How to Find Motivation When You’re Totally Burnt Out
Motivation: The Scientific Guide on How to Get and Stay Motivated
Motivation is a powerful, yet tricky beast. Sometimes it is really easy to get motivated, and you find yourself wrapped up in a whirlwind of excitement. Other times, it is nearly impossible to figure out how to motivate yourself and you’re trapped in a death spiral of procrastination. This page contains the best ideas and most useful research on how to get and stay motivated.
This isn’t going to be some rah-rah, pumped-up motivational speech. (That’s not my style.) Instead, we’re going to break down the science behind how to get motivated in the first place and how to stay motivated for the long-run. Whether you’re trying to figure out how to motivate yourself or how to motivate a team, this page should cover everything you need to know.
You can click the links below to jump to a particular section or simply scroll down to read everything. At the end of this page, you’ll find a complete list of all the articles I have written on motivation.
I. Motivation: What It Is and How It Works
II. How to Get Motivated and Take Action
III. How to Stay Motivated for the Long-Run
Motivation: What It Is and How It Works
Scientists define motivation as your general willingness to do something. It is the set of psychological forces that compel you to take action. That’s nice and all, but I think we can come up with a more useful definition of motivation.
So what is motivation, exactly? The author Steven Pressfield has a great line in his book, The War of Art, which I think gets at the core of motivation. To paraphrase Pressfield, “At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.”
In other words, at some point, it is easier to change than to stay the same. It is easier to take action and feel insecure at the gym than to sit still and experience self-loathing on the couch. It is easier to feel awkward while making the sales call than to feel disappointed about your dwindling bank account.
This, I think, is the essence of motivation. Every choice has a price, but when we are motivated, it is easier to bear the inconvenience of action than the pain of remaining the same. Somehow we cross a mental threshold—usually after weeks of procrastination and in the face of an impending deadline—and it becomes more painful to not do the work than to actually do it.
Focus on Your True Love
What is your reason for rising from this rut? Who or what was your motivation for reading this article? There’s something driving you to not stay stuck. There are some people who are counting on you or some mission that’s bigger than you that provide a clear purpose for everything you do.
Knowing your true love is your compass. Whenever you’re feeling lost or uninspired, remembering the people or passion that make you uniquely you gives you that sense of purpose that you need to feel motivated to rise, even when you feel like you have nothing left.
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When I realized that my complete lack of motivation and burn out was really affecting him, I knew it was time to get to the root of what was really wrong, which leads us to step 2.
Identify Your True Adversary (and Focus Your Limited Energy There)
There’s always someone or something that has to be defeated in every hero’s journey when learning how to find motivation. In the case of our hero Wesley, he had to defeat Prince Humperdink in order to rescue Buttercup. This singular mission helped him reserve his energy for the most critical moment, when he finally met Humperdink face-to-face.
In the case of your burnout, there is most likely a root cause that has to be addressed in order to reclaim your motivation. Getting clear on what that is will prevent you from running around trying to fix every aspect of your life and allow you to simply focus on the one or two things that are really the reason everything’s feeling so hard.
When you’re truly burnt out, it’s likely that it’s negatively impacted multiple areas of your life, so it may feel impossible to identify the root cause of your struggles at the moment.
To get the root cause of your burnout, do a gut check. What are the first 3 reasons that you think have caused you to burn out? What were the first things that popped into your mind?
One way to really figure out what’s wrong is to imagine what a 10 would be to you in each area you rank low. For example, if you rank your job a 2, what would a 10 be to you? Describe it in as much detail as possible and compare it to your current situation.
For example, maybe your 10 job would be remote, but your current job forces you to commute and travel constantly. This has the potential to affect every area of your life, but the solution to most of your woes is to get a job that lets you work from home and doesn’t require so much travel.
How can you get back on track?
What’s the importance of having a challenging job to feel motivated?
Without any challenges, you won’t have anything new to work toward. If all of your tasks are easy, you won’t have any incentive to do better. Regularly throwing in a challenge can motivate you to learn something new, sharpen your skills, and try new experiences.
What things affect my motivation?
Plenty of things can affect your motivation. The weather, people around you, how hungry you are, and more impact your motivation levels. Pinpointing what impacts you the most is challenging, but it can help you get back on track. Next time you lack motivation, pay attention to your surroundings.
How can I help someone that’s feeling unmotivated?
One of the best things you can do for someone lacking motivation is to support them when and how they need you. If they’re struggling against a mental illness, you can suggest seeking professional help. If they need someone to hold them accountable for their daily tasks, you can do that too. Show up for them in the ways that suit them; everyone’s needs are different.