Prepared for PoppyLead December 2020 by Lana Kitcher, of LK Consultants
What is Motivation?
“Motivation is an internal process. Whether we define it as a drive or a need, motivation is a condition inside us that desires a change, either in the self or the environment (Reeve, 2018).” Quoted source.
A key question I am asked often is, “how do I get more motivated?”
Well, my dear, that is a very loaded question. There are so many sides to it and we’ll have to dig a little deeper to figure out what’s really going on and how we can help you get unstuck. For example:
Q: “What are you trying to get motivated to do?”
A: “I’ve been trying to create an eCourse for two years now and I just can’t seem to make myself do it.”
There’s no, one, simple answer to the questions “how can I get more motivated” or “why am I not motivated to do this?” And depending on who you ask, a biologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, behavioral therapist, habit or productivity expert, you’re going to get different responses and opinions. Here is one side of the story.
Below I’ve outlined six common reasons and solutions for when you’re feeling stuck and unmotivated. Each situation might be different, so the next time you come to a task that you’re lacking motivation on, run through these scenarios, identify the culprit, and see what you can do to gain momentum!
Six Reasons You’re Unmotivated
(and what to do about it!)
1. You’re trying to fulfill an old version of you, your goal, or your business direction. You’re called to do something else and you haven’t been listening!
Going back to our first example, creating an eCourse was a goal you once had, but is no longer something that deep down you want to be working on. Either it is an old goal you think you should stick to, or you haven’t yet realized that it’s really not the right path anymore. This is exactly the scenario I found myself in just this year.
I had been “wanting” to create an eCourse for several years, I went through all of the steps and removed all of the barriers, but block after block kept me from doing the course. Failed attempt after failed attempt. It took trying an “akashic record” reading for me to finally open my eyes, and realize that my time would be better spent elsewhere - that I’d be getting more ground and fulfillment in a new area. I may still go back to the course someday, but perhaps when I have a clearer topic, and feel more passionate about bringing that material to the world.
Next step: Try this exercise
Have you forgotten your why? If you explore this, are you able to get back there? Maybe it’s changed? Write down your why, and keep asking why until you can no longer dig any deeper. What do you find?
2. You are looking at a project disguised as a task.
The project you’re looking at is a huge undertaking and when you look at the mountain, all you see is how high you have to climb. You need to break down the project into sections, and then break down the sections into manageable, tiny tasks. The very next task should be in its absolute smallest form. Sometimes you don’t actually know how to accomplish the next step, and need to bring in outside help – either ask someone a question, bring in a consultant, bring in an expert or a contractor, etc.
Next step: Try this exercise
Write out the very next task, as small as it can get, for the project you want to work on. Not something like “create the website for my eCourse” but rather “spend 20 minutes writing the first draft of my 'who is this for' pitch" or “consult for 15 minutes with Grace about the website she uses and if she recommends it.”
3. You're not using inertia to your advantage.
Newton’s First Law of Motion, or The Law of Inertia, states: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
This is the same for people, too. If you’ve gone a long period of time at rest, you and your body tend to want to stay that way. “Motivation is often the result of action, not the cause of it. Getting started, even in very small ways, is a form of active inspiration that naturally produces momentum.” writes James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. Here is his extremely well-written online article about motivation and how you can use habits to get motivated. His book is also highly recommended.
Next step: take action
Have you heard of Mel Robbins’s 5-Second rule? Even if it were something she didn’t really want to do, like get out of bed at 6am, she’d give herself 5 seconds to do it before the brain and excuses kicked in. Try that tomorrow. Alarm. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 - I’M UP!
4. You’re just making it too darn difficult.
Maybe you decide that creating an eCourse still is the right next step. It’s in line with your goals. You’re creating a course that will make an impact and has meaning to you and others. You’ve broken it way down and you’ve solicited help… but you just still can’t seem to get it done!
Well at this point, you’re probably just trying to rely on ‘strategies’ like “time will pop onto my calendar” or “I’ll use willpower to get through this.”
Are you carving out time at your pique energy hours?
Are you saying “no” to opportunities that should wait, and take a back burner to this project?
Are you showing yourself and the Universe that you are ready to prioritize the project at hand, and carve out real creative space for it?
Are you trying to fit it in after a full day of work, picking up the kids, doing all of the wind-down house activities, and only then, at 11 PM sit down at your computer to type, knowing that you have to wake up at 5 AM just to start all over?
If there is absolutely no time in your day to create space for this project and you can’t possibly imagine letting any of those things go, then maybe you need to set this project aside for a while and pick it up at another time. If you’re not able or willing to sacrifice something from your schedule to get it done now, then maybe now is not the right time? And you know, that’s totally fair.
If you are definitely ready to make space, try making it a habit, and make it easy. There are lots of resources and strategies for how to do this. Make it obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying. (Also from James Clear here. His book is basically my bible…)
Don’t rely on willpower. You can certainly improve willpower, like a muscle, but everyone’s willpower depletes over the course of a day. If the project you’re trying to tackle is hard and requires lots of willpower, work that into your schedule. Do it early before your bandwidth is depleted. Use time management and habit formation to make time (not ‘find’ time) for this project during your day.
Next steps: Invest in habits
Small habits and small improvements over time lead to enormous results.
5. Your environment is unconducive to motivation.
Maybe there is often a TV on in the background, and it entices you over to the couch.
Maybe your desk looks like a tornado just blew through and it doesn’t call you over to work effortlessly on your inspiring project.
Maybe you aren’t sure where all the different documents that you need are located. They’re all around the office, or in different rooms, or even scattered around different cloud services?
Although peace is cultivated from within, outer organization can definitely help facilitate motivation – especially when your work environment is inviting and distraction free. Make it difficult to come up with any more excuses not to get started!
Next steps: get organized
Clear up your workspace, or a space you can create for the ultimate working environment. If you don’t have enough room to clear a physical space, make it a mental space, and clear out your digital tools as much as possible. Clear out the tabs. Better yet, turn off the internet all together if you can. Organize the files. Clean up the desktop. Turn off notifications. Eliminate other distractions. You’ll feel the difference, physical, mental, and digital.
6. "But it's hard!"
Yes, sometimes things just suck, and they’re hard to do. If you know that you want it, and have worked through all of the other steps, at this point it’s just time to accept that challenges are a part of growth. I was complaining to a friend that I wanted something specific, which I knew would come with more responsibility. I was afraid to let go of my cushy situation and take on that responsibility and uncertainty, even though it was what I wanted. She gave me a little bit of tough love, but meant in the most positive way. She said, “Lana, if you want the thing, you have to understand and accept what comes with it. Otherwise, accept where you are and what you have.” She was so right. Sometimes you just need a little loving push to get up and do the not so easy thing. You need to sit in the chair on good days and uninspired days and just get the work done. (If you haven’t read “Daily Rituals” by Mason Curry, read it! This is one of my favorite books.)
Next steps: Change your story, change your mindset
Some people call this “affirmations.” I’ve also seen it as “scripts” or “intentions.” Whatever you want to call it, you are rewriting your story. Telling yourself the kind of person you want to be, as though you already are. When you write the script on paper, you’re rewriting it into your mind and body. When you read it and tweak it every day, you’re perpetuating the new version of you, the version you want to live by.
Try writing out a new story of you. Write it in the present tense, even if you don’t fully believe it yet. Start reading it every day and watch how all of a sudden, it’s easier to get out of bed, it’s easier to start that project, it’s easier to do a certain thing or be a certain way. We are what we think. It’s all about mindset.
Now this is all certainly an oversimplification of motivation. There are many other factors that go into it from a psychological standpoint, but as I’m not a scientist, I won’t go into those other areas in depth.
In addition to assessing yourself and your motivation using the above, you could also answer some of the following questions, and help get to the root of your motivation challenges:
--> Why do I really want to do/accomplish this thing? (Keep digging with why questions until you get to the center of the reason. If this is a strong motivating factor, keep it front and center – look at it and remember it daily.)
--> What motivates me? Intrinsic satisfaction? External rewards? Accomplishing things? Making a difference in other people’s lives?
General disclaimer: Sometimes lack of motivation is caused by powerful factors not described above such as extreme life events or depression. If you find persistent lack of motivation to be a serious challenge for you, consider speaking to a medical professional that is qualified to provide additional support.
Do you find that any of the above ring true? Which ones? What solutions are you going to try next? We are the masters of our own motivation.
I hope you’ll share which strategies worked best for you in the comments below.