Getting Past the Barrier of Low Motivation
One of the things I see people struggle with most is lack of motivation. This ultimately leads to a vicious cycle of procrastination, carrying the weight of all things left undone, and guilt for putting those things off. Whether we're talking about exercise, staying organized/clean, keeping up with that to-do list, developing better habits, or daunting work projects, we all struggle at times to find the motivation needed to "just do it". When we just don't feel like it, we put it off til later. After all, there's always tomorrow. The problem with this, however, is that tomorrow often turns into the next day, week, month or year. This leaves us feeling discouraged and reinforces the idea that we just don't have what it takes to stay on top of things or to develop healthier patterns that stick.
The interesting problem here, though, is that we might not ever be able to maintain the motivation we think we need to make the changes we want to see in our lives. Motivation comes and goes. Although riding waves of motivation as they come can be helpful, they never fully last - and that's why we need more than motivation alone. What if I told you that removing the idea that you ever have to feel like doing stuff to to do stuff, might be the most impactful solution to your problem? That a certain amount of discipline, planning, and accountability to develop structure and productive habits might be all that's needed to see powerful changes in your life. Well, I'll ask you to entertain this thought and follow some of the steps below to work through the barrier of low motivation.
- Identify the changes you want to make: What habits or patterns do you want to change? Trying to stick to nutrition or exercise goals? Wanting to get better about staying organized or keeping the house clean? Feeling buried in personal or professional to-do lists that you can't seem to dig yourself out of? Other? Be clear about the changes you are wanting to make and write them down.
- Create a plan: Not having a plan is one of the biggest barriers to following through on the things we talk about wanting to do. When will you start implementing those changes and how will you do it? If it's exercise we're talking about, for example, outline a plan for when and how often you will start your new routine.
- Set realistic expectations: Another thing that tends to get in the way of following through with goals is setting unrealistic goals that will be hard to obtain.
- Remind yourself that motivation isn't necessary: We are often influenced by feelings of not wanting to do things as if not wanting to do something means that we CAN'T do those things. Throughout life we have to do a lot of things we don't want to do for the better of our future selves. We get annual physicals, pay taxes, and do lots of other things in life we don't want to do - but we do them because we know we need to.
- Recognize the thinking that is getting in the way of you meeting your goals: Find yourself making excuses or giving up altogether once you've experienced a little set back? Feeling unsure about your ability to follow through on things based on your past self? Identify those unhelpful thinking patterns and reframe them with more effective and realistic ways of thinking. For example: If the thought is "I never end up following through with and completing my goals", you might think about times in the past that you have successfully followed through on goals and reframe your statement to sound something like this: "I have struggled to meet certain goals in the past, but I am capable of achieving goals and my past behavior does not necessarily predict my future behavior. I can change".
- Think about building in some accountability: Some people operate best by setting up a system that involves accountability. Start an accountability group or connect with family/friends that have goals they also want to be held accountable for as well. Check in with each other regularly to share updates, to discuss challenges, and to motivate one another.
- Start therapy: Therapy can be a good place to establish goals for yourself, to gain insight about yourself, to explore barriers to meeting new goals, to understand underlying reasons for lacking motivation (like depression and reasons for feeling depressed), and to develop a plan.
If you're thinking about starting therapy to address low motivation, feel free to shoot us a text or to give us a call at 813-515-9602. You can also send us a message and we'll be back in touch soon.
Float on Counseling, LLC is located in the Carrollwood area of Tampa on North Dale Mabry Hwy. Aside from offering in-person sessions, we are also proving telehealth (secure video sessions) as an alternative.
Joel Schmidt, MA, LMHC