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Last updated February 23, 2024.
It’s hard to stay motivated all the time. Even the best of society who seem to have all of their ducks in a row with the updated social media pages, perfect daily routines, and best morning faces have off days.
While that’s normal, life doesn’t care and keeps doing its thing. Tasks have deadlines. Bills have to get paid. Meetings need to be had. And if you have kids, you’re likely adding homeschooling to your ever-growing list of things to do.
Our world currently has us feeling the need to be productive and get things done all the time. Even during a global pandemic, it can feel like expectations and demands are unchanged, even though the same can’t be said for our mental or emotional states and we’re not feeling up to the task these days.
Here are some ways you can keep yourself motivated, even when your mind’s telling you “no”.
How To Stay Motivated Even When You’re Really Not Feeling It
Go through it.
We really need to normalize postponing meetings because you don’t feel like showing up.
When it comes to not really feeling it or having a blah day, sometimes you just need to go through it and take the blah for what it is.
There’s been such a demand for the need to seem or be perfect and produce loads of work, content, or whatever tangible result in the shortest amount of time possible.
If your job isn’t putting pressure on you, then it’s family demands. If it’s not family demands, then we’re putting those insane expectations on ourselves.
We’re trying to replicate what technology can do, but we’re not technology. We’re humanity.
The truth is that this desire to be perfect, present, and productive all the time kills our motivation, drive, and progress, leading to days where we’re just not feeling it..
It is absolutely normal to have an off day or several off days. There will be days where you’ve gotten enough rest, you ate the right foods, exercised, and said your daily affirmations and you’re still not feeling it. That. Is. Fine.
Normalize the fact that some days you just don’t want to. Get comfortable with the idea that some days, you’ll wake up and it’s not going to be sunshine and roses and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Turn off the noise.
There’s been no shortage of breaking news and shocking headlines in 2020. We were facing mental health issues long before the coronavirus reached the States, but you bet the pandemic is taking a heavy toll.
13.6% of U.S. adults have reported symptoms of serious psychological distress during the pandemic, which is three times higher than what it was in 2018. And with continuing nationwide protests, escalating racial tensions, and a second lockdown looming, it’s fair to assume that things may get worse before they get better.
Because we’re fed a constant stream of negativity, that seeps into our mood and overall outlook of the world. And, while it’s reality and we need to see these things, who exactly are we serving if life has us so down that we can’t even function?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, lost, stuck, stressed, or downright hopeless, just know that you’re not alone. It’s more than okay to take a break from the news or social media. In fact, it’s highly recommended.
Change your predominant source of information and see how that affects things. For instance, I used to have Yahoo set as my homepage and would easily get caught up in headlines and reading troll comments. Embarrassing, I know.
My homepage is now Medium, an online publishing platform that features conscious journalism and unique perspectives on current events and various topics. I got a $5/mo subscription that allows me to read all the articles I want and curate the topics that I want to see (they tend to be about blogging strategies, entrepreneurship, finance, and self-improvement).
You don’t have to get a Medium subscription, but you get the idea. Surround yourself with positive news or sources of information. Listen to dope podcasts on things you want to learn more about. Find Tedx talks inspiring you to be all that you can be. Because it’s possible.
Pause and do a quick life audit.
Whenever things aren’t going right in my life or I’m in a negative rut, one of the first things I do is slow down, clear my head, and do a quick scan of what’s going on in all facets of my life.
I like to take a holistic view of my work life, personal life, health, relationships, spirituality, even dreaded finances. Are the first minutes of my day after waking up spent on my phone? Did I skip too many runs this week? Have I not really spoken with my family lately?
While there are a number of external forces or factors that can have an impact on our mood or why we aren’t feeling motivated, it’s always good to look within first and see if there are adjustments you can make to alleviate your situation before thinking drastic changes are necessary.
Parts of my life that I like to examine when things aren’t going right:
- Self: mindset, personal development, self-care, self-love, confidence.
- Work: career or business goals, entrepreneurship, professional development.
- Play: hobbies, side hustles, or creative outlets/gigs.
- Health: physical, mental, emotional, relationships with food, drugs, alcohol, etc.
- Relationships: family, pets, spouse or partner, marriage, sexuality.
- Spirituality: meditation, religion, affirmations, life purpose.
- Finances: credit, student loans, personal loans, retirement.
- Home: apartment, home, room, van or RV, boat.
- Digital: smartphones and tablets, laptops and PCs, tv, social media
This isn’t an exhaustive list of things you can reflect on, but it serves as a starting place. I recommend choosing only one or two of these areas if you already have an idea of what’s getting you down and then making adjustments to get you back on the right track.
I go into more detail about life auditing in my blog post about how to declutter your life. Make sure to check it out for more tips.
Focus on what you can do today.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m down, I tend to overthink, which usually doesn’t help.
The easiest way to feel worse when things aren’t going your way is to start thinking about all the things that aren’t going your way and how that affects your future and all the things. It can trigger anxiety and have you feeling overwhelmed, more than you already are.
You have a lot going on at the moment. Push all of that aside for a second and focus on the 24 hours in front of you currently. What can you do today that will lift your spirits, improve your mood, or make you feel accomplished?
I’ll use myself as an example. Whenever I’m feeling out of it, it’s usually for health reasons. When my plate piles up on the work front, I tend to skip my runs and yoga videos, and am likelier to opt for junk food throughout the day instead of something healthy.
So, for that day, my to-do list will have a lot of self and health-oriented tasks like meditation or yoga, 30 minutes of cardio, getting sunshine on the patio, etc. And my goal is to not only accomplish those personal goals but be intentional about it so that I end the day feeling upbeat, refreshed, and, most importantly, accomplished.
And If I’m eating food that isn’t nutritious, it’s likely because I don’t have any at home and haven’t made time to go shopping. I created a personal meal planner board on Trello that I use to plan out my meals for the week that helps me shop and cook accordingly and stay on track.
All to say, break down the day into smaller chunks. Focusing on things that yield positive and desirable outcomes can help you find your rhythm again.
Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
Everyone has an inner critic, and it’s good for us for the most part. It tends to keep us motivated and sticking to our goals. But sometimes, that inner voice goes negative. Excessively negative. And, over time, it can take a serious toll.
Studies have found that rumination, or continuous thinking of the same thing, pessimism, and blaming yourself for negative events or situations can lead to issues like perfectionism, limited thinking, and relationship challenges as well as an increase in mental health problems. Meaning, the negativity doesn’t go away; it gets worse.
Yet a lot of us do it anyway. And rather than for us to realize that we might be bringing the misadventure upon ourselves, instead, we’re quick to say “I knew it”.
This isn’t by coincidence. It’s called the law of attraction, a notion that your thoughts create your experiences. So, if you think negative thoughts, you’ll attract negative experiences.
But, just think. If negative talk has negative side effects on you, then what about positive thoughts and talk?
While getting rid of negative self-talk is impossible, what is possible is practicing useful strategies to help you minimize it over time.
Here are some helpful tips I’ve used for myself and employees I’ve coached over the years:
- Catch your negative voice. When you’re having a negative session with yourself, catch yourself in the act and stop immediately. It will take some time, but gradually, you’ll catch yourself earlier and the negative noise in your head will decrease.
- Think like a coach (or friend). When it comes to motivation, I draw inspiration from athletes and coaches because of my competitive streak. I like to be my own hype woman and rile myself up the way Serena Williams does. If a friendlier approach is more your speed, go for it. Talk to yourself the way you’d want your best friend to talk to you.
- Change your perspective. It’s important to think of all the possibilities when life is weighing you down. For instance, something might be making you angry or upset right now, but how does this issue play out in the grand scheme of things? Is it a life-shattering problem that’s halting you in your tracks? Or is it a detour from your plan but navigable nonetheless?
- Be a Positive Pedro. The best way to counter negative talk is to be positive with yourself. Replace your negative self-talk with positive thinking. Instead of “I don’t know what I want to do with my life”, try “I can do anything I want with my life”.
Lean on your support group.
Oftentimes, we like to think that we can go it alone in this crazy world. I was one of those who held that belief and attempted to do so. If you haven’t figured this out yet, it sucks, to put it mildly.
It wasn’t until I hit rock bottom and was in a state of despair mentally and emotionally that I realized that having a support group throughout my journey if I want to be successful isn’t just a good idea. It’s pretty much foundational.
Your support group is a number of people you trust and go to for advice, comfort, encouragement, or guidance. Immediate support systems can include your family and friends. If you’re on good terms with them and they’re supportive of your goals, then they tend to be the people who know you best.
It’s also important to have professionals, role models, and like-minded people or those who have common experiences with you in your tribe as they’ll provide unbiased feedback and will understand your situations and goals in ways others cannot.
Evaluate the five people you’re closest with and ask yourself the following questions to get you started:
- Are they there to empower or uplift you?
- Do they reach out when they haven’t heard from you, or to check on your wellbeing?
- Are they supportive of your aspirations?
- Are they a cheerleader?
If you don’t have a group, then create one. Strengthening relationships with friends and family and letting them get to know where you are in life and desirable outcomes for your renewed relationship is a good idea if you’re up for it.
With in-person classes not being an option for most of us, check social media groups and forums and connect with people who have similar interests.
Sometimes, all it takes is putting yourself out there and saying “hi” to strike up a new friendship and gain a new supporter. Just don’t forget to support them back.
Take care of yourself.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing self-care discussed so much in the mainstream now. It’s a concept I started learning about only three or four years ago myself and have since become a regular practitioner and ambassador of the lifestyle if you will.
If there’s anything any of us should be learning right now as various aspects of our lives are enduring transitions, it should be the importance of self. I always put my headphones on as soon as I’m on a plane, but oh how I’ve missed those sweet cautionary words from the wise lips of flight attendants!
If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.Every flight attendant.
It’s difficult to care for, love, or serve someone else if you’re not there for yourself in a similar capacity. In order to pour from your cup, your cup has to be full or have contents in it at a bare minimum. There’s a reason why we empaths and selfless people are notorious for burning out or even having a bout of rage or anger. It’s likely because our cup is empty.
When it feels like nothing is going right in your life or you’re just not feeling like your usual self, then maybe your self-care routine needs a boost.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Stay hydrated and drink at least 64 oz of water every day. I find that toting a large water bottle around helps me get my necessary amount every day; I usually go over. Try this one with measurements on the side.
- Be active and do at least 25 minutes of exercise 3-5 times per week. If you’re fitness adverse, try alternating your workouts so that you don’t get bored.
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night. CBD + melatonin blends are helpful for not only falling asleep, but staying asleep and leaving you feeling refreshed rather than groggy in the mornings.
- Practice mindfulness through yoga, meditation, prayer, journaling, or whatever works for you. Meditation apps are super helpful if you’re just getting started. I’m a fan of journaling and recommend this self-care journal to inspire you to get your thoughts out and gain some clarity.
- Draw a bath. Baths are underrated and I don’t know why. The benefits are numerous, including improved immunity, increased blood flow, and alleviation of stress and anxiety. Plus, they feel amazing. These moisturizing bath bombs are perfect for setting the mood if you want to go all the way.
Whatever you do, take it easy.
Staying motivated 24/7 is no small task. We hardly take the time to zoom out and see the bigger picture of what it is we’re actually doing at any given time.
Back-to-back-to-back client meetings and you’re running on four hours of sleep, no thanks to insomnia.
Juggling the transition of working from home and not having your multiple-screen setup like you did at the office.
Staying on top of client projects AND feeding your kids. Or plants.
It’s all hard work.
So, when the inevitable happens, like burning out and losing motivation and all sense of purpose, it blindsides us even though the telltale signs were there all along.
Don’t be hard on yourself. Life goes on. It always does. Things go unplanned and that’s the way it is. What matters is how we react when those moments arise. It’s up to us to adapt, take care of ourselves, and take things one day at a time.