Motivation is central to creativity, productivity, and happiness. Motivation is what causes us to act, and when we act, we create movement, growth, and change; we feel involved, masterful, and significant; we feel powerful through experiencing how we can change the world; and we create more of what we love in our lives. And all of this gives our lives purpose and happiness.
Here are 3 types of demotivation and the strategies that will help you find your fire:
1. You’re Demotivated by Fear
When you’re afraid, even if you’re entering territory that you’ve chosen to move into, a part of you is determined to avoid going forward. Fear slows you down and makes you hesitant and careful, which can be beneficial to you, but sometimes your fears are based on your imagination rather than on an accurate assessment of the risks in your reality. If your fear is big enough, even if you’re also excited to go forward, the part of you that wants to keep you safe can successfully prevent you from going forward into territory that’s both desirable and safe.
How to get motivated again: To get motivated, you need to deal with your fear. Start by naming your fears so that they’re out in the open. Remember to say a gentle “thank you” to your fears–they’re trying to protect you, after all. Then question your fears: “Why am I afraid of that happening?” “What are the chances that would really happen?” Some of your fears will slip away now.
Look at the fears that are left. What are they telling you about the research you need to do, the gaps you need to fill, and the risk management strategies you need to put in place? Honor that wisdom by building it into your plan. Finally, consider breaking down the changes into smaller steps and focusing on just the next few small steps–this will calm your fears.
To get motivated, you need to deal with your fear.
2. You’re Demotivated by Setting the Wrong Goals
Martha Beck has a great model for understanding motivation. She explains that we have an Essential Self and a Social Self. Your Essential Self is the part of you that’s spontaneous and creative and playful, the part that knows what’s most important to you. Your Social Self is the part of you that has been developing since the day you were born, learning the rules of the tribe and working hard to make sure that you’re safe by making you follow “the rules.”
We’re all surrounded by so many messages that feed into our Social Selves and we’re keen to impress our tribes. When you feel unmotivated, it’s because you’re setting goals based purely on what your Social Self wants and this is pulling you away from the direction your Essential Self wants you to take. Your Essential Self uses demotivation to slow you down and to detach you from the toxic goals you’ve set.
How to get motivated again: Take some time to review your goals. Since your Essential Self is non-verbal, you can easily access your Essential Self through your body. Notice how your body responds as you think of each of the gWhen your body (and particularly your breathing) shows signs of tightness and constriction, that’s a pretty good indication that you’re trying to follow toxic goals. If you get a constricted reaction, scrap your current goals and question all your stories about what you “should” do with your life. Notice what makes you smile spontaneously or lose track of time, and set goals related to that stuff instead. Goals you’re trying to work on.
Notice how your body responds as you think of each of the goals you’re trying to work on.
3. You’re Demotivated by Lack of Challenge
Challenge is another crucial ingredient for motivation that authors like Daniel Pink and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, highlight. When it comes to dealing with challenges, there’s a sweet spot. Too great a challenge, and the fear becomes too great and saps our motivation (see point 1), and if the challenge is too small, we quickly get bored and struggle to stay motivated. We’re designed to be living, growing creatures, and we need constant challenges and opportunities to master new skills. Without challenges, our Essential Self steps in and demotivates us as a way of telling us that we’ve departed from the path that’s right for us.
How to get motivated again: Review your goals and the projects you’re working on. Are they challenging you? Are they going to require you to grow in order to achieve them, or are you treading water in your comfort zone, doing only the things you know you can do? Try tweaking your goals to make them a bit more challenging, take on projects that will require you to grow, and find a new thing or two to learn to stimulate yourself.
If the challenge is too small, we quickly get bored and struggle to stay motivated.