Can’t get motivated? Try going without.

Do you find yourself interested in doing something productive then when it comes time to actually start, your motivation has vanished?

You may know someone who seems to have endless motivation and never procrastinates. Perhaps that person is very organized, is involved in a number of hobbies or work tasks, or is enthusiastically conquering every workout without a single complaint. You wonder why it seems easy for others but such a challenge for you.

Motivation by definition is a reason one has for acting or behaving in a particular way; or a willingness or desire to do something. Feeling motivated can inspire people to set, act on and achieve goals. Generally, people seem to want to feel motivated. However, the feeling isn’t constant and tends to occur in waves. Sometimes you may feel excited and interested in working towards your goal. You feel productive, energized and the work you’re doing may seem fun or even effortless. You’re proud of the work you’re doing and you feel accomplished. Other times, you have less energy, lose interest and your productivity drops, even if the goal is still very important to you. You may still want the outcome you planned, but putting in the time just seems so challenging. This idea of motivation occurring in waves comes from a theory – the “motivational wave” which is explained here.

It’s normal to have peaks and drops of motivation and we can’t expect to experience motivation constantly. Like many thoughts or feelings, motivation, moods and attitudes tend to be fleeting and temporarily come and go. Of course, acting on a goal can be much more pleasant when we feel motivated, but we don’t need to depend on motivation to carry us through the process of working towards or achieving a goal.

When those peaks of motivation occur, take advantage of them if you can. When you can’t seem to muster up any interest, try going through the steps you set out to do anyway, rather than procrastinating. You may not feel an overwhelming sense of inspiration, but you still put in some time on your plan and may end up glad you did.

When motivation is absent, it’s not a signal to make a different choice. It’s likely that there will be incidents when you have time planned out to work towards your goal and you’re feeling everything but motivation; procrastination, fatigue, distraction and boredom set in. When that happens you can mindfully accept the feeling, though uncomfortable, and get to work anyway. Consider directing your inner dialogue with some mindful guidance such as: “I can feel both unmotivated and go to bootcamp today”, or “I’m aware that my tiredness is making me unmotivated, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still complete this task”, or simply, “I recognize that I don’t feel a wave of motivation right now which will make this activity a bit more challenging in the moment”.

So when the time comes to set a goal and start working on it, consider making a list of why it’s important to you and write down small milestones to keep track of as you go. Reviewing your list can remind you of what motivated you in the first place and show you the accomplishments you’ve already made. Even if reviewing your list doesn’t spark a surge of inspiration, keep in mind you can still spend some time on it anyway.

The strategies I use in working with clients on motivation and acceptance blends Mindfulness techniques with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. If you’d like to learn more, contact me, or find a therapist in your area who utilizes these techniques.