Why Can’t I Get Motivated?

Is lack of motivation keeping you stuck in life? This is something I hear quite often from clients.

Let’s look at an example: Trying to lose weight.

People tell me they feel stuck with their weight loss efforts because they’re unmotivated to: go to the gym, change their diet, cook healthy meals, etc.

Going a little deeper, it often becomes clear that one of the main de-motivating thoughts people have about weight loss surrounds the idea that they have to lose x amount of weight in x amount of weeks. The effort it will take to reach their goal is overwhelming and deflating, and many people don’t know where to start. Many don’t know WHY they’re starting. They just feel like they “should.” They should because their doctor told them to; their family’s pressuring them; they feel limited in their life.

Sometimes I hear how they’ve “tried everything:” they worked with a personal fitness coach, tried group fitness classes, or attempted a pre-fixed diet plan, all with no long-term success.

While these can all be helpful tools to help you reach your goal, none of them address your sense of internal motivation (or lack thereof). You’re relying on other people and systems to motivate you, and you’re (subconsciously) trying to avoid figuring out what works best for YOU.

What happens when your personal trainer is no longer available? Or you can’t make your fitness classes anymore? Or you’re on vacation and don’t have access to your pre-made meals? Or you don’t have someone writing down the exact exercises you need to complete?

Here’s what happens: Nothing. All of your efforts become temporary fixes that ultimately end up failing. After a few days or weeks, your motivation dies and eventually, you’re back to square one.

After a few cycles of these efforts, many people give up altogether.

Why do these resources and tools work for some people, but not others? Because some people use personal trainers, diet books, and other tools as a catalyst for lasting change – but not the solution.

The solution comes from within, as does the motivation.

Unfortunately, people that try to utilize “quick fix” solutions find themselves back at square one because they didn’t address the root cause. They didn’t address their anxieties, clarity about their goals, and reasons for wanting the change in the first place.

They didn’t do the work.

Here’s a better way to get motivated and avoid ending up back at square one:

  1. Get clear
    • What’s the end result you’re trying to achieve? Be specific. If your goal is to lose 15 pounds in 6 months, ask yourself why. What are the internal (self-worth) and external (time management) issues preventing you from taking the first step?
    • This is one of the most important steps on this journey, so work on this before you do anything else. There are plenty of counselors, books, and resources available to help you get clear.
  2. Utilize your resources
    • Once you’re clear, it’s time to map out your plan. There are also plenty of resources to help you do this as well but don’t rely on them as motivation to execute it. Figure out what works best for you. If you’ve never been to the gym, do a little research on lifting weights or work with a personal trainer to get started. But once you’ve gathered your information, it’s time to motivate yourself to do it on your own.
    • It’s ok to seek guidance and information, but relying on people outside of your Self for motivation and accountability isn’t creating lasting internal change; it’s creating dependence.
  3. Lay out a plan
    • Write out every single action step you need to reach your goal. If your goal is to lose 15 pounds in 6 months, what do you need to do? Create your roadmap and be as detailed as possible. Do you need to buy a gym membership? Do you need to go 3 times per week? Do you need to meal prep? Do you need to rearrange your schedule?
    • Don’t let this swirl in your head as an idea you hope to put into action. Literally, write it down. Things are much more powerful once they’re put on paper.
  4. Break things down even further
    • Focus on baby steps. If any step feels overwhelming, break it down even further. If going to the gym 3 times per week sounds overwhelming, focus on going once. If that feels overwhelming, focus on going to the parking lot. It sounds ridiculous, but be satisfied with your progress. It IS progress to sit in the parking lot if you couldn’t even get out the door yesterday.
  5. Start anywhere
    • There is no right or wrong way to reach most goals. If you want to lose weight, the best place to start is wherever you feel you can; so perhaps it’s by making a healthy breakfast or going for a walk at lunch. Whatever it is, trust yourself and your own process. The reason there are so many diet books and fitness plans in existence is that everybody has their own path. Find yours.
  6. Focus on the journey, not just the results
    • While it’s important to have a clear goal, becoming overly fixated on reaching that goal can be extremely overwhelming. It also negates any progress you make in the moment and hinders your ability to truly identify what’s working, what’s not working, and how you feel. Rather than focusing on losing 15 pounds, focus on the fact that you made it to the gym one more time this week and packed a healthy lunch. Focus on the fact that you have more energy and feel more focused.
    • Have a clear goal, but stay present through the process.
  7. Be willing to pivot and adjust
    • You’ll try things that work and you’ll try things that don’t. Keep your goal in mind but be open to the path unfolding however it needs to. Maybe you think you’ll lift weights 4 days per week, but it ends up not working for you. Perhaps you’d rather go for a run instead. Maybe you think you’ll workout early in the morning, but learn that you have more energy in the afternoon.
    • It’s easy: Just pivot. But in order to do that, you have to be present and adjust course to continue on your path towards your goal.
  8. Keep going
    • Be satisfied with your pace and celebrate every step of the journey. Small steps get you there quicker than no steps. Just keep going. Be consistent and persistent, and be patient. It’s not about the 15 pounds; it’s about every pound. It’s about your new lifestyle, stronger body, and a healthier heart.
    • It’s about your WHY.

These same steps can be followed for any area of life where you feel stuck.

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