Why Motivation is Completely Overrated
Heili Lehr, MA, LPCC – www.navigating-loss.com
In my counseling practice I often have clients tell me they have lost their motivation for something they want to do in their lives, and they want to know how to get it back. I try to provide a different perspective on this. Why wait to be motivated? It is within your power to decide to do important things, even in the face of a complete and total lack of motivation.
Feeling motivated isn’t always something you can control. We do things we are not motivated to do every day. We go to work when we would rather play, we tidy up around the house and throw in a load of laundry when we would rather watch tv, we walk the dog when it is nasty out. None of these things are particularly enjoyable or things we are motivated to do, but we do them anyway because we have made the decision that these things need to be done.
The same willingness to do what needs to be done can be applied to other areas of your life where you might be struggling with waiting to be motivated to do it. Maybe you find yourself unmotivated to do things for yourself although you can always find the motivation to do something that someone else needs you to do. Making commitments to yourself like going to the gym, making better nutritional choices, studying, looking for a new job, meeting new people, dating, or tackling an organizational project have a different priority in our lives. We wouldn’t dream of breaking a commitment we made to a friend, but for some reason breaking commitments to ourselves, or waiting to feel motivated to do it, feels acceptable.
Making yourself a priority and being willing to honor commitments to yourself might take a bit of a mental shift. I have listed below four tips to get started.
- Tie your Commitment to a Core Value. Getting in touch with your core values, what matters most to you, is an important part of being willing to take committed action. If one of your core values is to have close and supportive friendships or to be physically well and healthy, then tie your commitment to yourself in service of that value.
- Develop a Mantra. Having a ready phrase that helps push you past avoidance when you don’t feel like doing something can be really helpful. If you are finding it hard to stick to a healthy eating commitment, as you are driving past Krispy Kreme and fighting the urge to swing through the drive through, you can repeat to yourself “Resisting is hard, but I can do hard things”.
- Be Willing to Experience Discomfort. Accept that making changes and breaking old habits can bring up some resistance and pain points. Be willing to experience some discomfort and allow yourself to lean into the experience of difficult emotion without resorting to some of your less helpful avoidance strategies.
- Commit to Process, Not Results. Make all of your commitments to yourself process and not results oriented. You can’t always control results; you might not get that job, meet that new friend, or lose those ten pounds by month end, but you can commit to the processes that will help get you there. Make them easily achievable and measurable. Some examples might be: I am willing to commit to applying for one new job every week, I am willing to attend one new Meetup event every month, I am willing to meal prep five healthy meals every Sunday. Once you get in the habit of keeping commitments to yourself, you can build from there and results will follow. Stop waiting to be motivated, act with willingness anyway. NO MOTIVATION REQUIRED.
If you are struggling with motivation or connecting with your core values and would like help pushing past avoidance and acting with intention, I can help you discover ways that work for you. Visit me at www.navigating-loss.com.