How To FIND Motivation When You Feel Unmotivated
Unsurprisingly when we’re motivated by something, the steps, even the most challenging ones that are in the way of you achieving whatever you’re aiming for seem a lot less intimidating. But how do you find motivation when you feel unmotivated?
Motivation Or Discipline
Motivation is great to have, but it doesn’t always last and can be very up and down.
So how do we find motivation and how do we make it last?
It’s worth noting the difference between motivation and discipline.
Discipline is having habits that are strong enough that you do something even when mentally and physically, you don’t want to. You don’t let yourself get talked out of it.
Motivation is more down to a desire to do something or achieve a specific outcome. It’s much more fleeting and is much more dependent on your mental state.
A really good example is if you stay up late one night and then need to get up early for work the next day.
You wake up tired and you don’t want to get out of bed, but your discipline will normally kick in and you’ll get up and get ready anyway.
Your motivation here might be lacking, but discipline is what kicks in and carries you through.
But if you can find motivation and keep finding motivation, it makes your process of following through on that discipline a lot easier.
So let’s look at ways you can find motivation.
Remember Your Long Term Goal
Keep your long-term goal in mind and remember your purpose or your “why”.
Most things that we get motivated by usually have a big or long term payoff or reward rather than an instant one.
Motivation will help us get started, but it won’t necessarily help us follow all the way through. But keeping that longer term target or goal in mind can help a lot.
For example, I want to have a profitable podcast and well-known YouTube channel.
At the time of recording this, my podcast’s most downloaded episode has five downloads. My most viewed YouTube video has 9 views. It’d be easy to feel discouraged and stop. But I also know that I have that longer-term goal in mind and stopping won’t really get me anywhere near that goal.
And I know that by keeping going, I’ll get practice, I’ll get experience, I’ll get some real data to work with to see what I need to do to improve.
And that will help me figure out what I need to do to get my podcast and my YouTube channel, where I want them to be.
Discipline is carrying me through for now. But that motivation is helping because, at the back of my mind, I constantly have that longer-term goal in mind.
The same might apply to you with your work. You might not be happy with your current role, but you might be building valuable experience to help you move on to something that you would be happier with.
So imagine that you’re putting in the practice now for when you need it later on. You can also probably apply the same to professional athletes (which by the way I am definitely not an experienced voice in talking about). But those gruelling early morning, long training sessions that they have to keep doing that we all look at and think “how on earth do you find the time, the energy, the motivation to do that”.
They have a performance expectation.
They want to win trophies or medals.
They want to be the best at what they do. So that’s their long term, bigger motivation. And that’s going to help get through all those difficult mornings and difficult training sessions.
Make Your Journey As Easy As You Can
Something else to bear in mind is that the easier you can make it to do the things that you find challenging the less you’ll need to rely on your own willpower.
A great example is if you don’t want to get out of your nice warm bed for an early morning workout.
If you set your alarm and leave it out of arm’s reach, and maybe right next to your workout clothes, when that alarm goes off in the morning, you have to get out of bed to switch it off.
By the time you do that, you’re already out of bed and you’re standing right next to your workout clothes anyway.
So you’ve overcome the hardest part and set yourself up to actually do the thing that you need to do.
When I started training at home, I was doing strength and callisthenics in one room. I was going to our makeshift home gym to do my cardio. And then I was coming back to my own bedroom to do stretching and yoga.
And I found that between each room switch, I was losing a little bit of buzz, losing a little bit of motivation to carry through to the next step. And I started questioning whether I actually want to go ahead and proceed with my workout.
I ended up revamping my training style so I could do a complete workout and all the different training modalities I needed to include in one room and then just not having to think about switching or bouncing between different places, made that a little easier.
Follow The Goldilocks Rule
Don’t be over ambitious and don’t be under ambitious. The author James Clear explained this best with his term, the Goldilocks rule.
If you’re setting targets or long-term goals that aren’t ambitious enough, you can kind of coast through so you’re not going to be motivated to actually do anything.
On the flip side, if you aim too high, you’re more likely to get overwhelmed and just decide because you’re not going to get there anyways you’re just going to give up because it feels like an impossible goal.
You need to find something for you that feels challenging, but not too challenging. You can set yourself up for success, and while it’s not in your comfort zone, it’s still achievable.
A good example is if you’ve been running for a while and your 10K run time is around 50 minutes. Say you decide that you want to bring that down to 49 minutes in six months’ time.
That might not be ambitious enough. If you imagine you sign up for a race and adrenaline kicks in, you might be able to do that time without actually needing to do anything to improve your running. You could possibly just get through on adrenaline. That’s of course, specific to your training background.
On the flip side, if you decide that you want to get down to below 40 minutes, that seems a huge decrease, and that might be very unrealistic.
So then you start, you realize how far off that goal is, and then you decide to not even bother.
Depending on your background and how regular you run something in between that’s challenging but achievable, might be to try and get down to under 45 minutes. Because it’s much more realistic than trying to take 20% off your time.
But it does still need some work to get there so you can’t just coast through on it.
Set Smaller Targets Along The Way
Set smaller targets to help you track your journey.
Like I already said, motivation usually leads us to bigger goals or longer term targets, but going from point A to point B can feel like a huge leap. If you break it down into smaller steps and smaller targets along that journey, it makes it much more trackable, and much more manageable, and you can tweak your process as you need to.
My weight loss is a really good example here. From my heaviest to my lightest, I lost around 140 pounds.
The time I actually did it successfully I didn’t just wake up one day and say, “yes, I need to get rid of 140 pounds” and leave it at that as my only goal.
Every time I’ve tried that approach, all I could think about was how far off I was from that target and then I would crash and burn and then just not actually make any progress.
I needed to break it down into monthly and quarterly weight goals. And that gave me a much better idea of my progress.
Then what worked really well for me with that approach was that even if I didn’t hit a target for a specific month, I could still look back and say, “this is how far I’ve actually come anyways”.
I could see how much progress I made since my start date, which on its own can also be very motivating.
Focus On The Things In Your Control
I’m probably going to end up contradicting myself slightly now, but try and focus on things that are in your control.
As I said, I set my targets based on my weight, but my weight isn’t 100% something that I have full, direct control over.
And let me explain that.
I can’t control specifically how much weight my body’s going to lose and how quickly.
What I can control is:
- what I eat
- how much I eat
- how active I am
- what workouts I do
- how much sleep I try and give myself
- how much I hydrate.
Those are all factors that can directly influence my weight, but it’s not like an exact science where I say “I’m going to have this many calories, burn this many calories, lose exactly this amount of weight”.
It’s not an exact equation like that.
In a case like this, what would’ve been better for me is to apply my motivation, to set targets more around my input, than on the output, which I don’t have control over.
I could have said, “I’ll have this many calories per day or these foods, and I’ll do this many workouts per week and I’ll be in bed at nine o’clock or whatever, and I’ll drink this much water every day”.
Those are specific inputs that I can directly control.
How much weight loss that results in, however, as I said is not an exact equation, so it’s not like I can directly decide that.
Another good example is say, you run a business and you start an ad campaign.
You can control where you advertise or what platforms you use. You can control how much you spend. You can control how often you review the ads. You can control what data you review.
So in theory, you can control the amount of money, the amount of knowledge, the amount of research and the amount of education that goes into the ads that you put together.
You can’t however, directly control how many people are going to buy from you. You can make predictions or projections, but you can’t specifically control that.
Again, with something like that, you control the input.
You’re going to try these number of ads or these many ads on these platforms and spend this much. And you want to see this much in sales, but you can’t directly say I’m going to do this and it’s directly going to give me this.
That’s a very long winded way of saying when you’re looking at motivation focus on motivating yourself to do the things that are in your control, not on the things that are out of your control.
Finding Motivation When You Feel Unmotivated
I went off on several tangents over the course of this, but let’s bring it back to the point.
You need both motivation and discipline. Motivation will get you started, but discipline will carry you through when things get tough.
You need to have a long-term goal in mind and keep it in mind. And that’s something that will give you some purpose to everything you’re doing.
You want to make it as easy as possible for you to take the steps that you need to apply the motivation to.
You want to set smaller targets to break down a bigger goal.
And you want to apply your motivation to the things that you can control directly, not the output or results.