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Signs You Lack Motivation (and what to do about it)

by Brianna Johnson
Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

Credit: BigStockPhoto.com

Motivation is the initial seed of an accomplishment or great deed. Without it, we tend to stagnate, have low energy, and maybe even experience depression.

Yes, motivation is completely non-tangible, but a silent world of difference exists between those who have it and those who don’t. As Psychology Today states, “Motivation is literally the desire to do things.” In such simple terms, it’s easy to understand why your outlook on life can drain your motivation- and thus your success in any area of life. Below are a few signs you lack motivation.

Your Default Mood is Apathy
Motivated people tend to have things they are working toward at any given time. This may sound exhausting and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, without having things to strive for, life can become exhausting and stressful. For those who lack motivation, it may be difficult to find things to get excited about. Maybe you’ve had bad experiences that didn’t pan out, so now you’re guarded. But this won’t help you in the long run. Playing it safe means playing it boring.

You’ve Quit Most of the Things You’ve Ever Tried
Look back at your past. Were there numerous paths that led to dead ends? Trying out for this, starting that, attempting this… but your energy was snuffed out after a brief period of time? It may feel bad to realize you are a quitter. However, there’s no need to look at it negatively. In fact, realizing that you’re a quitter is realizing that you’ve only been limiting yourself. With this new knowledge, you can stop sabotaging yourself and realize that you never actually failed at things- you just quit prematurely.

Quitting may signify that you have a confidence problem, which can manifest as a lack of motivation (and continue on in a vicious cycle). So be aware of this and the fact that you can stop the cycle. It holds no truth about you; you’ve simply allowed it to continue.

You’re Depressed
As mentioned above, motivation is the desire to do things. Thus your mood and beliefs have a massive impact on your motivation. It’s literally impossible to want to do something that you believe will go wrong. It doesn’t make sense. Those who try to force achievement in the absence of happiness, self esteem, and positivity will run out of gas quickly. If these things fuel motivation, and motivation fuels acheivement, skipping right to achievement is about as likely as driving a car without gas (electric cars excluded).

So these are a few signs that you lack motivation, but what can you actually do about it?

Determine What You Care About
What’s the most obvious cause of a lack of motivation? You don’t care! Obviously, right? If you don’t care about something, you’re never going to be motivated to work on it. Even if bosses, teachers, spouses, or family members tell you “this is important,” you’re going to slack your way through these tasks or not do them at all if you don’t believe it’s important.

Therefore, you must find personal significance in the things you spend time on. With this in mind, maybe it’s possible for you to look at old tasks you didn’t care for in a new light. Instead of having others nag you to do these things, you may be able to come up with a reason why you believe you should do it. From that point on, the resistance will be lightened or lifted completely.

On the other hand, maybe there are some things you simply hate and can’t find significance in. For example, if your job requires you to make persistent sales calls, is it really possible to be motivated when you believe what you’re doing is icky? While we can change things by altering our perception, sometimes it’s unrealistic. In these cases, you need to make a change so that you no longer have to perform these tasks. If something goes against what you believe in, get away from it.

Eliminate Distractions
If you find that there is something you truly do care about, but you’re unmotivated, distractions may be to blame. This is especially true for those with ADHD, although attention problems aren’t an excuse to just give up. With all the devices that surround us (computers, phones, Ipads, etc.), staying attentive to one task at a time has become a challenge for all of us.
Thus you may want to find ways to eliminate the distractions that you are particularly susceptible to. For those with attention problems, there are apps you can download to help block social media and other distractions.

Distractions can be external- like phones or email messages, or internal- like a belief that completing your work is negative in some way (eg. there’s other things you should be doing, it’s too late to do it, it’s too hard etc). Distractions can even be other people, well-meaning or not. Negative people will generally be a distraction from success, even if they aren’t conscious of it. So limit your time with these people or avoid them completely.

Control Your Expectations
If you have a hard time being motivated because you expect immediate results, it’s time to get used to the long haul. Instead of beating yourself up or becoming resentful when things don’t immediately happen, come to terms with the fact that success doesn’t work that way. You have to learn to enjoy the daily miniature successes, or you’ll be burned out in no time.

It’s also important not to set naive goals like “I’m going to start a business in one month” or “I’m going to sell everything I create this year.” Those things can happen, but by insisting on them, you’re basically saying you will only work hard briefly. So in a sense, high expectations are a bit selfish. It would benefit us to instead enjoy the ride and take things as they come.

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