Some mornings, you don’t want to get out of bed. Your goals and projects don’t fire you with enthusiasm – they make you feel exhausted. It seems like you’ve been working on them forever, and you still have a long way to go.
You feel like you’re beating your head against a brick wall. You’re not making progress – or you’re forcing yourself onwards with gritted teeth, if you are. This happens with all sorts of goals in different areas of life:
- You dread going to the gym because you’re finding it so boring
- You can’t face spending another evening working on your side business
- Your garage is still full of junk, even though you’ve spent several weekends trying to clear it
- Your novel is languishing in a bottom desk drawer
- You’re swamped by books and papers and journals for your research project
However motivated and enthused you feel when you start working towards a major goal, there’s bound to be a point where you just want to throw your hands in the air and quit. Here’s what to do when you’re feeling utterly demotivated.
Take a Break
First off, take a break. Powering on through when things are grim can bring a certain masochistic satisfaction, but it’s often not a good way to get your motivation back. If you’re feeling exhausted, stressed out or miserable when you try to work on your goal, that’s a sign that you need to step back and have a rest.
I don’t mean that you should give up as soon as you feel any slight reluctance; you’d probably never accomplish anything if you did that. But if you learn to recognize when you’re in need of a real break, you’ll give yourself a better chance of getting to your goal.
List Your Achievements
It’s easy to get demotivated when you feel that you’ve been working hard for a long time without any real results. So sit down and list what you’ve achieved so far. Don’t dismiss what you’ve already done as being “small” or “silly”. Simply getting started is an achievement
You might want to think about:
- Where am I now compared with a year ago?
- Have I made measureable gains? (Eg. “Lost 5lbs” or “wrote 2,000 words”)
- Have I gained new skills? (Eg. “learnt to cook lasagne”)
- Have I tried something for the first time? (Eg. “spoke at Toastmasters”)
Listing what you’ve already achieved helps you to get back your motivation because it makes you focus on the distance you’ve already travelled. You’ve come this far: you know you can go further.
Look at the Bigger Picture
Next, turn your attention to the big picture. When you’re slogging away on a long-term project, it’s easy to lose sight of the awesome goal that inspired you in the first place. The small actions that you take each day may seem insignificant – but when you look at them in the context of a month or a year, you can see how they’ll build up.
Try to rediscover your original motivation. Think about the marathon day, or wearing smaller clothes, or having that novel in the bookshops, or having a small business that supports you full-time. Those are the things that will excite you and give you the motivation you need for the day-to-day work.
Many people get a sense of energy and enthusiasm through sharing their goals with others. Pick a friend or relative who’s always encouraging, and chat to them about your plans. This is another good way to re-find the motivation that got you started towards a goal.
Work out the Next Step
A lack of motivation is often due to not knowing quite what to do next. Typically, you’ll find that you’re stuck because the forward path isn’t obvious. You might think there’s no path at all, or you might have so many directions to choose from that you’re paralysed.
Looking at the big picture gives you the perspective you need to make a decision. In many cases, there won’t be one perfect route towards your goal. Find one step that you can take which would get you closer. Don’t worry about mapping out the whole path: often, your options will become clearer once you’ve made some further progress.
The final step to getting yourself motivated again is to take action. Put that next step into your diary, and make a real commitment to doing it. You won’t stay motivated if you make promises to yourself which you don’t keep.
What could you do to get a bit closer to one of your goals?
Do you need to take some time “off” from the goal, to replenish your energy stocks?
If you’re not sure what to do next, can you ask someone for help?
Is there some small action you can take in order to make progress today?
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