The other day I found myself staring at the walls of my office, head a little foggy (I know what you’re thinking – no I wasn’t hungover), yet I was unable to physically and mentally crack my own whip. I knew there was a lot of work to do, and a pile of admin to tackle but, I was struck with a mental paralysis that wouldn’t allow me to move forward.
It appears I’m not alone. Speaking to my friends and colleagues recently, motivation is hard to muster right now. Mindset coach Alister Grey couldn’t agree more and says that the current uncertainty in the air is causing us to flounder, “When there’s uncertainty, we tend to feel there’s nothing to look forward to and we can wander aimlessly through our work and our days.”
So how can we put the motor back in our Mojo? We spoke to 35 Thousand founder and executive coach Misty Reich as well as Alister about how to rediscover our enthusiasm.
Misty explains that there is no singular solution to reigniting motivation as it depends on the root cause. She suggests asking taking some time to really ask yourself where this lack of motivation is coming from. For example, is it because you are disillusioned with your job? Are you overwhelmed with the sheer volume of work on your plate or is your mood generally just low?
Below are some reasons that may affect your motivation levels and some potential solutions from our experts.
YOU MAY BE MENTALLY SPENT
Let’s face it, right now you probably have a lot going on. Whether you’ve been juggling the return to school shenanigans with a full-blown back-to-work schedule, or you’re starting a business, a new job, or looking for work, we all have a lot on our brains right now. The impact of COVID-19 has been enormous and your brain dip may be due to sheer mental overload, and as a result, exhaustion.
Solution 1: Find what makes your heart sing
Alistair says it’s hugely important to rediscover what makes your heart sing. “Finding motivation is about finding purpose,” he says, “It’s about finding the ‘why’ that drives you.” This he says doesn’t mean you have to try and find a ‘life purpose’ but to put your focus on a project or topic that inspires you. He is a big believer in the saying, ‘Where your focus goes your energy grows,’ “If we are focussing on the negatives then we aren’t going to feel motivated but more disempowered. But if we put our attention on the things that matter to us then the energy will come back.”
Solution 2: Walk it out
Misty has a practical tip for when she feels emotionally and mentally drained and that is to go for a walk which she says will “Consciously get oxygen to my brain.” If Misty is really tired then she finds that a short power nap will reboot her mentally and physically.
YOU MAY BE OVERWHELMED
Your child may be struggling at school, at the same time you may be having to cover three people’s jobs after a post COVID reshuffle, meanwhile you are working from home and the house chores and your work life are all blurring into one. Sound familiar? We can feel like a rabbit in the headlights when we have so many things to do and don’t know where to start.
Solution 1: Clear the Clutter
For Misty, simply clearing her desk or organising her office can give her a sense of organisation that will also unlock her brain and help her to think more clearly.
Misty’s other solution is to clear your mental space of clutter. When your brain feels like a washing machine, she suggests doing a mind map. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, it’s a diagram used to visually organise information. It is often created around a single concept which is normally placed in the centre of the drawing. Major ideas then branch off the centre piece and smaller ideas branch off those, “This” she says, “Can especially help creative people who don’t think in a linear way. I find I come up with ideas from a mindmap that I just wouldn’t with a list.”
Solution 2: Focus on one thing
For Alistair, his greatest hack is to be present and to focus on one task at a time. "Focus and get immersed in it,” he says “Multitasking is actually a myth as we are really ‘switch tasking’ and in the process we lose up to 40% productivity and get overwhelmed. If you focus on one task at a time and go through your day like that, then things flow more easily. It is the fear of how much you have to do that is stopping you moving forward not the actual task itself.”
YOU MAY HAVE A FEAR OF FAILURE
Many of us feel we don’t really want to start a project or a big task unless we can do it perfectly or guarantee it’s going to go exactly as planned.
Solution 1: Eat the Frog
For Misty, when she gets like that she decides to pick something she doesn’t want to do and she does it first. She recommends Brian Tracy’s book, Eat That Frog (above) which is about doing the hard things first. If you force yourself to do this then there is a sense of achievement and breakthrough that will then lead you onto the next task.
Solution 2: Just take the first step
Fear of judgement or failure stops people making the next step explains Alistair. “ Just take the first step and trust it, when you take action and get in the game it’s not as daunting as you first think.” After the first step, he explains, the second step will then become clearer.
It may be psychological
Times are hard right now and it’s only natural that many of us feel down or low occasionally. The result is that you just can’t face doing anything.
Solution 1: Talk it out
Misty says that sometimes feeling low can stop her feeling motivated at work. She finds two solutions effective – the first is talking to someone, “Unless you think it’s necessary to go to therapy, it can also be very effective talking to a friend or a close colleague,” she says, “Find people you can create a network with.” Another remedy she has is to write down what she is feeling, “ There’s something about sitting down with a pen that separates you from it and allows you to see an issue from a different perspective.”
(Note: If you feel you or a friend are in need or professional help, please see information at the bottom of this article)
You may just need to kick your own butt
Occasionally you don’t need to dig around for a reason behind your lack of motivation, it may be that you are just being a bit lazy and need to admit it.
Solution 1: Tackle one tiny thing
Misty says she knows this is the case when she realises that it’s not that she lacks energy, “I’m just not doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” she says. If that’s the case then her top tip is to do her mind map and make a list of the things she has to do.
She also picks the smallest thing on the list that would make an impact on what she’s trying to accomplish, “I say to myself, what’s the easiest thing I can do? So I pick something really teeny tiny and it makes me feel satisfied that I have at least accomplished something.”
Solution 2: Set an intention
Alistair recommends setting your mind up for the day ahead at the beginning of the day. He uses affirmations to help him visualise himself having a successful day. “‘You have a choice,” he says “Tell yourself that you will choose for it to be great, that you will smash it and immerse yourself in it.’” Alistair says he also sets an intention for how he will feel the following morning such as ”Tomorrow I will wake up with full vitality and energy – it’s amazing the impact this has” he says.
Be kind to yourself
It’s important if you don’t feel motivated that you don’t beat yourself up about it. “Don’t forget the importance of how you are going to define success in your day” says Misty. “Pre COVID-19 we may have squeezed every last drop of productivity out of our days, however life is really not normal right now and even if you are going back to an office, life will not be normal there either. If you actually only achieve one small thing in your day then anything else will be a bonus.”
Notes on mental health
Confidential mental health helplines
Please note that these tips are not meant to be a replacement for speaking with a licensed therapist and/or a psychiatrist. Please do not be afraid to seek help if you feel that you or someone else is struggling and could benefit from it. Contact your local GP, family doctor or insurance company and/or your local government/ council to seek other government funded resources for mental health.
UK – MIND – Call 0300 123 3393 or text SHOUT to 85258 which is a crisis textile for support in a crisis www.giveusashout.org/get-help/
If you enjoyed reading this, you might enjoy hearing what TED talker Mo Gawdat has to say on happiness here