It has happened to all of us at some point of our life. We start out on a journey, full of passion and excitement. We make a good beginning and seem to be progressing towards our goals quite well but as we go along the way, we loose sight of the destination. We feel fatigue and begin to procrastinate. Every step becomes harder to take and longer to complete.
We are unmotivated.
Some people would call this a burnout; others may say a bad month. I call it a motivational slump and I've just hit it in full swing.
Hitting the Slump
I had great plans for this month. Building a library in the Dominican Republic, enjoying a romantic stay at one of the most beautiful Caribbean beach villages, working on a new online business, becoming fluent in Spanish, and the list go on.
But as I've learned over the years, life does not always turn out as planned.
It all started when Paypal decided to limit my account until I provided them a fundraiser license. All the funds donated to our little library project have been frozen with no other viable alternatives. It did not matter how many times I provided them with real evidence that a fundraiser license is not needed in our case, they kept ignoring it, leaving us with no answers and no resolution.
What else? My server crashed for almost a week, my camera broke down when I needed it most, and worse of all, the number '6' on my keyboard stopped working.
Now here's a serious issue for you!
As the month progressed I began to feel completely deflated. I tried to pretend 'business as usual,' but it did not really work. Something more radical had to be done - I needed back my motivation!
Step 1 - Giving the mind and body vacation
I haven't been so unmotivated in quite some time, so it almost felt like a new experience for me. The funny part is that I have always been the guy you call when you needed some motivational pep talk.
In fact, the following email has recently landed in my inbox: "I get very motivated in the beginning, but then the motivation drops. My question to you, how do you handle motivation and focus?"
My email response did not take too long to come: "I suggest you let the day pass and do not judge it. Perhaps, give it a few days. If you still feel unmotivated when you get back to it, you might have to examine your goal."
Sometimes the best solution for an unmotivated period is also the simplest one: a break. We all need to take a breather at some point in order to rest and recharge.
So, I followed my own advice and took a break from everything. I went on long walks on the beach, started a new novel, watched movies, and pretty much gave my mind and body vacation.
Long story short, a break was not the solution. On the contrary, I progressively became frustrated from not seeing any progress. It was time to take my second advice and reexamine my goals.
Step 2 - Reconnecting with the why
Most people set goals in life but far fewer take the time to connect with the "WHY" behind them.
I believe that "why" we're doing something is more important than what or how we're doing it. A deeper understanding of that "why" keeps us motivated throughout the journey and is the starting point to everything we do.
Often the secret of being more motivated is to simply remind ourselves WHY we were interested in pursuing our goals in the first place. The stronger our reason, the more energy we will bring towards it.
When you think about it, nothing really important has ever been achieved without a big why behind it.
I started my little exploration by asking myself a few questions:
- Why is it absolutely necessary that I achieve my goals this year?
- How committed am I to my journey?
- Why is it an absolute must for me to make a change?
- What will happen if I continue with the unmotivated path I'm currently on?
- What will happen if I don't?
- What would be the best environment for achieving my current goals?
- Are there better goals to have?
The first thing I realized as a result of answering these questions is that I expected too much of myself during this month, especially in my current environment. I'll need to change my pace and take smaller steps in order to keep me on track.
I also realized, I need to make a few adjustments to some of my goals and set different routines to support them.
Lastly, I realized that even though I was motivated for the big picture, I still needed a constant and stable source of daily motivation.
Step 3 - Establishing daily motivation
The first question that popped into my head after my little reassessment was "how the hell am I going to motivate myself 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Is it even realistic?"
I decided to tackle this by dedicating a few minutes a day while taking my showers, to feed myself doses of affirmations. These are basically positive statements I'd tell myself repeatedly like a mantra.
To get maximum benefit from this morning exercise, I started to use affirmations that create pictures in my mind (numerous studies show that a mental picture provides a much greater impetus to making lasting changes).
For example, instead of saying to myself something like: "I am highly motivated." I used something more like: "I can SEE myself taking massive action in a purposeful way. I can SEE the results and the satisfaction I'll have when this project is done."
Now I know affirmations might sound silly to you, but I figure that a ceaseless repetition of positive self-talk can only help 🙂
The other alteration I did was to spend a bit more time on constructing daily motivation quotes and share them with others. You can visit my motivational thoughts page and get a dose of motivation straight to your inbox. This will be an ongoing collection of observations about living life, pursuing dreams and making changes. My hope is that through this collection, you’ll be even more motivated as you pursue your own meaningful path.
Step 4 - Defeating procrastination
Besides adopting a new affirmation routine, I decided to review my other habits. I knew that even the smallest change in my routine could help me get out of the slump and back into a mode of productivity. What I basically needed is a way of getting my important tasks (which I was constantly procrastinating on) as part of my daily duties in order to stop avoiding them.
One of those tasks was writing. I've been procrastinating several writing projects for a couple of weeks, finding every way I could to keep myself from getting started on them.
It was time I set a new habit in place: writing every day, even if it's only for a few minutes, until I get my project done.
To make the commitment even more effective, I made sure a daily writing checklist was in place so I'm not going to miss anything. Seeing a checklist near to completion always worked for me as a great boost for my motivation. If I'm able to accomplish so much already, surely I can accomplish the rest.
Step 5 - Taking smaller steps
I always find that it’s easier to get motivated when I'm already in motion. Once I get myself going, it takes less effort to maintain momentum.
The key, I find, is to start the day with the most simple and non-demanding set of tasks and then work my way up. After all, just getting started is everything.
My plan was simple. I will break up some of my goals into smaller pieces so they only require about 10-20 minutes of my time. On top of that, I will time myself so I can get better in the process.
For example, instead of focusing on the goal of building a library in the Dominican Republic, my new goal would be to simply call Paypal to recover the donated funds. That's it. Nothing more. No attachment to the results and the satisfaction would come from simply knowing I did the best I could.
We often tend to ignore our "unmotivated" feeling and push ourselves to achieve goals in the exact same way as other people. I think it's unreasonable and I think it's better we take baby steps towards our target honoring the amount of time, energy and motivation we have available.
Step 6 - Boosting the energy up
One of the most vital resources for motivation is our physical energy. In my book, low physical energy and low motivation are almost synonyms.
It only makes sense that when we're low on the necessary energy needed to start a particular project, our motivation is rerouted to indulge in something more effortless like food or entertainment.
Due to my running injury at the beginning of this month, I was now lacking a reliable source of energy. If you add the limited access to fresh and organic food at the village where I stayed, it's not surprising that I suffered from low energy throughout the month.
My solution: switching running with swimming. The result: a new daily swim regimen that left me refreshed, more spirited, and more capable of tackling my projects each time I got back to my desk. Making my physical needs a priority made the difference. I allowed myself to neglect these needs for too long...
Step 7 - Environment change
Motivation is contagious. Hanging around others who are energized and enthusiastic could be extremely beneficial in my case. However, the fact that I am staying in a small town with very little social activity means that I'm not in the best environment to get my mojo back.
I pondered whether I should change environment now but eventually decided not to. I'm here for a good cause and I want to justify the countless hours I've spent with Paypal and the commitment I made to numerous people who entrusted me with their money. I believe this long-term approach will make a huge impact in the life of many and at the same time allow me to emerge stronger, spiritually and physically.
Time will tell.
In the mean time, I've already made plans to be in a more social setting while traveling in the US so I can breathe motivation and enthusiasm.
Step 8 - Finding motivation from inspiring stories
Have you ever read an inspiring article and felt so motivated that you immediately got to work on your goals?
I know I did. Stories have tremendous transformative power to shape our lives. They capture our imagination. They teach. They stir up our emotions.
I decided to spend a bit more time this month examining other people’s successes and share their stories online. You can find some inspiring stories to light up your day in my Below Zero to Hero site.
Step 9 - Incentivization
If there is something that I've learned while working in the corporate world, it's the power of rewards. I was definitely more motivated when I've been given proper incentives from my previous company.
Now that I'm self-employed, I need to create my own incentive program. I decided to start off with this post. If I finish it today, I'll treat myself with a trip to the cinema.
I'll have to think about new and creative rewards for my other benchmarks, but I can already see how I can have fun with it. Getting a soothing massage, trying a new restaurant, going on a trip.
It does not have to be big. It only needs to be big enough to keep me motivated. It can even be something as simple as letting myself be lazy, doing nothing, for a whole day...
Step 10 - Putting enough pain behind
Rewards are great but pain might be even a more potent motivator for change. In fact, most people will not change until it becomes too painful to stay the same. How many times have we heard stories about people who started their dream business only when they felt the crushing pain of being without a job?
The key here is not to wait until pain hits you in full force. You need to imagine the pain in advance so it can drive you to take action, something with a real sting to it!
One of the reasons people still smoke cigarettes, despite knowing that they are more likely to get cancer, is because they don't believe it can happen tomorrow. Would you still smoke if you knew that every cigarette you smoked was going to cost you a $1000? How about if it was paid to your most hated organization/politician?
One of my biggest motivators is being without my freedom, working in a job that I absolutely hate. The thought always existed at the back of my mind but it became too abstract and distant to be a credible force for motivation. I needed something more tactile and immediate.
I decided to bring the thought to the front of my mind and start visualizing it on regular basis. My main goal is to experience how the pain will feel and to notice every single detail of it.
In addition, I decided to adopt other painful motivational tools such as giving money to someone I don't like. I'll arrange it with my mastermind group for added accountability and might write more about it in the future.
Now, what about you? What kind of an immediate pain can you put at your back to move you forward?
The key point I want you to take from this post is that you have control on the length and duration of your motivation. You, and only you, decide when to turn it on or off.
In psychology there is a term called “secondary payoff.” What it means is that anything "bad" you do has some short-term benefits to it otherwise you wouldn't do it. So in other words, you are creating the feeling of being unmotivated for a reason and part of your journey is to find why you do it.
I hope this article provided some insights of the processes you can take in order to understand and overcome a motivational slump.
From my perspective, motivation is the beginning of all things. It is the petrol and the force that propel you to go ahead. When you have a strong enough motivation, you can move mountains. When motivation lapses, however, you get sidetracked. In a few cases, you give up totally.
Setting goals is easy. What truly matters at the end of the day is having the sufficient sums of drive and determination to place all your heart, mind and work into moving yourself in the direction of accomplishing your goals.
Life is a one-time opportunity. This day, once gone, will never ever exist again. Don't let it go by feeling uninspired and unmotivated. It is not out there. Motivation is developed and sustained from within.
Live out the Dream!
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* If you're looking for more inspiration to help you on your personal development journey, you may want to check out my extensive list of SMART goals. This page is packed with thousands of different goal ideas that can help you set new aspirations and reach higher heights in your life. Personally, this page helped me to create my own 100 life goals list, which I pursued for over a decade.
Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.