Lost your get-up-and-go? These performance psychology tactics can help you rediscover your fire, fast.
It's Saturday, and you're sitting on the couch binge-watching a show. You know you should work out—you like exercising, and it makes you feel good—but sometimes it's just so hard to get up and go. What's going on?
"People say, 'I lost my motivation', but that's inaccurate", says Lisa Lewis, EdD, a licensed psychologist in Boston who specialises in performance psychology. "Motivation is an inherent quality inside of us, not something you either have or you don't. There are just many sources of motivation, and their supplies naturally ebb and flow". In other words, when you're feeling lazy, it might just be that what normally drives you is running on empty. But 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 want to design a home gym) or pressure from someone else (for example, 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.
"Motivation is an inherent quality inside of us, not something you either have or you don't. There are just many sources of motivation, and their supplies naturally ebb and flow".
EdD, a licensed psychologist in Boston specialising in performance psychology
While experts agree that your why is your most profound, timeless driver towards 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 should have a bunch of backups at your disposal.
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 of the well most of the time and skim from the top half only when you really need to.
Hit the gym and you can buy that sweet hoodie or expensive plant you've been eyeing.
Skip your online lecture and you have to clean the bathroom instead.
You know your eyes will be less puffy tomorrow if you lock in a solid eight hours of sleep tonight.
All your friends are following a live workout, and you're having FOMO. Use it to your advantage.
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 walk past the crisp aisle in the supermarket or 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 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, 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. Afterwards, you feel lighter and brighter.
This should be something that brings you joy, 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 land your dream job right out of university, so you study on the weekends if you have to. "Your why is highly correlated with happiness", says Lewis, because acting on it gives you a sense of fulfilment. And that's what having goals is all about.