Motivation: Hiding in Plain Sight?

I wanted to write about something that’s been on my mind lately – well, it’s often on my mind. And that something is motivation.

What is motivation?

What comes to mind for me is the energy, drive, and physical steps to completing a task or achieving a goal. That’s a fairly wide definition, and leaves a lot of opportunity for feeling unmotivated.

We all seem to want, and also need, motivation. Without it we can feel stuck, frustrated, unproductive, and overall upset. But what about the times and the ways that we do have it? Does it not take motivation to get up in the morning, send that email you’ve been dreading, get in the car, or bus, and make your way to all the places you go during the day? These can be overlooked as things we have to do, or somehow manage to do, but often we don’t give credit to motivation in these circumstances.

So what’s the deal with motivation? It can seem reserved for higher aspirations, the things that we’d love to do in an ideal world, and yet find little energy or push to actually do. I think it’s unfair for us to sum it all up by a lack of motivation, and instead we could look into what else is going on that may be stopping us or slowing us down when it comes to reaching our goals.

I think when we say motivation in this context, we may mean a lack of excitement, or hope that an idea will pan out, confidence, or commitment. I think we may have much more motivation than we think, but that it doesn’t quite reach the threshold of what we expect or want motivation to do for us…which is allow us to accomplish our goals.

Perhaps this narrative sounds familiar – 1. I have a great/cool/exciting idea 2. I need to break this into steps…oh wow there are a lot of steps, I’m not actually sure where to begin or how to start…3. Feeling overwhelmed, maybe even fearful, nervous, hesitant…4. I have no motivation to put this idea into action.

So even if we understand that there may be more going on prior to us feeling unmotivated, how do we get around it?

Take a second look at motivation.

Feeling unmotivated can be one of the most frustrating experiences, and can often lead to avoidance, feeling overwhelmed, or like giving up. Next time you notice a lack of motivation, take a pause, and consider what it may be trying to tell you. Is it that you don’t have an interest in doing something, that you lack the tools, knowledge, or confidence to start, that you can’t bring yourself to turn your interest into action? Clarifying what it means to not have motivation can help illuminate what steps you can take to work through it. Our feelings are full of useful information, and it can be helpful to take notice, ask yourself some exploratory questions, and use the answers to create next steps.

Look for motivation where it is, as opposed to where it isn’t.

As a society, we have trouble finding the positives, or even the neutral, and instead end up focusing on what’s lacking, what isn’t, what’s negative. This doesn’t only lead us to feeling down or frustrated, but it also isn’t the whole picture. It’s a pretty overwhelming catch-all to say we do or do not have something. Life is grey, and more than likely, you both do and don’t have motivation. Try paying purposeful attention to times you do feel motivated, where you do accomplish something you wanted to do, and notice what happened to get you there and how it feels. This may not fix the times that you feel lacking in motivation, but it will help you appraise yourself and your life through a more balanced, realistic lens.

Recognize your power (with or without motivation).

Wanting more motivation is a great thing – it’s what keeps us driven, looking toward the future, focused. That being said, feeling so unmotivated can ironically get in the way of developing the drive or want to do something, which can lead to a frustrating cycle. Take time to notice the impact that thinking, feeling, and saying you don’t have motivation, is actually having on you. Instead of encouraging us, and propelling us forward, this idea often keeps us stuck, brings us down, and generally impedes any motivation that might be trying to blossom. Instead of giving the motivation all of the power, and also a lot of the credit, take time to realize that you can choose to take steps and action toward your goals, even without the bubbling energy of a motivating force.

Perhaps there is a theme emerging in these blog posts – first procrastination, now motivation – the two being inextricably linked.

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