We face choices every day. Some of them carry a fairly low risk of affecting our lives (e.g. picking the color of a shirt), and some of our decisions hold the potential to carry us to new heights of glory (e.g. whether to start a new business). Motivation is a result of our choices, too. There’s a reason we feel constantly under the weather in a job we only took to pay the bills. There’s a reason we find it hard to study for a test if getting a passing grade is all we care about. In order to feel properly motivated to do anything, we need a solid and justified reason for our actions.
Interior Motives Matter
Although we could have a complex and multifaceted conversation around motivation (or lack thereof), it really all boils down to intrinsic vs. extrinsic stimuli. It matters whether we do something because it’s our internal choice (intrinsic motivation) or because we are pressured to do it (extrinsic motivation). It’s a clash between I want to and I have to. In other words, cleaning your house because you feel good in a tidy and organized space is different from cleaning the house because you expect guests.
Needless to say, the easiest way out of the predicament would be to always choose what we feel intrinsically motivated to do. And we all know life rarely works this way.
The truth is, even when you believe in what you do and you feel in your heart you’re on the right path, you might still experience stress, burnout, or the lack of focus. Sometimes we get into a creative rut (seemingly) for no apparent reason, sometimes we feel too tired to work out, or we go through personal issues that block the free-flow of our love towards life.
Best way to handle these bumps in the road? There are several. Before we get to the star of the show in today’s article, which is the method we believe can transform your life despite its simplicity, here are a few tactics to snap you out of a dry spell:
1. Take a day off – give yourself time and room to breathe, disconnect, and clear your mind. We know it’s easier said than done, yet when the lack of motivation results from you being overwhelmed, another cup of coffee is hardly the solution (we know you know that, wink).
2. Take a walk in nature – move your body and mind outside. Fresh air, the greenery of a park, birds chirping – Mama Nature knows best how to heal us from a slump. Put your faith in the force that brought you to life in the first place.
3. Invest in meaningful relationships – people you surround yourself with can significantly raise the levels of your motivation. Social cooperation makes us more effective and more productive, yet it heavily depends on who you invite into your personal space.
4. Rewrite the narrative – have to vs. want to, can’t vs. won’t – the language we use really matters in defining the task. For example, as Mel Robbins, author of The 5 Second Rule, states, whenever you’re uneasy, tell yourself it is excitement rather than anxiety. This simple trick will stabilize your body and mind enough for you to focus on what you want to do (see what we did there?).
5. Kiss perfectionism goodbye – it’s an unbelievable inhibitor to anything you want to do and can easily turn your task into a never-ending story. Start before you are ready, we know it can be scary but done is always better than perfect.
Fall In Love With The Process
And now the moment we’ve been waiting for, the one technique that has the potential to transform extrinsic motivation into intrinsic desire is: The Do Something Principle.
How many times have you neglected a way out because it seemed too easy? As the saying goes, if it’s stupid but it works, it’s not stupid. Well, the Do Something Principle is so simple that it almost balances on the verge of silliness, to the point that we tend to overlook its incredible effectiveness.
Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, is the recent advocate for this principle that he defined in the aforementioned book. He writes that most of us take action when we feel motivated, when the reverse works much better because motivation is a three-part chain on a loop:
When you face a major life change, struggle to form a new habit, or start a new project, baby steps are the most efficient method in the long run. Therefore, the essence of this principle lies in doing something, taking the smallest menial step, and then harnessing the power of the generated momentum in order to motivate yourself to keep moving forward. To illustrate:
To encourage yourself to train for a 5K, start running for five minutes a day.
When you need to redesign your entire website, tackle the header first.
If you want to write a book, type in 100 words into a document.
Want to get physically stronger? Begin with 3 pushups a day.
To switch to a healthier diet, add one vegetable to your dinner.
To conquer social anxiety, try smiling at one stranger on the street.
When you prepare for a job interview, focus on ironing your shirt.
Action creates motivation. Start simple and focus on the process rather than the goal. The smallest viable step towards results is very often enough to get the snowball rolling because it gives you a sense of accomplishment that fuels motivation. With the destination in sight, it’s still all about the journey.
Mental health is a spectrum and languishing, the peculiar state between depression and wellbeing, is a serious risk factor. After reading this article you'll be well equipped with solid strategies to combat your feelings of emptiness.