One of the most popular complaints about not being able to complete goals is the belief that we lack motivation.
Motivation is a nebulous feeling that comes and goes whether we want it to or not. One day you may be so psyched up about your goals that you feel like can take on the world and the next day you can barely peel yourself off the sofa.
Just as no one is ever happy all the time, neither is anyone motivated all of the time – and yet this world has some wildly successful people that didn’t get there by chance. There’s a joke in business that it only takes 20 years to become an overnight success. And that’s 20 years of hard work.
In this article I’m going to discuss how to get excited about something when you’re really feeling uninterested in a particular area – could be work, home, health, etc. And then I’m going to talk about why our problem with getting things done probably isn’t due to a lack of motivation.
WHAT TO DO WHEN EVERYTHING IS JUST BLAH
One of the things that has kept the human race alive and moving forward is our incessant curiosity. Our brains are wired to seek out new things and learn about them. And when we do we get a hit of dopamine – which is one of the brain’s reward systems to reinforce behavior.
This function is called the seeking system, and when we ignore it or are not allowed to engage it we start to shut down.
“Shutting down is our body’s way of telling us that we’re meant to do better things.”
– Dan Cable
This is something that so frequently happens in work environments. Workers are expected to play by the existing rules and follow the guidelines set up by the company. Oftentimes little play or experimentation is allowed, let alone encouraged.
And so the workers shut down or worse, burn out.
But work isn’t the only place where we’re susceptible to shut down. Every part of our life can get boring and lack growth and interest. Fitness routines, food, relationships, hobbies, it all needs to engage our desire to learn and experiment in order to keep us excited and motivated to participate.
So what do you do when you have lost interest in something that’s important to you?
HOW TO CREATE MOTIVATION
1. Play to your strengths
While it’s always good to keep working on weaknesses, when you’re feeling unmotivated, focusing on them isn’t going to help. By finding something you’re good at and developing a routine or system or idea around that will help get you excited and keep you engaged.
Getting stuck in a rut is a surefire way to lose motivation and get burned out. Cultivate environments that are a safe place to experiment and play with ideas. Then make a commitment to try one of your new ideas. If you’re bored with your food then commit to trying 1 new restaurant, or a new food at the store, or 1 new meal a week. These experiences will help get you excited again which will cause you to do more.
3. Find your purpose
Things get incredibly hard to do when you don’t know (or care) why you’re doing them. Finding a purpose greater than yourself will help keep your motivation high. If you lack purpose at work, focusing on the steady paycheck is probably not going to keep you going. But if you think about the people that you help by bringing in the paycheck or the people that you help by doing your job, you might come a deeper purpose to help you to move forward.
I WANT TO ACCOMPLISH MY GOALS BUT I’M STILL NOT DOING IT
If you were to come to me and ask me to coach you on trying to get your business started, for example, I would doubt that you lacked motivation. Even though there may be days that you’re struggling and don’t want to get anything done – it’s unlikely that motivation is the issue.
The problem is your action. Or lack thereof.
If you’re willing to pay a coach (or other professional), or can’t stop thinking about something (even if it’s guilt), or you make some steps but then give up – I’m going to say you’re motivated. You’re thinking about it, but you’re just not doing anything about it.
There is an unfortunate dichotomy that the same brain that feels excited and motivated to do something, will also stop you from actually doing it.
The brain that was so excited to start working out, will convince you that tomorrow (or Monday, or the 1st, or anything that isn’t today) is a better day to start.
The brain that thought up that new business idea you were so stoked to start will also shoot down any type of progress.
The mind that wants to start is also the mind that will find 60 gajillion excuses not to.
So if you’re clearly motivated (see above) but still don’t seem to be doing it, what can you do?
STOP THINKING, START DOING
Mel Robbins will tell you that you’ve got about 5 seconds between thinking of an action and your brain making an effort to stop you. And that you need to take that action in that space. Check out her book The 5 Second Rule for more.
While this is an excellent tool to have in your pocket, there are also other strategies to help you get to bypass the excuses and get to the action.
1. Make VERY specific choices and then don’t second guess them
Come up with your plan and then follow through. If the decision is just to get up in the morning (sometime) and do some kind of unspecified workout – that’s pretty easy to avoid. A better way to frame it is I will get up tomorrow morning at 6am, get dressed, and head straight out the door for a run. This is specific, actionable, and because you’re not going to be doing a lot of thinking through your process, you won’t have a chance to come up with as many excuses.
2. Create the right environment
The whole out of sight, out of mind trick works great when you want to avoid something, so you need to do the reverse to get you focused on your goals. If you want to get up and go for that run, lay our your clothes and shoes where you’ll see them when you wake up. Seeing the clothes is a great reminder of your goals, and it will be that much easier to create a habit if you create the trigger of seeing your workout clothes laying there.
3. Find an accountability partner
This concept has already been proven in the weight loss world to help keep people working out. If you know someone else will be there waiting for you, it’s easier to keep motivated to go. But it’s also true in something like solo entrepreneurship. While by definition you’re doing it alone, you can still get help from other people. By telling your goals to someone else that “gets it”, like another entrepreneur, like what you’re going to accomplish by when, you can help each other stay focused on the actions that will move your respective businesses forward.
4. Put it on the calendar
Make whatever it is you’re working on a priority like you would any other appointment. By putting it on the calendar it makes the items seem more tangible and make you feel more committed to getting it done.
5. Don’t get sucked into the mental arguing
This goes back to number one of the list, but it needs to be said again. Don’t allow any second guessing or arguing over whether doing the task is up for debate. The decision to take action is final and no excuses will be entertained. No you may not want to right in this moment, but you will do it, regardless.
While the first couple of weeks of working towards your goals might be a little bit harder, eventually momentum and habits will start to take over. This will make moving towards the goal so much easier and you won’t be fighting off nearly as many excuses for skipping out.
If you’re struggling to find your motivation, or you’re motivated but you’re still not taking action, send me a message. Coaching can help you figure out your roadblocks and how to get through them.