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How to Pick Yourself Up When You’re Utterly Demotivated

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.

Take Action

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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25 Responses to How to Pick Yourself Up When You’re Utterly Demotivated

  1. Bille Baty says:

    Hey Ali, I like it!

    Taking a break is where so many of us miss it. We think we ALWAYS have to power through it, when so often just a short break gives us new perspective and vitality.

    All your points are salient, but the first point is in the correct position.

    Keep Believing…
    Bille Baty

  2. Lauren says:

    Great job, Ali. I had a killer project on my back for the past few weeks and was feeling exactly what you described in your opening paragraphs. I think breaks are an absolute necessity when doing something you don’t like and the most important part of getting anything you’re dreading done is moving forward. Procrastination usually kicks in under these circumstances, but it’s much better to get the monkey off your back ASAP and knock it out. Thanks for the great article.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this right now. It’s JUST what I needed. I was sitting here procrastinating and wondering how on earth I’m ever going to get started on what I need to be doing and this post REALLY helped me out. Thanks!

  4. Can I throw another one in there?

    Dig deep-ish to find out why this project is now unmotivating/energy-sucking. Is it because you think you “should” do it & don’t “want” to do it? Is it because it’s not any damn fun? Is it because you need help that you don’t have? Take time to break down the excuses & figure out what’s really going on. It might end up being something you don’t want or need to spend any further time, resources, or energy on…

    If you do decide to continue, bribe yourself! Think of something you’ve been wanting to buy/do for a while, & tell yourself that you’ll buy it/do it as soon as you’re done. Put up a picture of that place/thing & keep it where you can see it/it will taunt you.

    Great post!

  5. And last but not…(nevermind,)remember how do you eat an elephant: one piece at a time. Breaking down you BIG objectives into SIMPLE, gradual steps makes them seem more achievable. This one works really well for me.


  6. The bigger picture is what keeps me going. I make sure I regularly write out what I’m aiming for, and have made my wallpaper myself to inspire me. :-)

  7. We often miss out on the most important step: #1…. take a freaking break. Sometimes we just need a moment to stop distressing ourselves with the to-do/must-get/should-achieve list.

    Although it may seem like it when there are goals to be met, it is not a waste of time to relax. A moment of mental freedom is often the main ingredient in the recipe for re-motivation.

    This was truly a great article through and through.

  8. Dee Gardner says:

    Great article. I think #1 is appropriate because Sunday is the first day of the week. After WWII Winston Churchill advocated people take only every other Sunday off. But the soon realized they weren’t getting anymore done and decided to take every Sunday off. Regular breaks are necessary. But we must not forget #7 Action. Plan and get out and do.

  9. Great point.

    If you are not emotionally prepared to do something, it’s counter-productive to force yourself to do it. You’ll just find creative ways to sabotage yourself.

  10. Great article!

    I especailly like the part where you state to list your achievments…that can really help one reflect and then refocus.
    I love this site.

  11. Nazeem says:

    I god a valuable information for get motivation. But can any give information regarding the each steps towards achieving goals.


  12. Ali Hale says:

    Thanks all!

    Dee – I didn’t know that about Churchill and the Sundays off, but I’d agree that I definitely see a drop in productivity if I try to work through a weekend. I think a complete day of rest is a great principle.

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  15. Guy Farmer says:

    Thanks for you ideas Ali. We can achieve so much when we simply think of something small to do and then actually do it. It’s helpful to realize that we don’t have to do gigantic, daunting things, just something that will act as a catalyst and get us moving. Once take action we create something that we can celebrate which will tend to encourage us to do more.

  16. Great information, i agree, a break is good, everyone needs one to rejuvenate the body and mind

  17. grasias por estar hay says:

    es importante lo que tu quieres en la cuando tu te levantes despues de drale grasias adios por permitirte existir despeus de ese momento que es lo que quiero para hor y cada diaa has lo mismo y mejora cadia dia que pasa y vas construyendo pora que cuando mires hacia adelante ya tu objetivo este cerca ,cda segundo busca una motivavcion para seguir avanzando.

  18. Jeff Wise says:

    Something I need to do a better job of is making a list of my achievements so I can track all of my wins. It’s important to look back and see how far I’ve come.

  19. SWeetasheaven says:

    Hi All, I am currently new in my job and the worse thing is i can’t adapt to the environment and I can’t really get along with my boss at all. Everyday i am losing the motivation to fight on. It is really bad for me. But i really don’t know what to do? And on top of them I took on this job with a paycut. =(

  20. Gurpreet kaur says:

    but still i thought that m doing my best…….  yet i dont get any reslts….

  21. SelenaBrown says:

    This is just what I needed to hear, so thank you. I feel like I’ve been working on my latest project for ages and haven’t seen the results I’d like to. I’m about to take a break and appreciate what I’ve accomplished so far then in a couple days hopefully I’ll feel energised to pick up where I left off.

  22. Shakeel says:

    Thanks … These are great motivational words for me to geeting my goal :)

  23. Nickos Foivos says:

    I am utterly demotivated!

  24. Nickos Foivos says:

    Hope things are better now :)

  25. Helen Jones says:

    Thank you so much for this article. It reminds me of a monk named Moustafa Hamwi- the passion guy. He mentioned in his article to motivate yourself internally, meaning to say, that you have to stay focus on your goals and list down your goal’s achievements. Your list must be from 1 to 10, just like whats written in your article and it really helped me a lot! Thanks to you both!

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