Sometimes life can make you feel like everyone is making progress except you.
Even though we know it’s not true, when we’ve been feeling like we’re not getting much accomplished it’s easy to fall into a terrible mental trap.
Am I wasting another day?! Every day counts and here I am wasting one.
There’s always tomorrow. I’ll get back to it tomorrow.
Do I really want to reach this goal? I’ll be fine without it, I’m fine now.
The Geto Boys were only scratching the surface when they said: “my mind playing tricks on me!”.
When you feel completely unmotivated and uninspired, it can feel like you may never get back to making progress on your goals again. Whether it’s for the day or week, we all fall into these traps where we feel like we just can’t “do it” today, whatever that it is for you.
Although I’m far from perfect, I have noticed a few things that usually help me get back in the mood to get things done when I need to. Motivating yourself when you don’t feel like it is a skill.
It’s important that we work on skills like this because the more we work towards our goals, the closer we get.
When it comes to techniques, not everything works for everyone, but I hope that sharing how I approach this feeling when it comes along will help you break through it as well.
The first secret might seem strange, but hear me out.
You’re human, right?
If you’re like most people, you want to see clear and consistent progress towards things you are trying to achieve. This can be tricky because when you’re not doing anything, the feeling of guilt begins to weigh even heavier.
While doing nothing, you sit and think about how doing nothing is making you feel bad, which makes you feel even worse. On and on, the cycle continues.
But have you ever considered easing up on yourself as the first step forward?
Sure, you need to get things done, but creating this negative cycle in your mind only makes the cycle stronger because you resonate with the message and keep accepting it.
Whenever I really, truly, do not want to do something that I know I should during that day, I tell myself something like “you’re not in the mood to do it now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it later in the day”. Although simple, telling myself this helps me ease up and remember that the day isn’t over. It also helps me to begin mentally preparing to do something that I’m not in the mood for later on.
I love this approach because it’s a solid reminder that you’re human and your moods will shift. After acknowledging this and putting it on my do later (for real) list, I begin to prepare my mind by asking myself a very important question.
Why was this so important to you in the first place?
Science has proven it again and again, humans naturally want to pass up on long-term pleasure because they prefer short-term. People want to see the results of their actions now.
This can be good in some ways because it keeps us more focused on moments that are closer in time, but it can be harmful when trying to reach our long term goals. I warned you, the mind loves playing tricks on you, and this is one of its favorite games to play.
Although we’re logical enough to know that some things take time, we prioritize short-term satisfaction.
Knowing this, it’s important to remember why that thing was so important to you when you decided that you will take the action that you’re not motivated to.
This will help your brain to remember that there’s a payoff that you will get, but it probably won’t happen tomorrow, or maybe not even by next week or month. When getting my mind ready to do the task I put off until later in the day, this is usually the thought I start with.
You can also think about things that bring on positive memories of similar things that you’ve accomplished.
If you’ve never accomplished anything similar to your new goal, think of another time you took on a challenge and fought through to make it happen. This will help you remember and feel like you can take on a new challenge and be successful again.
But the battle isn’t always all in the mind.
Get moving, get motivated
In 2014, I was sick and tired of being out of shape.
I had just moved to Brooklyn from Providence, Rhode Island a year before, was a year removed from college, and was living on the typical post-grad budget of oatmeal and NYC’s finest dollar slices.
One day, I was introduced to someone who I would consider to be highly successful. It seemed like he had achieved nearly everything I set out to which inspired the s*** out of me.
While listening to him speak on a panel that I’ll never forget, one of the things he touched on was how he used running to keep in shape, and that it fit his lifestyle because it could be done quickly or slowly depending on how much distance he committed to.
I have never seen someone who is overweight and has a great running time, so I decided to try it out. First, it was 1 mile, then 2, then 3, then 4. Finally, I started tracking my time and have been a runner since.
Running keeps everything in check for me. It helps me maintain a good physique, continuously do a physical activity that I enjoy, clears my mind and gives me a lot of energy.
But I know that it might not be running for you.
I’m fully aware that most people hate running. But the reason why I shared that story is because you should think about what you enjoy doing that gets you moving.
It doesn’t even have to make perfect sense or be pretty, it just has to be something that can get you out of your head and into your physical body, excited and moving. Do it and use the feeling to build momentum into the next thing you’re going to do.
But at some point, you have to take action.
That “IDC do it anyway” love
I LOVE Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art.
It’s an amazing book that should be read by anyone who creates anything.
In this book, the main idea is centered around the resistance. But what is the resistance?
The resistance is the force that stops you from taking action. It is within you and tells you all types of elaborate lies that will get you to say “you know what, I don’t need to do this today”. The resistance is an asshole because it knows your weaknesses and preys on them.
It pops up in moments like when you’re laying in bed and your mind says “you should do that thing now, but you can do it tomorrow” so you wait.
Or when your mind says something like, “this project isn’t that important anyway, who cares if it’s late” or “I’m a little tired, let me put this off today”.
It happens to ALL of us who make anything, so the key is learning how to beat it. One of my good friends sent me this picture that explains how to beat the resistance in a pretty succinct (and eloquent) way.
Action leads to motivation.
Within The War of Art, Pressfield goes on to explain that most of the time, beating the resistance is as simple as doing what you need to anyway and getting started.
This sounds so simple, but it works! Here’s one example of how I use it…
I love to shoot and edit videos (and you can see my work at byrouk.com), but that doesn’t mean that I’m equally as excited to create each one. When I do have to edit something that don’t really want to, I pull out my laptop, scroll through twitter and maybe read a few articles.
Sometimes this routine of doing a whole bunch of BS on my computer lasts for an hour or two, but that’s ok.
I know that if I get my mind in a space where it finally says “hey, I’m on a laptop!”, it becomes much easier to do the other activities that I actually need to do on my laptop after a while.
But you wasted 2 hours!! I hear from the crowds…
Sure, I did.
But I also got what I needed to done thanks to those 2 “wasted” hours. Sometimes it will truly feel like you don’t want to do that task, but if you really want it and don’t want to tap out or keep lying to yourself about doing it, remember, action leads to motivation.
Slow progress is better than no progress, so it’s ok to inch forward on some days.
If you’re feeling unmotivated while reading this, I hope it helps
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written by ‘rouk