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As 2020 draws to a close many people are feeling a lack of motivation. Year end fatigue isn't uncommon, but this year has been particularly challenging. Covid-19 has left scars across nations and households, leaving countless people feeling desperate, depressed and with low motivation to keep going.
If you're lacking enthusiasm and think maybe making a New Year's resolution might give the get-up-and-go you need, sadly it probably won't. Lack of motivation is often too deeply rooted to get remedied with good intentions only. Usually, we need to take a proactive, and often extended approach to getting our mojo back.
Here are some stats to give you an idea:
I chose New Year's resolutions because most of us make them, and then the majority of us forget what we committed to within a few weeks. Nothing unusual there!
But this year is different because life, as we knew it pre-2020, has changed and it will never be the same again. Nothing wrong with that either! Change brings opportunities and sparks innovation as people try to cope with their new environment.
The problem with 2020 though, is that the change has come with dire suffering for millions and extreme anxiety for most.
Even before the pandemic, the World Health Organization reported that approximately 264 million people suffered from depression in 2019. And employers say depression at work has become an ever-increasing occurrence.
There are many reasons why people's mental health suffers and both depression and anxiety can be short-term or chronic. Either way, both are significant contributors to a lack of motivation.
Since we're creatures of habit, we often don't recognize that we have a problem or refuse to accept it. When things start going haywire in our lives, we adopt familiar coping mechanisms, like making New Year's resolutions. "I'm going to lose weight", "I’m going to rev up my motivation”, “I’m going to change my job”…
Sadly, despite so desperately wanting to believe in our great intentions, they’ll probably make us feel worse when we realize that we didn’t achieve them. The real issue though is that we didn’t fail to achieve – we set ourselves up for failure.
Few of us plan our intentions in great detail. Without a plan and fully understanding why we want to achieve something, we’re stumbling around in the dark. See it from this aspect:
Before we can implement any positive change, we must understand the underlying cause that got us discouraged in the first place. Rigid society rules and cultures have seen most of us raised to view the external world as our reality. Self-reflection, analysis and introspection aren’t taught at school and even in most homes.
Therefore, if you want your life to be different, you go and find extrinsic motivators to improve. Like finding a gym buddy to keep you focused and help you lose weight, or reading positive affirmations to get you going, or resigning from your job.
How about you use food to cope with depression, or you’ve got low motivation because you’re in a bad relationship? What if you actually feel unappreciated at work because your talents never get noticed (or aren’t needed)?
No well-intended New Year’s resolution will fix that if you don’t address the cause of your lack of motivation first.
As much as we want to believe that we know ourselves and what we want from life, the reality is that we’re mostly a product of societal, cultural and educational conditioning. From an early age, we get told what’s right and what’s wrong, we’re prepared for roles according to our gender, and any deviation from the norm is quickly corrected. None of this is intended to do harm, but it creates a society of people who fit the mold, so they never explore their own potential.
We go into careers we’re told are great, but that might not suit our talents, or we follow a prescribed lifestyle that doesn’t complement our spirit.
This is where intrapersonal communication (how you talk to yourself) comes in.
Unless we recognize and accept the triggers that make us feel down and unmotivated, we’ll keep on running around in a circle feeling worse and worse about ourselves. Many people don’t want to reach out for professional help, and to compound matters, the pandemic has severely impacted access to mental health services.
We do, however, need an external objective and non-judgmental perspective of what’s currently making us tick because we’re mostly blind to our thinking, motivations and behavior. “What we think we become” might sound clichéd. But it’s a fact, and many of our negative thoughts become so routine that we become unaware of them. Oblivious or not, they still impact how we respond to life and can become triggers for lack of motivation.
While not everyone needs the help of a professional counsellor and psychotherapist, a bit of outside support is always most welcome. Consulting a life coach is an excellent idea, but many people can’t afford the time for lengthy sessions or the cost.
An online coaching app is the ideal tool to help you get to know yourself better so that you can get back on track. A quick assessment will tell you where you stand right now. Once you identify areas that need a bit of attention, you have access to real-time coaching info on how to improve. You also get to track your progress and learn how to win back your enthusiasm.
If you were thinking of hitting the job market next year, why not take a look at your job role and the tasks that drain your energy instead. There’s a good chance that you can start enjoying your job if you had different tasks or could make a contribution in another way. Doing what we love gives us a natural energy boost.
Once you know what motivates you, you can rope your team members in and ask them what tasks they dislike doing. Get everyone to hop onto the people analytics tool and compare the results. A reshuffle of job duties can solve many problems and result in a happier, more engaged and productive team.
Alternately, you can have a chat with your line manager and share your innate motivators and talents with them. See where you’d fit in better or what responsibilities you can take on and which can get moved to someone else.
Staying with the same employer comes with many benefits, like job stability, particularly in the current business climate. (Many HR departments adopt a last-in-first-out approach to reducing headcount). Also, being proactive instead of complaining about how dull your job is indicates commitment – a highly valued trait, so you’re more likely to get a promotion or raise in future.
Research shows, the longer you’re unemployed, the more likely you are to get depressed about it, which can lead to feelings of helplessness. Job losses and furloughs since the outbreak of the pandemic have been staggering.
Getting to know what you’re naturally inclined to helps you take back control. Not only will you feel more positive, but you’ll also know what type of jobs or industries to apply for. It can even give you the self-assurance to become an entrepreneur or work as a freelancer.
Many mega business successes started from humble beginnings and a tad of desperation. (If you need a confidence-boost go and research the story of Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder of KFC.)
When we’re doing something that motivates us at an intrinsic level, we naturally do well.
Instead of hating your job (or life), check if you’re an overachiever? Do you have a string of accolades dating back years, but yet you’re never quite satisfied?
Many over-achievers are perfectionists with a Type-A personality. They also often suffer from low self-esteem and imposter syndrome. They can have high-functioning anxiety and depression too. That all sounds rather grim for someone who’s been very successful!
The reality is that perfectionists are very self-critical and believe they don’t deserve their accomplishments. None of these thoughts happen on a conscious level, so for the most part, they’re unaware of the harm they cause themselves.
To the outside world, they’re the epitome of a well-balanced, successful person while inside they’re driven by a harsh and relentless critic. Although their life might look fabulous, they often have poor personal relationships and can feel isolated and alone.
Whether at work, in friendships or marriage, perfectionism can push people away because it creates a rigid attitude. In their personal life, even their children can be wary of them because their constant self-criticism and overly high standards can make them come across as cold.
Sadly this is always the result of some kind of mental conditioning. In other words, the result of a childhood where they got pushed to achieve or were harshly criticized. The child adapts their behavior to please adults or avoid punishment.
We’re not talking about abusive households or schools here. Many people believe that any deviation from their standards must get criticized or punished to guide a child to becoming a successful adult. It’s the “spare the rod and spoil the child” mentality that’s been around since forever.
Research, though, has proved the opposite to be true. Positive reinforcement builds far greater strength and resilience in adulthood because it encourages self-belief.
Overachievers have low motivation but express it differently. Instead of moping around, they keep themselves busy, pushing their personal boundaries and taking on more than they can comfortably manage. Their abilities seem superhuman!
The side that others don’t see is that they often suffer from burnout or feel overwhelmed. But instead of listening to their body and mind, and acknowledging their lack of motivation, they’ll find a way to mask these symptoms.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to do some self-reflection and analytical thinking. How do you rate on the self-doubt scale? And, are you raising your children the same way you were?
Self-analysis and introspection can be challenging for perfectionists because they usually can’t relax; actually, they don’t know how to. They’ve been driven on for so long that any downtime feels like a waste of time or makes them feel guilty.
Start by clearing your mind and listening to the voices in your head that drive you. Identify the “prize” that you’re striving for as well. Mindfulness is a wonderful way to calm your mind. Don’t worry about the resistance in your mind – just push on. This is your key to accepting your achievements, respecting your limits and becoming genuinely successful while still enjoying life.
The more you relax, the easier it will be to recognize the inner-critic. Is it a parent, teacher, or is it your inner-child who doesn’t want to disappoint anyone? Once you find the source of the criticism, you can start dealing with it. Don’t expect overnight results – it will take time to undo a thinking pattern that formed over years.
As you become more comfortable (and honest) with yourself, you’ll get to know what your real traits and motivations are. That way, you can get to see what you want to do in life as opposed to what you got told you wanted.
Self-knowledge is an invaluable asset to real success in life on all levels and helps build intrapersonal intelligence. When you get rid of your inner-critic, you can start building on your natural talents and identify blind spots that are blocking your path.