7 Ways to get Motivated when You don’t Wanna

7 Ways to get Motivated when You don’t Wanna
7 Ways to get Motivated when You don’t Wanna

We all have tons to do, don’t we?

And most of the time, we’re up and going, alive, alert, awake, and enthusiastic. (Note: if you’re not most of the time, then now is when you sit down and reexamine your life. Because something is truly missing.)

But we all have those points, whether now and then or once a week, when we just don’t feel like doing whatever lies in front of us to do. Be it due to the blues or the blahs, lack of sleep, irritability, or well, we just don’t want to, for whatever reason, sometimes motivation seems scarce indeed.

For the self-employed among us, or those otherwise paid solely on production, this can be somewhat distressing. Because we just don’t have the luxury of succumbing to the ‘don’t wannas.’

So what’s a person to do? How does one get that mojo back (and quick!)?

Here are 7 ways that get me going.

1. Read something beautiful. Or uplifting. Or that has special meaning for you.

Okay, as a lover of books and literature, it should come as no surprise that I find motivation in the wonderful words of others. And although I have to be somewhat careful here (as I can pick up a written piece, budget 10 minutes, and before I know it hours have passed . . .), perusing even a short passage of fabulous literature just jump starts me.

Leaves of Grass sits on my writing desk. I find it almost impossible to read Whitman without soaring. And quickly. Take just this one passage from “The Ship Starting”:

Lo, the unbounded sea, On its breast a ship starting, spreading all sails, carrying even her moonsails. The pennant is flying aloft as she speeds the speeds to stately—below emulous waves press forward, They surround the ship with shining curving motions and foam.

My own engines are revving!

2. Laugh.

We all know we feel happier when we laugh. And happier people are more motivated.

An article in Psychology Today says that an abundance of heartfelt laughter is the hallmark of effective brainstorming. Laughter makes it easier to think more broadly, and helps foster greater inspiration.

In other words, we’re more productive when we laugh. How motivating is that?

It should come as no surprise, again, that I laugh most at other people’s words. Especially Dave Barry’s. Often when writing a novel, I read a snippet of Barry in the mornings before I begin.

3. Put on music that jazzes you.

I mean, you know how this gets you going, right? But we even know the reasons for it.

Mark Fenske, co-author of The Winner's Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success, an associate professor in neuroscience at the University of Guelph, lists these points of music motivation:

  • Music energizes and increases endurance
  • Engages the body’s sympathetic nervous system (heart rate accelerates, etc.), which readies the body for action
  • Enhances physical and mental endurance (chiefly by drawing your attention away from the negative aspects of a task)
  • Elicits emotional reactions and enhances mood

Of course, we already knew all of that, but isn’t it cool when scientists prove it?

Okay, since I keep listing things that do it for me, and since I’m still on my Johnny Lancer kick (don’t judge me! Lol), this short Hero video gets my blood rushing and my mind and body ready to tackle any task. I mean, truly—if this one doesn’t get you going, you’re already dead!

4. Take 1 Step. Just 1 Step

Because as you know, that Nike commercial of Just Do It was so successful for a reason.

There really is a psychological giant slayer to procrastination, to lack of motivation, to the don’t wannas. And that is to just do one thing toward your task. One thing. Even if it’s writing out a to-do list about it.

Dr. David D. Burns, a clinical psychiatrist, explains why in his book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy

When you take action, you prime the pump for motivation. Motivation does not come first, action does! You have to prime the pump. Then you will begin to get motivated, and the fluids will flow spontaneously.”

So, watch the Johnny video and then go write something. Okay, so I think that one was directed to myself.

5. Plan a break

If you’re just flat tired, burned out, or any litany of negative emotions due to over-work, stress, etc., sometimes it’s really tough to put that foot in front of the other one.

And sometimes, that means you truly need a break.

So, what do you do if you can’t have one of those right now? Or even tomorrow?

Plan one.

And here’s the kicker: It doesn’t matter if that means an entire vacation, or a walk in the park. But plan a break, big or small. For some time soon.

Just the act of doing so stimulates those feel-good hormones. Because the brain can’t really differentiate between what is real, and what you think about. So visualizing that pause in your action, feeling the soft breeze on your face, even if it’s not physically going to happen til next week, reaps many of the same benefits as actually doing so.

And you come back to the task at hand rejuvenated.

6. Remember a peak moment

You know—when you succeeded spectacularly, far exceeding your dreams. We all have those moments, when something just went fabulously well. Whether in the sporting arena, the job or career path, a relationship occurrence, whatever—remember that time when you just did something oh-so well.

A peak moment is when you were at the top of your game. When you stretched the farthest, when you were the most you—authentic, in the zone, when you truly did your best and it showed.

Once you recall one of these, use it to motivate you to succeed again.

7. Remember the big picture.

There’s a reason why you’re doing what you’re doing, no? A reason why you started your insane path in the first place?

You wanted the dream, didn’t you? Don’t you still? Even if it’s hard to see right now.

But spend a bit of time remembering why you’re doing this in the first place.

Often, while buried under mounds of work, my 5-year plan only passing the 2-year mark, I can get a bit tired. Sometimes, spent. And now and then, motivation doesn’t leave in a huff, but rather, seeps out the corners of my life until I didn’t really notice it missing until it’s far, far away.

That’s when I take myself by those bootstraps, and dig back deep into the bones for the why I’m doing what I’m doing.

It’s what brings meaning to my life.

Oh, yeah, that.

And that kicks me in the butt more solidly than anything else.

I have a dream. And by god, I’m not about to give it up.

That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing.

What about you? What’s your dream? What keeps you motivated during the hard times?

This Post Has 34 Comments

  1. Hi Susan, Music sometimes works for me but there are days I have to take things one minute at a time. It took years for me to learn how to turn my day around but it works. Thanks for sharing these tips.

  2. These are all great suggestions to get you out of a funk. I could use a mental vacation about now.

  3. I was so having one of those mornings, Susan, then I read this and am ready to get to work. Reading works wonders for me too, though, like you, I often have a problem stopping. Taking that one little step, writing a to-do list, also works well for me when I’m blah.

    1. Those mornings can sure come, can’t they, Tamuria! But you know the key to get you going!

  4. I love these tips to get motivated. I especially love the one that you remember the big picture.

    1. Remembering that big picture sure helps, doesn’t it, Anita!

  5. I love how motivational this post is. Sometimes its hard to get motivated and taking breaks can really help!

    1. Don’t you just love taking a break, Neely. I always come back so refreshed!

  6. This really resonates with me Susan! Especially as I feel I am at a turning point in my life and am staying open to whatever is coming towards me. One of the reasons I dove into the 7-week social art program I’m in now, is that this kind of process work has always shed light on the ‘unknown’ and also propelled me to my ‘what’s next’. Of all your points, I find that taking a walk in nature and of course, my recent escape to Sedona work wonders. Laughter too, so I’ve been watching one of my favourites Jim Gaffigan and am reading his book now too. Ultimately the key is for each of us to find what works for us to shift ourselves back into a place where we feel motivated! Thanks!

    1. So true, Beverley–finding what works for us individually is the key! And I’m excited to see what’s next for you. I feel big things coming!

  7. Motivational quotes or an inspiring movie always helps me. I think looking at the big picture is essential too.

    1. Oh, I love motivation quotes and inspiring movies too, Michelle!

  8. I appreciate all of these tips. Music really helps me get clear and shift things. Taking imperfect action also helps keep me going. I absolutely LOVE reading so I can really relate to that one. Thanks for sharing all of these.

    1. Love that about taking imperfect action, Tandy. That really works for me too!

  9. Brilliant ideas, getting motivated is what makes me to keep up the good work, to achieve all my dreams and goals.

    1. And achieve them you will, Dana–it’s all in that good work!

  10. I have really productive weeks and then some where I just drag. These are great ideas for the days when I just can’t seem to get motivated.

    1. I think we all do, Crystal. Some days are just tougher than others, and finding what works for you is key!

  11. These are all great ways to jumpstart that motivation. For me the ones that work best are. Taking a break and taking one tiny step. Also the phrase ‘everything is working out for me’ helps a lot

    1. I love that phrase too, Alene–it’s one of my mantras!

  12. What a really awesome post Susan thank you for sharing! These 7 ways are excellent to getting yourself motivated 🙂 I love listening to music and also remembering why I am doing what I am doing in the FIRST place……..that also puts a kick in my butt too lol Most importantly is to never EVER quit on your dreams!

    Excellent share! You had me thinking in a HUGE way, thank you for that 🙂

    Appreciate the inspiration too!

    1. NEVER, EVER quit on your dreams is it, isn’t it! Thank you, Joan–you’re always so inspiring as well!

  13. Susan,
    great Article what a lot of inspiriming things to Do. Great post

    1. Sometimes we just need an added inspirational kick, don’t we, Lori!

  14. #4 resonates with me – take one step. In reference to exercise, my mom often said that the hardest part of going for a walk was putting your shoes on and stepping outside the door. How true.

  15. Usually for me… it’s music and having a support group who understands me… we help lift each other up… put positivity into perspective and that usually works.

  16. Putting music on always motivates me and helps me to focus on the task at hand. Especially if the music and uplifting and upbeat.

    1. Music works great for motivation, doesn’t it, Carrie!

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