Have you ever been really excited about starting a healthy diet, a new business idea, or applying to a school and improving your life and then lose that initial motivation for whatever reason? Perhaps something big happened to derail you and you are grieving, or you received some kind of rejection, or you realized that your goal was harder than you initially thought so you lost your motivation entirely. This experience is totally normal and even expected. Rather than analyzing why you lost your motivation, let’s talk about how to get back your motivation.
In grad school, I remember learning fancy formulas regarding work motivation. Motivation was a result of combining self-efficacy (our expectancy) for completing the task and the value of the outcome associated with it. The higher these two factors, the higher an individual’s motivation will be. I find this formula to be accurate; I finish the projects that I really value and believe in and don’t finish those projects that I chalk up as failures. However, sometimes my initial motivation is quite high, and I still get derailed. Understanding motivation helps me get reenergized because I can focus on little ways to increase my belief in myself and remind myself why I value a particular project or task that lost its initial spark.
1. Honor Your Inertia.
Instead of beating yourself up for needing a break or being in a rut, you should trust that there was a reason that you weren’t ready. Part of being successful is letting go. We all make mistakes, we all cling to rejection at times, and we all face trials and tribulations. Remind yourself that other successful people have also been in a rut, and that’s okay. Think about and learn from what derailed you, but don’t dwell on it. Think about times when you had too much on your plate and use that as a way to gauge what you do next. Do this without judging: just observe and learn. Perhaps you weren’t asked to speak at your favorite conference, or a book publisher tells you to “revise and resubmit” when you thought you were ready for the next prong on your career ladder. This doesn’t mean you should quit all together next time. In other words, the next time you hit a stumbling block, your rut becomes shorter and you bounce back with ease. Real or perceived negative feedback is often one little misstep in our bigger journey towards success, and we can strengthen that muscle and momentum as we move forward. We can even train ourselves to be more forward focused and learn to keep one eye on the prize. Try thinking about how you want your life to look like in ten years from now. Today’s small rejection is put into perspective when you dream big and think about what you want further down the road.
2. You Are Worthy Of Success.
It’s hard to remember our successes when we are in a funk. Think about some reasons you are a rock star and focus on some projects you have finished. This can remind you that you do have the gumption to succeed. Think of three for four things you are proud of accomplishing and look at the common core competencies that make you soar in these overlapping successes. I would bet that you would see some quick momentum shifts if you applied that same effort to your current project. You might be signing up to learn new skills, but you already have the confidence to take that next step. You can rekindle, tweak, change, move forward again despite the fact that you needed to take a break for whatever reason.
3. Review Your Why
When we value something, we get it done, right? So how do we trick ourselves back into that initial mojo once it’s gone? What is the overall vision of the project being completed? What is your drive? As you cling to that initial vision, you will likely take a baby step. Taking small actions will lower your anxiety and revive your motivation and confidence. Don’t be afraid to speak your “why” out loud. One of my favorite phrases that I use with my clients is, “The words are our wands” when I am referring to positive self-talk. It is so easy to look in the mirror and say, “Okay, we’re getting back on the horse,” and our subconscious will quickly think up actions to take to make our word choices a reality. Sometimes when I am in my “kick butt” costume, I write my “future lazy self” a motivating little note.
4. Refill Your Tank
It’s easy to get bogged down by negative news and spiral into more negativity with so much uncertainty in the world right now. Brainstorm ways that you can recharge and refuel. Small things like packing healthy snacks and drinking more water with lemon in it can seem small but really help with our overall energy, which can play a role in smaller projects. Doing things that make you happy is like making sure you have fuel in your car. Perhaps taking a brisk walk or soaking in a hot bath will help give you the energy and mental space to boost and refocus your energy. Jot down ways that you personally gain energy and enthusiasm. One way to quickly refill your tank is to remind yourself that you are worthy of success.
5. All Dressed Up and Someplace to Go
Okay, this sounds like I am kidding around; however, when you are in a funk, look at your outfit. I have been wearing sweat pants since last March; have you? One day when I had enough of being stuck inside, I put on make up and a nice blouse. I find an easy way to trick myself into motivation is to dress a little nicer than I feel. Try it out. Yup, trick yourself. Think about putting on the running shorts and tee and convincing yourself you can take the walk or put on the black suit jacket and make that call. You know what you need. It’s a way to trick yourself into quick action, and before you laugh out loud at my suggestion, try it. Once I am in a more motivating outfit, my words often follow suit. Sound crazy? Try dressing up and looking in the mirror and giving yourself a private pep talk. Say, “You’re ready!” or “Okay, time to try again!” or “You are worthy of a second chance.” Whatever you need, look at yourself and say it aloud. I know that my unmotivated self will rear its ugly head in the future, so I even post little reminders to increase my motivation next time I am in a rut. I write “Keep on keeping on,” and when the lulls come, it helps me to dig myself out even faster and more furious.
A key to moving ahead gracefully is being able to forgive yourself along the way. Play around with these five tips and tricks, and most importantly, have some fun!