Motivation is the driving force that helps people to pursue their desires. Whether it be personal, relationship, or career goals, motivation is the key to finding success. But what happens when you feel unmotivated why do you feel that way?
Generally speaking, you feel unmotivated because you are unsure of your purpose, your goals are unrealistic, you don’t have a routine, or you’re ignoring your emotional needs. To understand and overcome your lack of motivation, you must understand why you’re unmotivated to begin improving.
In this article, we will go over the four main reasons why people feel unmotivated and cover four ways to improve motivation.
Table of Contents:
4 Reasons You Feel Unmotivated
1. You’re Unsure Of Your Purpose
Some people find their purpose early in life. But for others, setting goals and actualizing their dreams is more challenging than it seems. They may have also had an idea of their purpose, only to learn their ideas were merely an amalgamation of ideas and expectations of their family and peers.
It’s common to feel lost and directionless at any point in your life. This is entirely normal.
You may have been living a satisfying life with a firm idea of where you were going and why you were making certain decisions, only to wake up tired and realize that your goals no longer motivated you.
As people age, they grow and mature – and so does their perception of the world and themselves. However, while redefining your purpose and life is typical, it may cause you to lose sight of where your life is going.
If you’ve ever felt unmotivated and asked yourself what you’re doing with your life or questioned why you put any effort into your work, relationships, or hobbies, you’re not alone.
But no matter how many people share the feeling of being in ‘limbo,’ it’s not an automatic cure for lack of motivation.
Your purpose is closely related to the goals you’ve set for yourself. It’s a way of manifesting these goals through hard work and perseverance. And although your goals can drive your purpose and motivate you to succeed, not knowing what you’re working for or where you’re going can stunt this motivation.
This phenomenon can be explained through the theory of extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation suggests that humans are partly motivated by external factors such as rewards and the fear of punishment. In this case, these rewards are linked to the satisfaction of reaching your goals.
Without these external factors as a driving force to keep you going, it’s easy to feel unmotivated.
2. Your Goals Are Unrealistic
Another concept closely related to extrinsic motivation, goals, and purpose is setting unrealistic goals.
A common misconception among people, particularly teenagers and young adults, is that you need to know your purpose at a young age. However, feeling pressure to set goals and meet the expectations of others may lead you to set unrealistic expectations for yourself.
Most teenagers are expected to know what they want to do after high school before they can practice self-discovery and exploration. These pressures may act as extrinsic motivation, as teens fear the consequences of not setting long-term goals.
According to the self-determination theory, intrinsic motivation is much more powerful than extrinsic motivation.
Unlike extrinsic motivation, its intrinsic counterpart suggests that people are more motivated to do things they enjoy than when motivated by external factors.
So, by being forced to set goals for themselves, people may begin to set unrealistic goals they cannot achieve. They may be unable to accomplish these goals for several reasons, like needing the necessary skills or being physically unable to perform specific tasks.
Setting unrealistic goals may frustrate you that you cannot achieve personal success.
And by repeatedly experiencing perceived failures, it shouldn’t be surprising that you’ll begin to lose motivation and question your purpose in life.
Setting unrealistic goals can be just as harmful to your motivation as not having any goals.
3. You’re Lacking Routine
For many of us, the thought of having a routine is comforting. Knowing what your day will bring and having control over this aspect of your life can help you to feel safe and make it easier to meet your goals.
After all, breaking goals into smaller pieces that can be incorporated into your everyday routine can help you to achieve these goals without having to burn yourself out.
The link between motivation and routine is a multi-pronged relational concept. Firstly, having a routine can motivate you to work towards your goal in smaller, realistic steps. But staying motivated is about more than sticking to your routine.
Having a routine can also help you to avoid burnout. Burnout is the feeling of overwhelming exhaustion caused by experiencing long periods of stress. And, no matter how motivated or badly you want to achieve your goal, pushing yourself too hard inevitably leads to stress.
Although the idea of stress seems more common than ever, it’s important to remember that it can cause adverse long-term consequences for your physical and mental health. When you’re burnt out, picking yourself up and working toward your goals can be tricky.
Lastly, having a routine is vital for having a foundation to build motivation from. When you’re looking for a way to jump-start your motivation, forming a routine around your goals or purpose can help to launch you to where you want to be.
Without a routine, it’s easy to fall into lazy habits. The more you avoid tackling your tasks, the more unmotivated you’ll feel! Similarly, putting things off or convincing yourself that you’ll “do it later” can quickly negate any sense of motivation you have.
4. You’re Ignoring Your Emotional Needs
Motivation isn’t simply an unseen force that drives you to actualize your goals. Instead, it’s a culmination of holistic factors.
As we’ve discussed, motivation is influenced by external and internal factors. And intrinsic or internal motivation is the most critical component to staying motivated in the long term. So, if your mind and body are disconnected, you may notice a steady decline in your motivation levels.
Mental health plays a huge role in motivation. For example, individuals with depression may struggle to find a reason to get out of bed – let alone find enough motivation to pursue personal or career goals.
Poor mental health caused by depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses has been linked to feelings of indifference and apathy.
Similarly, it’s hard to focus when struggling with your mental health. Rather than thinking about your work, relationships, or self-care, you may focus on your fears, concerns, and other negative thoughts.
And when you’re focusing on yourself and your emotions, it’s almost impossible to think about your goals.
If you’re feeling unmotivated or directionless, you may need to assess your mental health. Long periods of stress or feeling unfulfilled can be indicators that your psychological health is in jeopardy. Poor mental health can also lead to self-doubt, which can stop you from trying to find motivation.
4 Ways To Improve Motivation
1. Redefine Your Expectations And Set Realistic Goals
We’ve already spoken about how your purpose and goals are related. While finding your purpose may not be simple, you can start by redefining what drives you and setting new goals to help you get going.
This concept may seem strange. But sometimes, by using other driving forces to help you pursue smaller goals, you may unintentionally find what truly motivates you. Once you start working for other reasons besides your purpose, you may find that it uncovers itself along the way.
The idea of finding your purpose by accident is nothing new. After all, it happens more often than you’d think. Just as young adults may discover their purpose during study or travel, you can also find yours at any stage in life.
But how can you redefine what drives you and set new goals?
Firstly, you need to throw out any ideas about your life purpose. Instead, start focusing on things that can motivate you in the short term.
Do you have anyone who depends on you, like children or other family members?
Are you trying to change your circumstances?
These factors can serve as interim motivation and help reignite your overall drive to become a determined person in the long run.
Secondly, you must set new goals to align with your short-term or interim motivation. Your goals should always be attainable, quantifiable, specific, and appropriate. You can use the idea of SMART goals to help you better understand how to set them up.
Attainable goals are those that you can easily achieve. There doesn’t necessarily need to be a time limit on reaching these goals, but setting a deadline can help you stick to your schedule or plan to achieve them.
Unrealistic or unobtainable goals can make us demotivated, so it’s best to set realistic goals you know you can reach.
Additionally, your goals should be quantifiable. For example, saying you want to run a marathon isn’t necessarily quantifiable and may be an unrealistic goal if you still need to become a runner. But, if you set a goal for yourself to be able to run five miles after three months of training, your goal is instantly more attainable and quantifiable.
When you’re writing out your goals, remember to make them specific. Setting goals like “I want to get a promotion” is vague and may be challenging.
When goals are clear, it’s easier to know where to start, and this can lead to feeling even more motivated. Keeping your goals specific can help you to feel more optimistic because you have a clear path to getting there.
Lastly, your goals should be appropriate. If you’re feeling unmotivated at work, set career-based goals. Suppose your goals align differently from what you’re trying to achieve. In that case, you may feel like you aren’t making any progress or seeing any differences in your motivation levels despite your hard work.
And when you do not see results, you won’t feel motivated to keep going.
2. Take Time Out
When you lose motivation, it may be because you’re pushing yourself too hard without focusing on what truly matters: you.
With today’s fast-paced society and “every man for himself” mentality, it’s easy to ignore your wants and needs. But this can be detrimental to your motivation and overall mental and physical health.
Pursuing your goals is positive, but it requires a delicate balance. Without taking time out for self-care, you may quickly feel burnt out and demotivated.
It’s important to remember that self-care looks different to everyone. While some people may enjoy taking time away from their screens and curling up with a good book, others may prefer to watch their favorite movies.
No matter what you do, it would help if you tried to take time to do things you enjoy.
Spending time on things you enjoy can help you unwind, relax, and reset. And, when you’re making time for something you like, you’ll be more likely to feel motivated when it’s time to work.
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘all work and no play,’ and it couldn’t be more accurate in this instance.
Studies have shown that happier people are more productive and have higher motivation levels. So, if you want to reignite your motivation, you need to carve some time out of your schedule to work on your hobbies and pursue your interests.
3. Focus On Your Long-Term Goals
Focusing on your goals is challenging when life becomes mundane and repetitive. After all, doing the same things day after day can make you feel as if your circumstances will never change.
You can use specific techniques to remind yourself about why you’re working and the rewards or achievements you will gain. This idea relates to extrinsic or external motivation. For this reason, it’s important to keep your goals firmly in your mind.
While extrinsic motivation is less powerful than internal or intrinsic motivation, you can still use it to your advantage. Although extrinsic motivations are set by others, they can be incredibly powerful when you set them yourself.
Being threatened by others with a consequence or punishment may serve as an extrinsic motivational factor. For example, when a school teacher threatens a student with detention if their homework isn’t completed. But, by setting rewards for yourself, you can make these external motivations work for you.
A great example of extrinsic motivation is setting a reward for completing a specific goal. This reward can be anything you’d like, as long as it’s something you really want.
You can also write these rewards down and keep them in a place where you can see them. For example, ‘After completing [task], I will treat myself to a new book.’
This method works well for long-term goals as well. By splitting your bigger goals into smaller tasks, you can reap the rewards of completing them more often.
This will help you to stay fixed on your bigger goals while still seeing results in the short term. And by rewarding yourself, you can create a positive association with your work.
4. Eliminate Distractions
With technology at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever to find distractions that may pull us away from our goals.
If you think about it, you may be surprised by how much time you’ve wasted scrolling through social media or watching hilarious animal videos when you should be working.
Distractions are always all around us and can make it difficult to keep focused on what we’re doing. And, when we’re distracted from our work, we may fail to meet deadlines or reach our goals in the time frame we’ve set.
Getting back into your work routine becomes increasingly tricky when you’re distracted. So, to stay motivated, you need to eliminate distractions!
You can do this by removing distractions during work hours and sticking to a strict work schedule. But this can be challenging. An easier alternative to this solution is to set rules for yourself when you’re working.
Working for a set amount of time before taking a break makes it easier to focus on the task. Make sure this time frame is reasonable, though. Working for three straight hours can quickly make you feel tired and demotivated.
It would also be best to focus on one task or project at a time. Splitting your focus between various tasks can lead to a loss in productivity. And, in turn, your lessened productivity will dampen your motivation.
If you take time out to do things you like to give you a better work-life balance and couple it with some of these techniques, you’ll notice a significant difference in your overall motivation levels.
Final Thoughts On Being More Motivated
We’ve all been there—staring at a project that seems impossible to complete or lacking the energy to get started on something new.
When you find yourself in this position, it’s important to understand why you feel unmotivated so you can take steps to turn things around.
In most cases, your lack of motivation is due to one (or more) of the following factors: You don’t know your purpose, your goals are unrealistic, you don’t have a routine, or you’re ignoring your emotional needs.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to improve motivation levels and get back on track. Redefine your expectations, take some time out for yourself, focus on your long-term goals, and eliminate distractions by setting clear boundaries–these are just a few ways you can increase motivation when faced with an insurmountable task ahead.
By taking these measures, you set yourself up for short- and long-term success.