Feeling Unmotivated? Why Motivation May Not Be the Issue
Updated: Mar 5
Right after the holidays and all in a one-week time frame, both of my parents and my mother-in-law experienced significant health challenges; requiring medical attention and/or hospitalization. In the middle of all of this, my husband and father-in-law got Covid. I am happy to report that by the end of January everyone was either fully recovered or in the process of recovering, and we are super grateful.
One of the most challenging aspects of navigating situations like this is that once you get past the initial crisis, the show must go on. Bills need to be paid, kids need to get to dropped off and picked up from school and extra-curricular activities, hospital visits and rehabilitative care and appointments must be coordinated and someone still has to figure out what the hell to make for dinner every night. So while the initial crisis lasted a couple of weeks, it felt like we were playing catch up well into February.
As difficult as all of this was and in some ways continues to be as we navigate our "new normal", it very quickly put things in perspective. It made our priorities and what's important in our lives crystal clear. It also brought into focus where I handled the situation better than my past self would have, highlighting where I've grown, while also pointing out the places I still have healing to do.
I've been telling myself for weeks that I want to share my reflections and some of the techniques I used to manage my stress during the most difficult moments with each of you, but there's just been one problem. I haven't been able to find the motivation to come in here and get it done! Ever been there? If so, you're not alone. Everyone gets there from time to time, and in a culture that rewards constant busyness, productivity and achievement we can quickly fall prey to criticizing our lack of motivation. Instead of beating myself up or forcing myself to tackle something I'm not ready, willing or able to do right now, I had an opportunity to "practice what I preach", so I decided to first rest and recover and then write about what's really behind our perceived lack of motivation and how to move through it. What if I told you that what sometimes feels like a lack of motivation, isn't about motivation at all? Below are 4 root causes behind perceived "lack of motivation" and some techniques and tools you can use to move through them.
What's Really Behind a Lack of Motivation?
Burnout is the body and brain's response to chronic stress and overwhelm. According to The Holistic Psychologist Nicole LaPera, this is an involuntary sympathetic nervous system response where the body no longer allows us to "push through" and shifts into a "freeze" state to conserve energy to survive a threat". Did you know there are different types of burnout? Depending on the type you're experiencing, you may need rest, support, connection, fun, inspiration, more of a challenge or greater purpose in your life and work. Meet yourself with self-compassion and get curious about what you need more (or less) of in your life right now. Giving yourself ample space and time to identify and meet your needs will eventually give you the energy boost you need to tackle your goals. Not sure if it's stress or burnout? Read more here. You may need more time and space than you initially think, so if you try this and still feel unmotivated, you may need more time, more self-compassion and self-care. Need self-care ideas but limited on time? Try my free 30-days of 5-min. self-care calendar.
Self-doubt can stem from:
-Your energetic capacity: Refer to the burnout section above.
-Negative self-talk: No matter how capable we are, about 70% of adults will experience imposter syndrome at least once in our lifetime. Practice re-framing self-doubt with these 30 affirmations for positive change.
-Not feeling capable or not knowing where or how to start based on your current skills, knowledge & experience? Research, read, watch a Ted Talk on the topic or learn from a mentor. Get a coach or ask for support! You don't have to do it in a vacuum or figure it out all by yourself!
Lack of Clarity
-Lack of clarity on your why? Try visualization. Close your eyes and picture yourself achieving your goal/completing your task. Get descriptive about where you are, who you are with, what you are doing, and how you feel. Go back to that imagery whenever you need a boost.
-Lack of clarity on the goal? Use James Clear's guide to goal setting to get as clear and specific as possible.
-Lack of clarity on how to achieve the goal? Break it down into smaller chunks and take a phased plan and approach.
What used to motivate you in the past not motivating you now? Use Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies to get to know yourself and what motivates you so that you can create a better life more in alignment with your values as they are today. Periodically re-visit these tools as you continue to change and grow.
Which one(s) of these resonated for you? I personally needed to give myself more time to rest and re-charge. I needed sleep and more time to lay on my couch curled up with my dog and a blanket while reading a book, sipping on some tea or watching some mindless entertainment. I also needed sunshine, movement, connection with and support from friends, some fun, levity and laughter. I needed to practice what I preach by prioritizing these things over coming in here and getting this blog post done, and trusting that once I re-filled my cup, I would be capable of getting it done.
If you're feeling unmotivated, I invite you to ask yourself "what do I really need in this moment?".