When your “get up and go” has “got up and left,” when there’s no more “pep” left in your step, sometimes the best thing you can do is just stop trying for a while.
Moving forward feels great, but movement takes energy. When’s the last time you took a break without feeling guilty? Resting is a productive and appropriate project that could help you get your groove back.
Having said that, maybe you don’t have the option of sitting around doing nothing. Somehow, you’ve got to find or create the motivation to get moving again, regardless of how stuck you feel.
That’s when it’s time to do two things.
The first is to remind yourself of your own agency. No matter how helpless you may feel at a time like this, no matter what challenges you face, you have control over the little things in your life.
You’re the only one who gets to decide whether to brush your teeth, rinse out that empty yogurt container, or sweep up that debris on the floor near the front door.
When life won’t give up its rewards to you, you can still reward yourself with clean hair, a timeout, or a carrot. (Make it a baby carrot with peanut butter; you need the nutrients.)
Losing motivation creates a sense of powerlessness, not to mention a lack of direction and purpose. It casts a spell that makes you forget your autonomy.
The best activities are simple acts of grooming and household management.
Once you inspire yourself by being proactive in smaller tasks, you’ll be better able to roll up your sleeves and do some heavy lifting on the bigger stuff.
The second thing to do if you’ve lost your mojo is to follow these three, simple words: Just start it. I remember an instructor in graduate school telling us that if you simply begin to do a task, motivation kicks in within 10 seconds.
You read that right: 10 seconds may be all it takes to shift from “I don’t want to do it” to “I’m already doing it, so I might as well continue.”
Let’s say, for example, you’re trying to get yourself to go to the gym. Get up right now and gather your workout clothes and/or shoes. Fill a water bottle or do whatever it takes to prep for a trip to the gym.
You’re far more likely to follow through and actually go if you start doing anything related to your goal.
Between these two tools — inspiring yourself through small actions or committing to just 10 seconds of activity — you’ll be able to make more progress than you would by sitting there berating yourself for being stuck.
Loss of motivation can be a symptom of depression. If your condition becomes entrenched, please consider speaking with a counselor or other mental health professional.
Tina Gilbertson is a therapist in Portland, Ore., and author of the book “Constructive Wallowing.” Her webiste is www.TinaGilbertson.com.