Do you struggle to start tasks that are in your best interests?
Or when you’re in the thick of an important job, do you wriggle around like an ADHD child, looking for any excuse to do something else?
If so, motivation might be the culprit.
Perhaps you’re over-identifying with that little voice in your head…
The one that says you might not do a perfect job, so what’s the point in starting…
Or acting on another impulse that says you’ve done enough for the day and deserve a Mars Bar.
Poor motivation, however, doesn’t result in miniature trophies (unfortunately).
So let’s look at how to tackle it.
Lack of Motivation
Some days it can feel like you’re in the zone, ploughing through a to-do list, building momentum and achieving a sense of fulfilment through completion.
You reach the end of the day tired, but satisfied, knowing that you’ve made progress.
Humans are wired for such development.
It seems strange then, that on another seemingly equal day, it can feel like we’re running through treacle.
Like my erratic golf swing, we just don’t know what we’re doing differently. Why’s today so hard?!
Nothing’s easy. Just scanning your to-do list makes you cry silently inside, let alone actually deciding which herculean task to start.
And when you do finally get going, you’re like a two-year-old who’s been force-fed sugar for three hours. You simply can’t sit still, envisaging all the other activities you’d prefer to be doing.
So why does our motivation frequently hinder us and what can we do about it?
The Power of the Mind
Outwardly, nothing’s changed. As usual, we all have to get up, try to put our trousers on the right way round and generally behave like passable humans.
So instead, we must look within, towards our dastardly little minds.
You see, the mind’s changeable, like the weather.
For no particular reason, one day can be bright and sunny, and we’re streaking through our to-do list like a boss.
Alternatively, it can be a bleak, miserable, pig of a day and it feels like we’re velcroed to the spot.
On the stormy days, our thoughts and emotions swirl, while we try desperately to cling onto our wreckage like a little survivor on the high seas.
On such days, it’s vital to have some mental frameworks ready to counter the soft little mermaid voices in your head trying to lure you onto the rocks…
Some jiggery-pokery to help you reframe the situation and get to work.
So, without further ado, here are three reminders to repeat when you’re struggling with motivation.
Three Essential Self-Motivation Techniques
Poor motivation can stem from a variety of sources.
If your triggers are different, change the wording to best reflect your feelings and re-initiate action.
The idea behind these gears, like driving a technicolour motivation-mobile, is to shift up to the next gear when you develop momentum.
Firstly, when we feel blocked or unmotivated to start, it might be because we’re placing too much pressure on ourselves, either imagining the best performance or outcome possible.
That’s to say when perfectionism takes over.
And like when driving a car up a really steep hill, at these times we may have to shift to first gear to get us moving again.
So if you’re having a psychological meltdown and just can’t seem to start any task, repeat the following:
“Any expectations I’m projecting are completely self-imposed. It doesn’t really matter”
I’ll often use this gear when I’m frustrated with my work, especially when it feels like it’s not generating the results I’d envisaged.
Reminding ourselves that outcomes are arbitrary and we can only control the effort we apply instantly lifts the weight from our shoulders.
Once you’ve reset, the best method to regain action-taking velocity is to perform a mini-task, which should be completely unrelated to your primary objective.
Tasks, like cleaning for two minutes or washing a couple of dishes, are perfect; low-grade activities incorporating movement take your awareness from mind to body, providing not only a sense of completion but also momentum.
Moving up to gear two should be an easier transition once you’re moving and taking action once more.
The gear two mindset builds on the mental framework of gear one, whereby you tell yourself the following:
“Motivation’s a numbers game. The results are irrelevant”
This is the mindset I usually adopt when I’m starting or re-engaging in a task I’ve been avoiding.
The only way to judge yourself in this phase is by the amount of action you take, not the quality of that action.
In that vein, increasing the speed of your execution can help transition quickly back into a proactive mindset.
- Haven’t decided on the perfect hotel for your holiday? Book it.
- Haven’t started your new business plan? Start it.
- Can’t get to the gym? Disengage thought and just go.
Perfectionist tendencies and getting things “just right” can paralyse us; reminding yourself that there’s no perfect outcome before taking decisive action is the perfect antidote.
If the first gear is focused on what to do when you’re stuck and the second gear about building on your momentum by creating a greater volume of action, the gear three mindset revolves more around endurance.
This is when our motivation can really be tested. How hard are we really willing to push, and for how long?
It’s so easy to allow disempowering thoughts to creep in and tell ourselves to take the easy road because we’ve done enough already.
The fact is, our minds don’t like a challenge. From an evolutionary standpoint, our primitive instincts are satiated when we lie down on the sofa, flick on Netflix and stuff our faces with Doritos.
Therefore, whenever you’re engaged in a challenging or concentration-dependent activity, you self-sabotage.
At these times, gear three mindset is all about maintaining your action-taking speed by telling yourself:
“Discomfort makes me grow and I’m the type of person that overcomes every challenge”
You see, it’s only through pain that we adapt.
By cultivating the type of mindset that thrives on hardship, you learn to enjoy hearing the little voices in your head pleading with you to stop, before disregarding them.
It becomes a kind of endurance game in itself. How long can you delay your gratification?
Try using this technique when you’re working out; listen to that self-sabotaging voice, before smiling and pushing harder.
The Primary Motivating Factor
We’re always the ones getting in our own way. No external obstacles impede us in the same way we impede ourselves.
In contrast, concerted action knows no obstacles.
Motivation follows action, not the other way around. When we start taking action, positive feelings follow the task.
So for effective self-motivation techniques, use these three mental frameworks and get busy.