It doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to be a victim to the current state of your brain. With the right tools, you can go from mental rut to motivated in no time. These tried and tested tips will help you pull yourself out that rut every time.
1. Roll with it
Getting started from a stationary place can be pretty damn hard. Like the proverbial rolling stone gathering no moss, we do a lot better when we have a little momentum.
But once you’ve got the momentum going, it’s surprising how much you can achieve. If you’ve ever promised yourself you only had to work out for 20 minutes and ended up being at the gym for an hour, you’ll know what I mean.
Here’s the deal: It takes our brains about 20 minutes to go from focusing on one thing (staring at the ceiling) to another (doing some damn work).
So at the 20-minute mark, when you told yourself you could quit, chances are you’re now deeply engrossed in your new task at hand.
Next time you feel unmotivated, try the 20-minute trick. At best, you’ll end up working a lot longer than that. At worst, you’ll end up having worked for 20 minutes.
That’s 20 minutes of work done. I call it a win-win.
2. Take charge of the dance floor
You know when it gets kind of quiet on the dance floor and the DJ starts playing an upbeat tune?
Sometimes we just need to change the mood in the room to get out of a funk.
A quick-fire way to change the depressing party within yourself is to listen to positive affirmations. While this might seem silly at first — and you’ll want to hunt around for ones that work for you — you’ll be surprised by how quickly you can go from feeling wilted to wonderful once someone is telling you how great you are, and that you absolutely will succeed.
We all need positive self-talk to reach our goals and on those days where we just can’t get there, having someone else lead process is a wonderful way of getting out of that mental morass.
3. Give yourself permission to suck
Sometimes we lose motivation because we’re trying something new — and newbies suck.
When I’m writing, I know exactly what I’m doing. But when I pick up the ukulele, I feel like a bumbling buffoon.
Writing is familiar territory. The ukulele — not so much. I’m not used to forcing my fingers into weird positions to try to coax a harmonious sound out of a hollow wooden object. I’m not used to flailing. And I’m definitely not used to failing.
Sucking at something doesn’t sit comfortably with perfectionists like us. On top of that, we’re used to high-speed internet connections and two-minute noodles. You know, instant results.
So we get impatient and give up. Yet research shows that most people can master most skills if they keep working at them.
So instead of focusing on where you’re going wrong and how far you are from achieving expert status in whatever your new thing is — why not just enjoy it? Author David Kadavy calls this giving yourself permission to suck.
Focus instead on the joy you’re getting from gradually mastering a new skill – mistakes and all.
4. Check your connection
Think of one person who always inspires you. Maybe it’s the friend who can always make you laugh, even when your grumpiness has reached Eeyore-like proportions. Maybe it’s the mentor whose drive and focus inspires you to take on the world.
We’re hardwired to be social, yet people are reporting feelings of loneliness like never before. Makes sense when you realize how easy it is nowadays to get stuck in a silo — working in your cubicle, from home or away from home. No wonder we feel uninspired.
Joy and creativity are contagious. So phone a friend, schedule a coffee date or drop by — whatever you do, get social and allow that sense of connection to inspire you to new heights.
5. Give yourself a break already
Most of us don’t do back-breaking physical work from dawn till dusk anymore, yet we report feeling busier than ever.
It makes sense when you realize there is no dusk till dawn anymore. When we can pick up work in the form of a smart phone any time, any place, our brains just don’t recognize that there is such a thing as down time.
No wonder we feel exhausted!
To get your motivational mojo back, it’s important to take deliberate breaks. This doesn’t just mean a scheduled holiday once a year. When that’s your only break, you’ll spend it recuperating, then come back more exhausted than ever.
You want to set aside distinct hours for work and play –
- Daily — have a set time each day to start unwinding, preferably without your smart phone.
- Weekly — have at least one day set aside that’s just for relaxing.
- Annually — schedule longer breaks in advance so you know you’ll take them.
Start taking deliberate breaks and watch your motivation meter climb to new heights.
Start pulling the strings
Imagine always feeling motivated.
Knowing that you’re in charge of your own motivation is one of the most empowering realisations you can have. It changes everything.
Now, when a mental rut happens, you can simply hoist yourself out of it. You have the power to do this every time.
So keep practicing the tools you’ve learned and soon your motivation levels will reach levels you’ve never seen before.
Next time you’re in a mental rut, try working for just 20 minutes and watch yourself be fully immersed in your work again as your brain switches from low-motivation mode to fully engaged.
Remember that it’s OK to suck at something at first — this is how we learn. Focus on the joy of the task at hand rather than your proficiency level and watch your motivation levels rise.
Take deliberate breaks — daily, weekly and annually — and make sure you don’t try to sneak work into them — then come back refreshed and inspired.
Remember that creativity is contagious — maintain relationships with people who inspire you.
Listen to positive affirmations to change your mood from gloomy to positive and ready to go — and to remind yourself that you are driven, strong and capable.
You know what driven, strong and capable people can do? They can pull themselves out of a mental rut any time, any place. They’re in charge of their own motivation levels at all times.
And when you’re in charge of your own motivation levels, there’s nothing you can’t do.