Never Run Out of Motivation
If you’re ever missing your get-up-and-go energy, these performance-psychology tactics can help you rediscover your vibe, fast.
- Experts say you can’t “lose” motivation, but your prime source of it can run low.
- Having a bunch of backup sources that rev you up can help you stay on track so you keep making progress.
- When you’re amped up to get moving, head to NTC for a full library of fun workouts.
Read on to learn more…
It’s Saturday, and you’re sitting on the couch binge-watching a show. You know you should work out — you feel great afterward, and your progress is impressive — except sometimes it’s just so hard to make moves. What gives?
“People say, ‘I lost my motivation,’ but that’s inaccurate,” says Lisa Lewis, EdD, a licensed psychologist in Boston who specializes in performance psychology. “Motivation is an inherent quality inside of us, not something you either have or you don’t.” When you’re feeling lazy, it might just be that what normally drives you is running on empty. Switch gears by tapping into another, more plentiful source, and you can get revved up for any objective in no time.
Motivation sources run on a spectrum. On one end, you have the external kind, such as money (perhaps you work hard to get a bonus) or pressure from someone else (say, a professor who wants you to do better). On the other, there are the deep internal, identity-driven prompts that underpin your goals, often called your “why.” Your why might include a desire to be an engaged, upbeat friend or family member, or a passion for helping others.
While experts agree that your why is your most profound, timeless driver toward your goals, the reality is that sometimes it will feel too distant or intangible, or it just won’t resonate with you, says Lewis. On those days, you want to have a bunch of backups at your disposal so you and your progress don’t hit a wall.
The following motivations, says Lewis, flow from external and superficial to internal and deep. See which one stirs you today, put it into action, and stash the rest for the future. Ideally, you’ll pull from the bottom half of the well most of the time and skim from the top half only when you’re in a real pinch.
Skip your online lecture and you have to clean the bathroom instead.
Your partner bought you a guitar for your birthday, so you should really take an hour to start learning how to play it.
Let your ambitious friend’s run streak inspire your own. Think about how they get it done even when they’re feeling blah too.
Revel in the self-control it takes to not hit snooze or to hit all your activity goals on your fitness tracker.
“The Right Thing”
Exercise and eat well because you know you should. Limit drinking because you know it’s not healthy. Stay on top of your weekly assignments because you know procrastinating only makes you feel more stressed.
Maybe you’re totally type A and feel most accomplished when you follow a training plan precisely. Or maybe you’re a spiritual, introspective thinker, and reading as many books as you can (versus skimming the news on repeat) makes you feel more connected to yourself.
Go for a run, spend an hour whipping up a nutritious dinner, get twisty on your yoga mat, or write that next scene in your novel simply because you love it. Starting anything can be a battle, but once you’re in it, you’re in your flow. Afterward, you feel lighter and brighter.
This should be something that brings you bliss, but it also has a deeper, often long-term purpose. You want to be a patient and present partner, so you meditate. Or you want to score your dream job right out of school, so you study on weekends if you have to. “Your why is highly correlated with happiness,” says Lewis, because acting on it gives you a sense of fulfillment. And that’s what having goals is all about.
Words: Janet Lee
Illustration: Gracia Lam