She sat at the living room for hours contemplating what she would write next. Her tablet was beside her on the sofa, beckoning to be opened. Words floated and faded through her mind like little white clouds of smoke, each one unfruitful and leaving her more frustrated than before. She thought to herself “this is not going well at all”. She was coming to the realization that it would be a lot harder than she had envisioned penning down the words she knew were deep inside her that needed to be heard. Yet she was determined to prevail. As she mulled over these thoughts, with the cool air conditioning system billowing above her head, she drifted off.
This is not a scene from a movie or a book, this scene is the reality of trying to pursue a passion and the often accompanying lack of motivation that comes with it. Too often we only see the glamorous side of accomplished public personas but we rarely get to see or hear the arduous, sometimes boring, demotivating journey to success. It is this demotivating obstacle that must be tackled head on if there is any chance of attempting and succeeding at anything.
I have often had conversations with friends who have said they lack inspiration, don’t have passion or know what their purpose is or they just don’t know where to start even if they know what they want to do. To them I say “welcome to the club”. My point to them is, you’re not alone. At the heart of it, it appears unseen forces conspire to prevent us at all costs, from accomplishing the things we want to. These unseen forces parade themselves as everyday distractions which can be seemingly harmless. They range from social media to television, work, friends, boredom etc. A bite sized portion of any one of these distractions is sufficient to bring plans to a halt.
Fortunately, there are a few tried and tested steps that can be taken to combat this issue.
1. Identify the culprit
There is a popular saying that “you can’t change what you won’t confront“. This holds true when applied to every area of life including demotivation. To be motivated, you must get to the bottom of why you’re feeling unmotivated. This usually involves a lot of self-reflection or meditation. Could the demotivation be stemming from self-doubt or negative thinking about your abilities? Or could it be the circumstances or environment around you holding you back? Do you need to make certain changes in your routine, time management, priorities or focus? Or perhaps you want to be inspired by something that will lead you to your next big accomplishment but haven’t found that inspiration yet? Taking some time to think about why you’re feeling demotivated can help you get to the root cause of the problem and begin to make positive steps towards changing your situation.
2. Dispel the culprit (self-therapy)
Once you’ve been able to identify the obstacle in your way, you can begin to take steps towards getting rid of the obstacle. If your lack of motivation is caused by self doubt, focus on asking yourself questions to identify why you doubt your own abilities? Could it be words people have spoken over you that have caused you to stop believing in yourself? Or a track record of failed attempts that have knocked your confidence? Recognize that these events are past events and may have served their purpose at one point but are no longer serving you now and have become a hindrance to your progress. Maybe your demotivation is caused by the need for perfection? Perfectionists have a tendency to reason that anything worth doing is worth doing well and therefore if a roadblock is encountered that could derail progress or completion, they are likely to not start or try at all. This kind of reasoning must be avoided and a perspective shift introduced. The primary focus should not be on the final outcome at this stage but rather starting. Small, incremental steps are expedient for perfectionists to overcoming stagnancy. If the obstacle is a distraction such as social media which can eat away at productive time, limit your usage by turning off your notifications for the app in question or discipline yourself to only go on social media at specific times of the day. Discipline is a key tool that must be applied at this stage whatever the obstacle is causing the lack of motivation. Another useful tool to apply is accountability. Find a trusted friend or loved one and share your idea with them. Give them permission to hold you accountable to it, prodding you gently along the way on your progress. Knowing that someone else is vested in your progress can be great motivation in itself.
3. Pace yourself
At this stage, setting realistic goals will go a long way in maintaining momentum and staying inspired and motivated. One of the biggest killers of motivation is having unrealistic goals that cannot be met for various reasons. It is more effective to set small goals and increment to larger goals over an extended period of time than one large goal that runs the risk of killing any motivation you may have when challenges are encountered. Think of this as a top down approach. The top down approach is a popular methodology in software engineering which starts with the big picture but focuses on breaking down, understanding and defining the smaller components which make up the big picture. It is important at this point to also relax expectations on yourself. Remember that your first end result right now is starting. You can focus on the final end result once you’ve comfortably started and gain some momentum. Again think bite sized pieces instead of a whole lump.
4. Celebrate the small wins
As you accomplish one goal and move on to the next, celebrate the small wins. We tend to only celebrate big wins in our lives but make no room for small wins, yet these small wins are the fuel which keeps the car running and moving. Without this fuel, the car will inevitably stop running and come to a halt.
5. Enjoy the process
It is far too easy to get caught up with worrying about all the things that can go wrong, worry about progress and get stressed about your goals. But what if we learned to find enjoyment every step of the way, even in the difficulties? The key to this again lies in perspective. No matter what you’re facing as you progress with your goals, you can enjoy and appreciate the journey when you realize that at least you are taking steps consistently. It may be baby steps and it may be fraught with lots of tumbling over, hurdles to jump and even fatigue but at least you are moving forward. Enjoying each step of the way is a surprisingly simple yet effective means of staying motivated.
If you’ve enjoyed reading this, like, share or leave a comment. I look forward to hearing from you.