Running a marathon, traveling the world, climbing the corporate ladder…no matter what your goal may be, one thing is for certain: You’ll need enough motivation to make it happen. But even the most successful among us go through periods of time when we struggle to do the things we should or even want to do. So, how can we power through and push for progress when we’re stuck in a slump?
The first step is to understand why you’re stuck. Cath Duncan, a writer and Registered Social Worker, points out that low motivation isn’t a singular issue; it’s a category of problems with a variety of triggers. “At its essence,” she explains, “demotivation is about not fully committing to act, and there are many reasons why you might be in that position. Having more ways to categorize your demotivation will help you identify the real reasons for it. Then, you can pick the right tools and strategies to help you get motivated again.”
Here are four common sources of demotivation—and how to power through them:
1. Demotivation Drain: You’re not sure you actually want to do it.
The goals that resonate with you will be the ones that you’ll work for, but sometimes we take things on because we like how they sound or think that they would be “good” to do without asking ourselves why. It’s difficult to stay motivated if you aren’t confident that the potential benefits are worth your time and effort.
The Solution: Clearly define your “why.”
When you can identify how your life will improve, you can tap into your motivation and get to the essence of what you’re trying to achieve. Set a timer for at least five minutes and write freely about what you’re feeling stuck on: What do you really think about what you’re trying to do? Why is this particular goal worth your time and energy? How will it enhance your life? Don’t worry about fixing errors or questioning yourself. For example, if you want to get in shape for the sake of getting in shape, it’ll be harder to pick yourself off the couch than if your goal resonates on a deeper level, such as modeling healthy behavior for your kids.
2. Demotivation Drain: You can’t seem to get started.
If you’re waiting for an ideal opportunity to take action, you’re likely wasting time that you could be using to get started. Action, on the other hand, begets more action.
The Solution: Make a move.
There might never be that perfect opportunity to go for your goals, but that doesn’t mean you can’t rise to an occasion you create for yourself. “The moment you have the instinct to act on a goal,” says Mel Robbins, motivational speaker and author of The 5 Second Rule, “count down from 5 and then physically move, or your brain will stop you.” Whether you want to change a habit or change the world, taking a single step forward jumpstarts your momentum by reminding you what it feels like to be engaged, challenged, and proud of what you can do.
Bonus tip: Motivation is contagious, so make it a point to spend time around the most motivated people you know. Who is the most energetic, focused person you can think of? Who always gets stuff done? Don’t be afraid to ask them for the support you need to move forward.
3. Demotivation Drain: You’re not sure what to do next.
If you’re fuzzy on the next steps, says Duncan, you’re not going to be able to gain much momentum towards your goal, because a lack of clarity around what action to take often manifests as a lack of motivation.
The Solution: Break it down.
Break big projects into small steps—the smaller, the better. Research shows that your self-efficacy (your belief in your own ability to get stuff done) is higher when you’re faced with a smaller, more manageable steps. Pitching a new idea to your manager may seem daunting, for example, but finding two references that support your suggestion is an easier and less overwhelming task.
Terri Trespicio is an award-winning writer, speaker, and a long-time media expert on health and wellbeing. She was one of the early contributors to meQuilibrium, and her work has been featured on Dr. Oz, Oprah magazine, Prevention, and MindBodyGreen, among others. Find her on Twitter @TerriT.