8 Great Ways to Motivate Yourself When You Just Don’t Feel Like It


August 10, 2009   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Motivation is a tough thing, especially if you’re in the midst of some difficult circumstances. If you’re at all like me, and things aren’t going the way you planned, you might have a tendency to fall into a funk. Instead of conquering the world, you might just want to put on some pajama pants, crack open some Ben and Jerry’s, and watch TV.

This is a poor solution to your problems.

Seriously, sitting around isn’t going to solve anything. You’ll end up feeling worse about your situation the less you do about it. And, if you keep up with the B & J, you’ll end up with a weight problem, too.

So, how do you motivate yourself if you’re not feeling motivated? I think the feelings are key to understanding the root challenge. You’re not always going to feel like doing something. You have to lead your emotions, not let your emotions lead you. Take one or more of these 8 eight concrete steps to inject some purpose into your situation.

    1. Let Fear Take Hold
      Fear is one of the strongest motivators we have. The “fight or flight” response is dependent on feeling fear as its source. So, let fear work for you. If you’re genuinely concerned about what’s going to happen now that you’ve lost your job, and you don’t know where the money is coming from to pay the rent, you’re going to do whatever needs to be done. Issues that seemed to be obstacles before are going to fade to the background. 
  • Keep the Finish Line In Sight
    A lot of folks have a tendency to look at the next step, rather than the big picture. While this technique has its merits, it’s important to look up at the finish line occasionally. If you don’t, and you’re constantly focused on the day-to-day minutiae, you’ll eventually wonder why it is that you’re doing what you’re doing. It’s important to remember the payoff, because that’s what got you excited in the first place. 
  • Make It a Game
    This one works wonders with little kids! If your goal is to clean up toys before bedtime, you parents know that it’s often beneficial to race your kids to see who can pick up the most toys in the shortest amount of time. The same thing works with yourself. If you’re training for a marathon, you can continually try to improve on your overall time, or your split times, or whatever. Find ways to measure yourself, and constantly try to set personal bests. 
  • Remove All Other Options
    Hernán Cortés landed in Mexico in 1519 in order to secure lands for the Spanish crown. One of his first orders to his men was to burn the ships that they had arrived on. This was to remove any thoughts of retreat from their minds. When things were going poorly, the men didn’t have the option of thinking, “well, we can always go home”. This is a scary step, but sometimes it’s the only one that will work. For a person who wants to work for themselves, even if they have developed a substantial business on the side of their full-time employment, quitting that secure day job is a “burn the ships” moment. There isn’t anything to fall back on, and they have to succeed. 
  • Tell Someone Else
    If you have a goal you want to reach, don’t keep it to yourself. Be sure to share it with people you respect. Once you’ve publicly acknowledged it, it becomes harder to give it up. You’ve made a verbal contract in a sense with people whose opinion you care about. If you were to give up on your dream, you would lose face with them. Most folks don’t want this to happen, but because they’re scared of failure, they keep their dream to themselves. However, if you want to succeed, you’ll tell as many people as you can. 
  • Tell Yourself Daily
    Make an affirmation to yourself about your goal. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept of daily affirmations, it goes a little something like this. You write down a sentence or two that specifically details what it is you’re going to achieve. You need to make it specific, and you need to keep it short. Then, just before going to bed, first thing when you wake up, and at various set points during the day, you read your affirmation aloud to yourself.

This sounds a bit hokey to some, but it serves to keep your mind focused on what it is you’re working toward. It keeps your mind on the task at hand, even when there are many other things that are demanding your attention.

  • Recruit a Group
    In the course of telling people around you about your goal, you may run into a few of them that are excited about what you’re doing. They may be so excited that they want to do something like it. If you talk to enough people, you’ll find some that have goals just like you. You can take the initiative to lead these folks into a group that supports each other in reaching each of your destinations. 

By having an accountability group, you put yourself in a situation where you’re not only afraid of losing face with the other members, but you also have people available to provide ideas and brainstorm ways to keep going when you get stuck. It’s amazing the things that members of an accountability group can accomplish together.

  • Break It Up
    While I said that you need to keep your eye on the prize back up in step #2, there’s nothing wrong with breaking up your big, huge, audacious goal into smaller goals along the way. If your goal is so big that it scares you, or you worry about not being able to achieve it no matter how hard you try or how many people you tell about it, this may be a good tip for you. Just break it up into chunks. The sub-goals you set for yourself should still be something you can be proud of on their own, but they should also advance you toward the main objective. By taking things in smaller doses, you won’t get easily frustrated. 

So, here are eight tips to keep your motivation up when you just don’t feel like it. It’s really all about fooling yourself into doing something that you know is good for you (like eating broccoli with cheese, right?). If there’s something I missed, or you have a story about how one of these tips worked for you, share it with the rest of us in the comments.

Written on 8/10/2009 by Jason Barr. Jason writes at the personal development blog Start Being Your Best. Follow him on Twitter here, or grab a subscription to his blog. Photo Credit: Leeni!

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