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How to Motivate Yourself When It’s Most Difficult

by Jan 6, 2020

We always show up our best when we are optimistic, hopeful, confident and resourceful with clear thinking and vision. When we are enthusiastic and highly motivated with envisioned purposes, lined-up desires, and set goals, we are operating with high emotional intelligence.

But life rarely behaves that way. Sometimes we get the blues that blur importance of our purpose and slow down our goals. This faded importance of life makes us feel down, and the foremost thing we lose in this gloomy state is motivation.

“With faded destinations any path loses faith, but life is too short to spend any of it in hibernation.”

It is highly desirable to get out of this feeling to pursue what we are living for — achieving our goals. It sounds much easier than done. Getting out of these down moods often requires a targeted effort by ourselves and a few external actors.

Psychologists agree that there are two ways to get motivated. It either comes from inside or external factors. Extrinsic motivation is driven by an incentive offered for completing a task or a warning of potential loss.

Such motivations or triggers may work for a mechanical task with repetitive actions, but it is completely ineffective or even drastic for most of the tasks that are creative in nature.

Tips to Trigger Self-Motivation

There is always something inside everyone that kindles motivation. It could be a goal of achieving mastery in a field of study, or work; a desire to buy the latest luxury car model, or a purpose to serve others.

“Most of the time, reasons for feeling down in motivation is an increased gap between you and your goals.”

Research suggests figuring out what you personally respond to best. Identify that trigger, which reinforces importance for you to reaffirm your goal, and tell yourself that you are working for a cause.

“When you associate achieving your goals with something meaningful in your life, that association can be a powerful motivator to keep you on track.”

Loss aversion is a very strong stimulus to induce motivation. Remind yourself that by being lazy, you are putting many important things at risk. It could be money, relationships, your career, or even the ultimate goal of your life.

It’s not about forcing yourself into doing a task out of fear, but a method to remind yourself that it can cost you a lot. Mentally connect missing a goal to something significantly meaningful to you, a life or death situation you create and control in your own mind.

Feeling bad about being demotivated leads to making matters even worse. It whispers negativities in your ear about your capabilities. Depression feeds on negative emotions, such as self-pity, self-doubt, fears, and feeling overwhelmed. Try to identify these negative thoughts and avoid them. Consciously replacing negative soundtracks with positive words will eradicate laziness caused by negative thinking.

Find a couple of short and motivating affirmations based on what motivates you personally. These affirmations steer your mind off of negative thoughts. Affirmations are a concise single sentence or phrase. It doesn’t matter how cheesy or tacky they may sound, all that matters is hearing them encourages you to move forward.

For example, you can tell yourself repetitively, “No mood swings can stop me”, or “Nothing is tougher than my commitment to my own success”.

Self-berating induces self-negation and pushes us in even darker zones where no ray of hope can reach to motivate us. Try self-compassion. Pause and acknowledge your efforts. Tell yourself that it is normal and everyone experiences feeling down, overwhelmed or unmotivated.

“Offer yourself kindness, rather than being harsh and critical about yourself. Remember that your productivity doesn’t weigh your self-worth.”

No one can expect to complete all tasks during their down modes that were laid out in a high-spirit state of being. Both energy levels are drastically different. However, pushing yourself to go into action when you feel down is a proven way to get yourself back on track.

“Being in action is what induces motivation, not the other way around”

Instead of waiting until you feel motivated, give yourself a little push towards action. Cut short your expectations and try to perform a chunk of the tasks at hand. Once that is completed, you will begin to be more into the work. This will allow you to raise the bar and perform the next step. You are re-establishing your normal flow.

Tightly packed schedules with strict deadlines and a lot of work remaining to be done, prove detrimental when you are feeling down. You start to think it’s impossible to accomplish anything in time. The same is the case when you have a lot of instructions and boundaries.

You get stuck and decide that you can’t do anything. In such a situation, increase your autonomy. With increased autonomy and responsibility, you would be intrinsically motivated to put your best efforts forward. This also begs for reason why companies need to give employees more autonomy.

“Autonomy motivates people to get more done on their own terms.”

When feeling down, unmotivated, overwhelmed don’t give yourself time to dwell on the feeling. Wake up with as much vigor as you can muster. Make your bed. Shower and get dressed immediately. Perform a spontaneous act. Visit a mall, a bookstore, a theatre or a friend. Cooking something also helps to fight the sense of being down. Dressing up and grooming yourself can go a long way towards giving you a mental boost too.

If you need to perform more of a physical activity, you can try the reward technique. Decide a fun task or a treat for yourself after the job is done. For instance, if you need to organize your cubicle at the office and you are feeling lazy to do it, try inducing yourself with an incentive to have your favorite snack after it’s done.

There are multiple ways to accomplish a task when you feel down i.e. self-discipline, will power, etc. These tactics can be helpful for completion of tasks, but for the best performance you need to be triggered by intrinsic motivation.

“The way a highly motivated person works, leads to mastery and excellence. Tasks can be completed without motivation, but goals are impossible to achieve without it.”

To motivate yourself remember your goals. The cost of not being motivated. The importance of determination, and self-compassion. Positive affirmations and creating autonomy at work. These are all factors that can help you collect enough motivation to reach excellence even when you simply don’t feel like it.

Lastly, celebrate your wins and record them. Write weekly post-it notes of your wins and put them in a jar. Every time you feel demotivated, pull them out of the jar and read them to remind yourself of your accomplishments. 

This practice will give you the mental reminder of what it feels like to win, to be motivated, and remind yourself of how awesome you are.

Keep going!

Self-Motivation Tips Video

Business Innovation Brief

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