Sooner or later, it happens to all of us. Your progress toward a goal has stalled. Your career is stuck in neutral. There’s a project to complete and you just can’t seem to rev up the energy for it.
You’re stuck. Your motivation has evaporated. You’ve fallen so far down the rabbit hole, you can’t even see the way out—let alone climb out.
Of course, there’s always a way out of stuckness and eventually we find it. But clawing our way out of a rabbit hole can take a frustrating amount of time—time that might cause you to miss important opportunities or take a toll on your mental health. No one has time for that!
Wouldn’t it be better to avoid falling into rabbit holes in the first place? An ounce of prevention really is better than a pound of cure. That’s what I want to discuss today—how to identify the early warning signs of demotivation and how to restore your energy and enthusiasm before you get well and truly stuck.
Motivation is the why behind everything you do. It’s the force that drives your behavior, the reason you commit to an action or work toward a goal. Motivation is highly personal, too. Your why won’t be someone else’s why. And unless you’re being chased by a bear, these whys are often internal. Which means that lack of motivation is internal, too.
When we’re stuck, we’re often stuck on a soul level. That’s why my three steps for bullet-proofing your motivation starts with your soul:
Step 1: How deep is that rabbit hole? Is it temporary? Too many things on your plate in the office or too much stress in your personal life can overwhelm even the hardiest motivation. If you’re just not feeling it today, give yourself some grace and start fresh tomorrow. As women, we tend to put everyone else’s well-being before our own. Some of us can sustain that for a long time before we burn out, but it can’t be sustained forever. A little self care goes a long way toward restoring your energy and enthusiasm.
BUT if your soul is telling you that your lack of motivation is more serious—if you’re feeling so stuck that you don’t know which way is up—that’s a sign that more trouble lies ahead. Addressing it now will save you heartache down the road.
Step 2: What are your personal warning signs that signal your motivation is dwindling? Have you stopped answering emails? Are you sitting quietly in meetings and not contributing? Procrastinating on taking the next step? Bored out of your mind just thinking about it? Unable to focus or concentrate? Are you immediately tired when you sit down to work? Going as far out of your way as possible to avoid certain people?
Like your whys, the signs that your motivation is waning are personal, too. Learn to identify your personal warning signs, so you recognize when you’re about to enter the danger zone. The sooner you spot your warning signs, the sooner you can take action to prevent yourself from derailing your goals.
Step 3: Create an SOS Plan to rescue your motivation. We all lose momentum. All of us. Even superheroes need to be rescued sometimes! What’s key is having a plan in place to prevent a full derailment, so you can get yourself back on track quickly. This can be a self-initiated plan or a plan that involves your coaching team for extra support and accountability.
Everyone’s SOS Plan will be slightly different, but here are the elements of mine …
1. Do your soul work. As Pema Chodron says, “stay.” Find stillness in the moment. When you’re used to success, your natural inclination may be to move, to do something—anything—to try and get the ball rolling again. But when you’re stuck and unsure of which way to go, moving can get you more stuck. So sit with the feelings for a while. Unclench your jaw, lower those shoulders. Be gentle with yourself.
Is there something (or more than one thing?) out of alignment in your life? If your environment is moving in one way and your purpose in another, you can’t help but get stuck.
Are you unclear on your why? Look for the bigger picture? Who will this help? How does it impact something larger and more important? Think bigger, believe bigger.
Does this speak to your heart? Or are you chasing someone else’s dream—or a goal you’re supposed to want, but don’t really? If it doesn’t connect to your soul, it may get you fired up for a minute but you’ll quickly lose steam.
2. Paint the vision. If you can’t see it, you won’t accomplish it. So define your goals. Get granular. What does success look like? Where is the destination? If you’re not sure, how will you know when you get there? You don’t want to be like Forrest Gump, running and running until you reach the ocean only to turn around and start running back. How does this impact other people? What is the greater good?
Make the vision as clear as you possibly can. Write it down. Sketch it out. Put together that vision board. Do whatever creates a brilliant, detailed picture of the finished result. Pin it up somewhere you can see it every day. Create a mental picture of you completing a task and you increase the odds that you will.
3. Map out a plan. You’ve heard the saying, “A goal without a plan is just a dream?” Break down big goals and projects into smaller, shorter-term tasks. What needs to happen first? Second? Third? Sit down with your calendar and start attaching dates to tasks. What resources do you need? Who are the people you need to talk to? Set small deadlines that you know you can meet.
Breaking a goal down into a step-by-step plan creates manageability and makes it feel less daunting. Even if you’re still unsure of the final outcome, you can tackle those first small steps. We lose motivation when we don’t trust that we are up to the task. Wherever you are, you know enough right now to begin. The rest will come as your skills and knowledge evolve. Walk before you run.
4. Set up your environment for success. A cluttered desk and office pull your attention off into other directions. Organize your workspace to give yourself a physical environment that feels abundant, creative, and prosperous. When your environment is positive, your mindset will be, too.
Focus is a huge part of motivation—and it’s hard to focus when you’re surrounded by distractions. So get rid of ’em! Flip your phone face down to hide texts and notifications. Use focus apps like Freedom and Serene to temporarily block social media and other online sites while you’re working. (They’ll still be there when you’re done. I promise.) If you’re working from home, hang that Do Not Disturb sign on the door.
5. Find your zone and stay in it. Our best work happens when we’re in a flow state. Finding that flow means knowing yourself. When and where are you most productive? What activities get your mind ready to work? We all have our own unique creative process, and honoring that process leads to working in the zone.
If you do your best work in the morning, then block out that time for your most important projects. Do you need music to focus? Or complete silence? A mind-clearing walk? Fifteen minutes of meditation? Chances are, you already know where your zone is, but we let other people’s priorities and work styles influence our own. Go with your soul and work the way that’s best for you.
You know what’s not in your zone? Multi-tasking. Being in the zone is a state of supreme focus. You can’t achieve that level of intense focus on multiple things simultaneously. Nothing will zap your motivation faster than trying to do too many things at once—and not getting any of them done.
6. Protect your energy. Especially be mindful of the energy that other people bring into your space. Do they have a scarcity mindset or an abundance mindset? If you know someone will bring energy that’s unhelpful into your workspace, hold that meeting or conversation outside or in the breakroom. Don’t let other people transfer the wrong kind of energy to your environment.
You know who else depletes our energy? We do. Let’s face it: most of us are pretty darn good at sapping our own energy! Resist the impulse to work until you can’t think straight. More is not always better. Schedule breaks. Your mind and body work together. Set a timer as a reminder to get up and stretch. Hydrate. Put on that song you can’t not dance to and just move your body for a few minutes.
Keep your thoughts positive. This can be hard, I hear you. But what gets your attention gets you. So keep your attention laser-focused on success. Shift your thoughts to what you want to accomplish. Start your work time with affirmations. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found that self-affirmations enhance our performance on problem-solving and tasks. That makes sense, right? When we affirm something, it gives us space to look for the things that support it.
Don’t forget your body language. When you’re slouched over your keyboard or slumped in a chair, your energy shifts down, too. Keep your head up and your heart open. Be in your queen.
7. Find a new perspective. If you’re well and truly stuck, that may be a sign that the approach you’re taking is not the right one. Your soul is keeping you from wandering off in the wrong direction. You may need to clear your mind and look at the situation from an entirely different angle. Step back, get outside your office, go do something fun. All work and no play is never good for your motivation. Meet a friend for lunch, go to a movie, visit a museum, have an adventure and do something entirely new. Feeding your mind and soul generates creativity and positivity.
8. Celebrate the wins! You don’t have to wait until a project is one hundred percent done or to cross the finish line on a goal before you celebrate. Reward yourself for hitting milestones along the way and you’ll keep your motivation on track, too.
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