Finding Motivation: What To Do When You Don't Feel Like Doing Anything

by Chris Widener

The measure of your success usually comes down to who wins the battle that rages between two versions of you: the "you" who wants to stop, give up, or take it easy, and the "you" who chooses to beat back that which would stand in the way of your success—complacency.

In all of my interactions with people, I've never met anyone, regardless of his level of success, who doesn't sometimes find himself simply not wanting to do those very things he needs to do. It's part of human nature. There will be times when, despite all we need to do to accomplish our goals and desires, we find ourselves simply not wanting to do anything. What separates those who become successful from those who maintain the status quo is the ability, at those moments when we are making crucial decisions, to find the inner motivation that will enable us to conquer our complacency and move into action.

I regularly confront this issue. (Don't you?) And I've found these success strategies will help get me going, even when I don't feel like doing anything.

Honestly Evaluate Whether or Not You Need a Break

This is the first thing I do when I don't want to get into action.

Often, after working very hard, we feel a sort of lethargy that is really our body and emotions telling us, we simply need a break! This takes real intellectual honesty to evaluate, because when we don't need a break, our mind keeps telling us we do! But sometimes, we genuinely do need a break.

I don't particularly like to exercise, but I do it almost every day. Sometimes, before going to the club, I find myself thinking that I just didn't feel like going. Usually, I am just being lazy. However, sometimes my body really does need some rest, so from time to time I will take a one- or two-day break from working out.

The benefits of this are two-fold. First, my body gets a break to regenerate itself. Second, after a day or two, I start to miss my workout, and eagerly anticipate returning to the gym.

Start Small

A typical workout day for me consists of 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise and about 30 minutes of weight-lifting. Sometimes, when I find myself not wanting to go to the gym, I will make a commitment to go and do a smaller workout. Instead of not going at all, I'll commit to doing 15 to 20 minutes of aerobic exercise and 15 to 30 minutes of weight-lifting.

This is also good for two reasons. First, I actually get some exercise that day. And second, it keeps me from getting into a cycle of giving up when I don't feel like moving toward action.

You can find other examples to fit your life. Maybe you are a writer who simply doesn't want to write today. Instead of the long day of writing you had planned, decide that you will at least outline a couple of new articles. You will at least have accomplished a little—and who knows? By the time you've done that much, you may have found you have put yourself into the writing mood after all.

Change Your Routine

What keeps me in the best shape is to do 30 to 45 minutes on the treadmill every day. Now, let me be very blunt. I find running on the treadmill extremely boring. I can usually get myself to do it, but sometimes I need to vary my routine. Instead of 30 to 45 minutes on a treadmill, I'll break down my aerobic exercise routine into a number of different areas. I'll do ten to 15 minutes on treadmills, 10 to 15 minutes on the reclining cycle, 5 to 10 minutes on the rowing machine, 5 to 10 minutes on the stair stepper, and then back on to the treadmill for five to 10 minutes. I still get my exercise, but I'm bored a lot less.

Reward Yourself

One way I motivate myself to do something when I don't feel like doing it, is to promise myself a little reward if I get through the work I need to do. For instance, I may tell myself, if I to go to the club, I can take five to 10 minutes off my treadmill exercise, which will shorten my workout routine—and I'll allow myself a few extra minutes in the hot tub. It works!

Reconnect the Action with Pleasure Rather than Pain

Psychologists have long told us that human beings tend to connect every action with either pleasure or pain. (Tony Robbins popularized this idea with something he calls "neural associations.")

When we find ourselves lacking motivation, we are probably associating the action we're thinking about with pain, rather than pleasure. For instance, when I'm considering not going to the health club, I am probably associating working out with having less time for work, with the pain of exercising and weight-lifting, or with the boringness of running on a treadmill.

What can I do to change these associations? I can re-associate the activity, by reminding myself that by going in and doing my exercise, I will feel better about myself, I will lose weight, and I will live longer! All these bring me pleasure.

When we begin to run these kinds of tapes through our minds, we unleash our internal motivating force and change our attitude about the action that we know we need to do. And lo and behold, we start to want to do them, too!

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