Lack of motivation simply means you don’t feel like doing the thing you need to do to achieve your goals.
When you feel unmotivated, you feel a little “blah.”
This applies to big and little things. For example, let’s say you want to get your laundry done but you aren’t motivated to do it. This means you don’t have a good enough reason to feel like doing it, even though you want the result of having clean clothes.
Of course, motivation applies to your work, as we often find ourselves saying, “I don’t have the motivation to work.” What we mean when we say this is: we don’t feel like doing something. We don’t feel like completing a task.
When we talk about “not being motivated” to do something, we’re talking about how you FEEL.
And simply put: when you are struggling with motivation, you feel a little stuck, lacking a good reason to do something.
Since all humans have wide ranges of emotions, I want to point out here that to even highly successful people, motivation isn’t a state of being 100% of the time.
Quite the opposite: highly successful people often feel like not wanting to do it. The difference is that highly successful people do it anyway.
Combating lack of motivation is something we experience at some point. And if you struggle with lacking self confidence or self love, you probably experience feeling unmotivated even more often.
Here’s a closer look at how to combat a lack of motivation…
- Related: Self Confidence (podcast)
How To Combat Lack Of Motivation
It’s completely normal to feel unmotivated at times. The good news is you don’t have to stay feeling this way.
The way you can overcome lack of motivation is by acknowledging you’re feeling unmotivated, accepting that feeling, and deciding the think and feel differently on purpose. This will get at the root cause of the problem, which will solve it permanently, which is some of my favorite personal development work.
Here are my best tips for how to combat lack of motivation…
Tip #1: Create a plan to take action
I once heard the quote, “you don’t need motivation, you need a plan.”
I’m not sure who said it but I can tell you 100% this is the TRUTH.
So often we think we should be “lit up” and “excited” by our big goals or the tasks ahead at home (i.e. the laundry) in order to do it but that’s not true.
It’s not your goal’s job to excite you or make you feel good. I think that’s your job. You can think and feel in deliberate ways that create the emotions you want to feel.
And you don’t need a certain level of motivation to get done what you need to do. You need a plan. Motivation problems stem from not having a plan on how to achieve something.
Start by creating a plan to do the very thing you’re not motivated to do.
For me, it’s working out. On default, my brain thinks, “I’m not motivated to work out.” And then I rationalize it with, “losing weight isn’t a goal right now, so it’s fine to skip the exercise.” Then I remind myself of the truth instead of believing my brain’s default tendencies to avoid the gym. My self talk goes like this: “It’s not my goal’s job to motivate me—that’s my job. I don’t need motivation. I need a plan.” Then I get out my calendar and plan what, when, and how I’m going to work out. For example, I go to pilates on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That’s in my calendar. I never need to feel like doing it. I know it’s as good as done because it’s planned. Motivation not required.
When the time comes to workout, I don’t shy away from my plan by scrolling social media or find something around my house to do. I stick with my plan and know that later when I have free time planned, I can use that time for social media, watching tv, or relaxing.
If you’re thinking you need more motivation to take action, try on the thought that you don’t need motivation, you need a plan. Then, create a plan that you’ll actually follow (on to Tip #2 for this one!).
- Planning Mistakes (podcast)
- How To Be Productive When You’re Not Feeling Motivated (blog post)
- Overcoming Self Doubt (free course)
Tip #2: Break tasks into manageable chunks
When you create a plan to take action, make sure to “meet yourself where you are” as I like to say.
This means that if you’re not used to working out, don’t create a plan to run 10 miles this Saturday. It’s too big of a jump for your brain.
The key to taking action when you feeling unmotivated is to break down each step into small actions, based on where you’re starting from.
So, instead of running 10 miles when you haven’t run in over a year, how about just planning to go for a 2 mile walk? This will be easier for your brain.
By breaking down steps into manageable chunks, your brain focuses on your small achievements along the way (more on that in Tip #3!).
Tip #3: Create a track record of small wins
Zero to one is the hardest. Once you get to one, you have momentum. You have a track record that you got to one.
Your brain will find it so much easier to keep going if you help it by achieving small wins.
You’ll feel more motivated and actually stay motivated if you focus on creating small wins.
When you experience small wins like this, really celebrate and acknowledge yourself. Why are we as women particularly bad at this?! At least speaking for myself and the women I coach, we have a predisposition to be people-pleasures, who don’t speak the most highly of ourselves or take the time to celebrate our successes. More on this in Tip #4…
- Resource: Tracking Your Goal Progress (podcast)
Tip #4: Practice Positive Self Talk
The way you talk to yourself will either leave you feeling really good or really bad.
Start by noticing how you talk to yourself.
Part of daily life is the mental chatter you experience (i.e.: your thoughts).
You are not your thoughts. You are the consciousness watching your thoughts, so you can start watching your thoughts, and paying attention to how you talk to yourself.
My guess is you’re not going to like what you find. We tend to be so mean to ourselves on default.
What you can do, though, is accept yourself and all that chatter going on in your brain, and start to change it.
Practice telling yourself really positive thoughts about you that you actually believe (use the list of short motivational mantras below for ideas).
When you improve how you talk to yourself, you’ll create a habit of “positive self talk,” which will give you a sense of motivation built from a newfound self confidence.
- Mental Chatter (podcast)
- Building Confidence From The Inside Out (blog post)
- How To Fix Your Relationship (free course)
Tip #5: Fail Forward (And Often)
The final tip is to fail forward and often.
It can seem counterintuitive. After all, if you have a motivation problem, why would you want to practice failing?! The answer is because you’ll stop making failure mean so much. And when you do this, you’ll take massive action (so much action you can’t help but achieve your goals).
I suggest trying to fail forward at least two days a week. This means that in part of your plan, you try new and different things you think you’ll fail at. You make failing the goal.
For example, if you take the advanced peloton class and are in the bottom half of riders when your goal was to be in the top half, that’s considered failing forward. You didn’t fail by not showing up, you failed by going for it and falling short. This is how you get better. You put yourself in the advanced room and fail forward on purpose.
You can actually increase your motivation by failing forward because you’ll give a new meaning to the actions you’re taking. You’re trying to fail on purpose. It’s a bit of a mind trip for your brain that actually works really well.
Short Motivational Mantras
Here’s a list of short mantras that you can say to yourself when you start to feel overwhelmed, discouraged, and unmotivated, etc.
I don’t love calling these “affirmations” and frequently in coaching I call them “thoughts to borrow.”
Meaning, if you repeat sentences you don’t believe at all, your brain believes the opposite.
However, if you repeat sentences your brain DOES believe, you’ll habitualize the thought into a belief.
So, here you go, my friend. Here’s a list of my best short motivational mantras…
- I can do hard things.
- I was made for this.
- My time is now.
- I don’t have to feel like it in order to do it.
- This is an opportunity to grow.
- Why not me?
- My future self is going to thank me for this.
- There are no failures—only lessons.
- I will try again and again and again because I’m worth it.
- The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is up to you.
- The measure of growth isn’t how easy your life is, but how easy you are on yourself when your life is hard.
If you want to take this thought work to a deeper level, check out Grow You, my virtual life coaching program.
A Final Note!
You’ll improve your mental health when you take time to think and feel deliberately.
This means first bringing awareness to your thoughts and feelings, and then accepting where you are now, even if you feel overwhelmed or have other negative emotions, like feeling unmotivated.
From this place of awareness, you can use the tips above to change your future, embracing all the emotions that come up along the way.