We've all suffered from it. A sudden, seemingly inexplicable loss of motivation. We feel dejected, empty, and tired. Getting out of bed is a struggle and few things excite. We procrastinate on our tasks and our projects. We feel guilty about it too, but we can't get ourselves to do anything about it.
This loss of motivation hits everyone in life, from the tired med school student to the highly effective executive. Usually, we simply force ourselves through the days until we start feeling better. But that's wasting an opportunity.
You see, losing motivation is instructional. It's your subconscious mind giving hints that something is off. Properly analyzing why you're not feeling motivated will make it easier to snap out of it and will ultimately determine how productive and fulfilled you can feel over a prolonged period of time.
What Causes a Loss of Motivation?
There are many reasons why someone can experience a sudden loss of motivation, but the reasons are quite specific and it's not all that hard to figure out which one you're suffering from. If you're feeling unmotivated, a few of the below reasons will usually pop out to you as the reasons why you specifically have lost motivation (for a particular project or in general).
You Don't Value Yourself
In his book 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth, John Maxwell calls the value judgments that people make about themselves "the most important factor in someone's psychological development and motivation."
Is your self-talk negative? Are you often cynical or bitter? Do you consider yourself unworthy of something? If so, this could be the reason why you're feeling unmotivated.
Solution: Be careful with your self-talk. Identify your limiting beliefs first (write them down to make this process easier) and exchange them for empowering beliefs.
For example: it's not because you've achieved little so far that you aren't capable of achieving much in the future. Here are some bad thoughts you should replace:
- "I can't do this." => "I can do this, I just need to figure out how."
- "I don't deserve success." => "I will take what comes my way and use it for good."
- "I've never been great at anything." => "I'm good at many things already and can become great in them too."
You Don't Have a Strong Enough Why
Most people have some answer as to why they're doing what they're doing. Often, however, that answer isn't strong or emotional enough. This is frequently a big reason why you might have lost motivation for something.
Ask yourself, why did you start a particular project? Why do you work at your current job? If your answers are weak and might as well be accompanied with a shrug or an "I guess", then your why isn't strong enough.
Solution: Explicitly define your why. This needn't be some ethereal process where you look up at the sky for the answer to echo in your head. Just write down some of the reasons why you're doing what you're doing and don't stop until you arrive at something that stirs you, something that has you nodding your head.
Your why needn't even be directly associated with a particular project either. For example, your why for an otherwise boring project at work can be "So my manager sees I can get down in the weeds and get stuff done."
Another example: I'm currently learning how to play the piano, because I believe that learning a new instrument will improve my creativity. A study from Michigan State University has shown that Nobel Prize Winners are 2.85 more likely than the average scientist to have an artistic or crafty hobby. And Einstein played the violin.
It's anecdotal evidence, but it keeps me going. That's what matters.
Your Goal Overwhelms You
You've set an ambitious goal that requires you to push hard every day. But you can't get yourself to do any of your tasks. Often, this is because the goal overwhelms you.
This can be a subtle one, because you needn't necessarily feel overwhelmed to be overwhelmed. You might think you're perfectly capable of achieving your goal, but still end up procrastinating on your tasks.
Analyzing your ambitious goal and placing it into a structure of small tasks and reasonable deadlines will make it much easier to keep on moving forward.
Your Environment Isn't Supportive
Your environment is a big predictor of your success. Jim Rohn said that you're the average of the five people you surround yourself with, and there's a lot of truth to that quote.
If you surround yourself with negative, cynical people, you will adopt their mindset and turn negative and cynical too. This, in turn, will make it harder to motivate yourself to do anything. Of course, it goes beyond people too. Your physical environment counts too. It'll be harder to lose weight when you have sugary treats in your house.
Solution: Surround yourself with positive, successful people (and I define success broadly, not in its narrow monetary sense). Determine what elements in your environment demotivate you. Remove those elements and replace them with motivators.
You Lead an Unhealthy Lifestyle
So many problems in life can be attributed to a lack of sleep, a poor diet, and not enough exercise. Sleeping six hours a night and living on Chinese takeaway food will inevitably, eventually, lead to burnout and loss of motivation.
Solution: Determine how many hours of sleep you need and get those hours consistently. Exercise several times a week. Eat healthily and mindfully.
Happy, motivated people have a different physiology than unmotivated people. They stand up straight, breathe faster, and are generally more active. Emotion creates motion. This works the other way round too. Motion creates emotion. You can trick your brain into feeling happier and more motivated by moving around and being active.
You want things now. You see things that aren't there, but should be. All the work you do is done with a grudge, because the result should've been there already.
Solution: Practice gratitude for what you already have. The world isn't perfect and you'll never have everything you want, but it's good to practice being grateful for what you already have.
Don't be afraid that gratitude will temper your ambitions. It won't. You can both be grateful for what you already have and eagerly work towards the future you envision. One doesn't cancel out the other.
Additionally, it's important to realize that success (however you define it) is a marathon, not a sprint. Everything good in life takes time. Shortcuts in life usually aren't shortcuts at all.
Value consistency more than intensity. Most people will benefit much more from working out half an hour every day over an intense two-hour workout once a week.
These were six reasons why you can experience a sudden loss of motivation, and how you can overcome each one of them. Did this article help? Can you think of other ways to overcome feeling unmotivated? Let me know in the comments 👇.