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How to move forward when you're just not motivated!

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

How many times have you said I “I’m just not motivated” to {get up earlier, exercise, work on that project, or whatever it is that you’d decided is important for you to do}?

Heck, I’ve said it myself many times. The truth is, we can’t wait to feel motivated.

The quickest way to break out of this rut is to take action. Take one step forward.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be “good”, it just needs to be one step forward so that you don’t feel stuck, stuck in the loop of not moving toward your goal. Sometimes simply doing one thing to get you moving is enough to cultivate motivation. And it’s these micro actions- these small steps that ultimately add up to big changes. When that initial desire to take action toward a goal wears off, there are ways to build and maintain momentum for long-term success. You all have likely experienced this- you get super motivated to start something and then the initial excitement fades and you’re left with relying on willpower to continue which doesn’t consistently work. So, here are three additional ways to build and maintain momentum to keep you moving forward: 1. Have a really good reason(s) for wanting to reach your goal (big or small). The more reasons the better! You need to love your whys- they will motivate you when you’re brain throws up barriers. And you can be sure that’ll happen, because the job of our primitive brain (our survival brain) is to seek pleasure, avoid pain and take the easy/familiar path.

But, I have good news…the prefrontal cortex part of our brain is responsible for higher level decision-making (this is the part of our brain that’s responsible for making decisions ahead of time), so we simply need to recognize when the primitive brain is throwing a toddler temper tantrum, remember why we set the goal for ourselves in the first place and simply take action despite the primitive brain’s protest. 2. Build in positive feedback. If you’re starting a strength program, conquering your first “real” push-up is an example. If you’re working on a major project, breaking it down into smaller phases and competing "phase one" might be positive feedback to motivate you. These are internal motivators and they don’t require any external feedback from others. I mean, it's always nice to hear a compliment (e.g., someone telling you that you look really strong or your boss telling you that you did a good job on a project), but you can’t always count on the external praise. But, you CAN always count on the internally-derived positive feedback to cultivate motivation for yourself.

3. If you want to feel motivated in the moment, identify what thought you would need to think to feel motivated in that moment. Meet one of my clients. She came to me with a problem- she wanted to be more productive in the morning before she went to work and she didn’t want to be stressed while doing it. She wanted to succeed in this area, because she wanted to spend more time with her family when she got home from work.

She initially had a LOT of thoughts around her mornings, two specific ones were “I’m not a morning person” and “I can’t be productive in the morning.”

Now, I would argue that you don’t need to be a morning person to be productive in the morning, but that’s neither here nor there.

The key here is that she spoke like both of these thoughts were facts, which they’re not. Thoughts are just stories that we tell ourselves over and over until we think they are true.

When she had the thought, I can’t be productive in the morning, she felt unmotivated. Feeling unmotivated led her to scroll social media, mindless browse online shopping websites, she’d start a couple different tasks around the house but not finish them (e.g., gathering laundry, but not putting it in the washing machine), she wouldn’t exercise which is something she wanted to do, and she’d also procrastinate getting ready for work and then she’d be rushing out the door. The result is that she didn’t get anything meaningful done in the morning and her mornings weren’t serving her.

I asked her to tell me what an ideal weekday morning would look like. She then picked three things she wanted to implement right away to get started.

I asked her what she would need to think to feel motivated. Her response was, “I am super productive in the morning”. Now, that thought wasn’t initially believable to her, so we started with “I’m learning to be more productive in the morning”. That led her to feel motivated and feeling motivated led her to plan one household tasks ahead of time that she completed in the morning (not just started, but completed), she got in 20 mins of exercise, and she got into the shower by a certain time (she also didn’t go on her phone). This led her to get shit done in the morning (she honored her plans). This is the result that she created for herself.

Now, after practicing this thought, “I’m learning to be more productive in the morning” and practicing her new routine, she did ultimately believes the thought “I am super productive in the morning”. And, she eventually implemented more things into her morning routine because the first few became habit.

This tool is gold- so review it, practice it and see exactly what it can do for you! To wrap up {yes, this was a long one} don’t wait to feel motivated!

Cultivate motivation by trying these tools and strategies.

Pick a couple of these to try out. You don’t have to use them all (ditch the “all or nothing” mentality) and you don’t have to do it perfectly (spoiler alert: perfect doesn’t exist). Where does lack of motivation show up for you? Which of these tips are you going to try first? Reach out with questions or for advice, I can help!

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