self improvement

5 Common Mistakes That Kill Your Motivation

Motivation is the driving force behind our actions. More motivation to do the right things is therefore one of the most common desires people have. But having motivation sometimes means not doing the things that kill it.

Do you make any of these five mistakes that kill your motivation to do what matters?

Each reason includes a powerful technique to help you overcome it and stay motivated.

1. You Wait For It

Motivation is based on your emotions and environment. The best way to increase your motivation, then, is to change your emotions or environment. But how do you do that?

Take action. It can change your emotions and environment at the same time.

Many people believe they need motivation to take action, but it more commonly follows action. Think about your motivation levels prior to and during a workout. Once you begin, do you notice an increase in motivation to finish? Of course, because nothing is more motivating than taking action, which triggers an emotional shift and changes your environment in one fell swoop.

How To Overcome Waiting For It

The way to take action before you’re motivated is to aim for the first small step. This works because it doesn’t require much motivation, and yet it triggers additional motivation. To work out, begin by getting your gym clothes on. To write, open your word processor (and write one sentence).

If you always wait for motivation to come first, you’ll be waiting half your life. And waiting for motivation is often demotivating! But if you get the process started, your emotional state and motivation will align with what your body is already doing.

2. You Don’t Believe In Yourself

Motivation is very sensitive to your beliefs. If you want to get in great shape, but don’t fully believe that your gym efforts will get you there, then you won’t be motivated to go to the gym. Psychologists call this self-efficacy, which is your belief in your ability to influence an outcome.

How To Overcome Self Doubt

If you don’t believe that taking action will change your life in a meaningful way, do some research. Read stories of others who have done it and focus on the cause and effect of their actions. It can be difficult to believe you can do something you’ve never done, and that’s what hurts motivation. But if you do your research and take action (with small steps), your beliefs will change, and your motivation to continue will increase.

3. You Let Short-Term Feelings Get In The Way

The word “motivation” has a short-term and long-term meaning. I’m 100{54c12dad2cc2b53ae830e39915b1a3e70288dbcbbeb8bbf8395437c5dc3c512c} motivated to be fit in general and that never changes. But I’m not always motivated to exercise in this very moment.

In other words, you can want something in general, but not want it in any given moment due to your feelings and circumstances. Because the things we want tend to require hard work and effort, it’s easy to want them, but not want to put the required work in to get them.

How To Overcome Negative Short-Term Feelings 

Accept that you don’t need to feel motivated to work in this moment. It does not have to stop you. It only stops people when they confuse how they feel as being the same as their long-term desires. Again, small steps combat these short-term feelings well because they activate your longer-term, intrinsic motivation.

4. You Lose Track Of Why

For any goal, it’s imperative to remember why you’re pursuing it in the first place. What are the benefits? If you forget about the benefits, your goal is going to seem like an undesirable mountain of work! And there is nothing less motivating than a lot of work without a meaningful reward.

How To Remember Why

I recommend using a vision board to keep you mindful of why you’re putting forth all this effort. Vision boards are visual representations of your goals. They’re so effective because our minds think of concepts in a visual way.

5. You Try Too Much At Once

I’m a firm believer in aiming for small goals that can be built higher. Most people aim high immediately because the allure of the big reward gives them a motivating surge at first. This backfires, however, when they enter the inevitable “grind” phase of goal pursuit. This is when the reward seems distant, yet the work is demanding. How unmotivating!

How To Overcome Unrealistic Goals 

Start small to keep your goal unintimidating; even when the reward seems distant, your workload will be bearable and you’ll be able to push through to bigger and better things. When you aim for the sure win, you’re much less likely to get discouraged and lose your motivation.

If you want to create healthy new habits and traditional techniques haven’t worked, take a look at the best-selling Mini Habits book. The mini habits strategy has all of the advice in this article built into it. It changed my life in areas of fitness, health, reading, and writing. And depending on when you read this, Mini Habits might be on a big sale right now!

I’m Stephen Guise. To hear from me each Tuesday morning about habit-formation, focusing, and self-mastery (not to mention some amazing goodies), join Deep Existence (it’s free).


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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