to continue making progress. Like Isaac Newton’s first law: objects in motion stay in motion.
This means most of the resistance when working on your goals comes right before we start. Since motivation naturally occurs after we start, we need to focus on making starting easier.
4 Ways to Make Starting Easier
1. Schedule it
One reason people can’t get started on things is that they haven’t planned when to do it.
When things aren’t scheduled it’s easier for them to fall by the wayside. You’ll end up hoping motivation falls in your lap or hoping that you’ll muster enough willpower to get it done.
An article in the Guardian said, “If you waste resources trying to decide when or where to work, you’ll impede your capacity to do the work.”
2. Measure something
It’s easy to feel uninspired when you don’t know if you’re making progress or what you’re even working towards. That’s why you need to make your success measurable in some way. Starting is easy when you know exactly how much closer your current actions will bring you to achieving your goal.
3. Extrinsic motivation
This type of motivation is from external factors. It can be either positive or negative. Positive motivation consists of incentives like money, prizes, and grades. Negative motivation consists of deterrents like being fired, having a fight, or being fined. Extrinsic motivation doesn’t work effectively long-term, but it can work well in the short term to get you started on something.
4. Make it public
Keep yourself accountable by telling friends and family your goals, or even sharing them on social media. This makes it easier to start something because you’re pressured to not let others down.
How to Stay Motivated Long Term
When we say we want to feel motivated to do something, we don’t want to be pushed or guilted into doing a task. We want to be so attracted and drawn to the idea that we can’t resist not taking action. That’s why it’s important to build a foundation that will set you up for consistency.
These are 5 techniques that will help you do just that:
1. Stay in your goldilocks zone
The goldilocks zone is when a task is the perfect level of difficulty—not too hard and not too easy. In this zone, we reach peak motivation and focus.
For example, let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against a 4-year-old. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become bored and not want to play. Now let’s say you’re playing a serious tennis match against Serena Williams. On this level of difficulty, you’ll quickly become demotivated because the match is too challenging.
The Goldilocks zone is in the middle of that spectrum. You want to face someone with equal skill as you. That way you have a chance to win, but you have to focus and try for it. Adjusting your workload and goals over time to stay within your Goldilocks zone keeps you engaged and motivated long-term.
2. Pursue intrinsically motivated goals
Being intrinsically motivated to achieve a goal is when you want to achieve it for what it is. There are no external factors like a reward or the risk of being fired. The drive behind your actions is coming from within.
For most intrinsic goals we pursue them because they will enrich our lives or bring us closer to fulfillment. That makes these goals extremely sustainable long-term because they directly affect our quality of life and the things we care about.
3. Use “chunking”
Chunking is the technique of breaking down a goal into smaller short-term targets. By doing this you achieve multiple successes in your pursuit of the main goal. This triggers the brain’s reward system and drives you to keep going.
Traditionally, you may set a goal that you expect to achieve in one year. That’s a long time to commit without seeing any results along the way. By chunking your goals into monthly or quarterly targets, you get the consistent positive reinforcement you need to stay motivated long-term.
For example, instead of trying to lose 50 pounds in one year, try to lose 4 pounds every month for 12 months.
4. Be flexible
We’re all victims of circumstance. Things happen along our journey that we can either adjust to or quit because of. That’s why it’s important to have leeway and flexibility when you’re pursuing a goal. If you expect everything to go perfectly, the inevitable failure can make you disengaged and desireless. When you plan for things to go wrong, you make sure you can keep up for the long haul.
5. Pursue your goals in a sustainable fashion
Don’t lose hope when you’re not an overnight success. Overnight successes are the 1%—for the most part, they don’t exist. What we see as an “overnight success” is actually countless hours of work behind the scenes finally hitting a tipping point. Pursuing goals is a story of patience, persistence, and unseen effort.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is a recipe for a drop in self-confidence and satisfaction. It also cultivates a mindset where you think you haven’t done enough. As a result, you may raise your expectations and put more pressure on yourself.
This is pointless because things worth achieving take time. So we obviously won’t compare to the things around us when starting.
Mastering motivation is a superpower. With that ability at your fingertips, you can accomplish your goals and shape a life you want to live in.
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