A short time ago, you were gonna’ conquer the world, weren’t you?
You remember the moment you dove head first into your novel, your screenplay, your author platform blog project…
And you welcomed the challenge, didn’t you?
Fueled by high-octane adrenaline and inspiration, nothing could keep you from writing.
Today, however, you can’t seem to locate that energy, and you’re wondering whether you might have taken on more than you can handle.
Today, writing seems dreadful, like you’re struggling against some dark, powerful force. Worse, you know there’s no guarantee of progress or completion.
And you’re beginning to wonder if you’ll ever find your strength, your resolve, your beginner’s enthusiasm.
You want answers.
You want to know why, why now–especially after you’ve put so much time, money, and energy on the line.
Why are you failing at motivation?
Read on to discover 20 reasons why you’re struggling with motivation.
You Don’t Have Clear Goals
You’ve probably encountered the term SMART goals a few hundred times by now, but are you taking advantage?
Let’s reiterate the process.
To stack the deck in your favor, make sure that your goals meet the following criteria:
Specific | Is your goal clearly defined in exact terms? Have you clearly defined the steps involved?
Measurable | Is your goal something you can count or quantify? How will you know when you’re there?
Achievable | Can you reach your goal from your present state? Do you have the skills? If they’re missing, can you acquire them?
Relevant | Is your goal sensible, practical, rational, connected to your long-range goals?
Time-Bound | Does your goal have a concrete deadline?
Have you mapped out your daily word count to complete each chapter, each weekly blog post? Have you outlined the entire process? Have you anticipated problem areas and armed yourself with solutions?
Once you’ve clearly defined your goal and the steps required for its completion, there’s nothing stopping you from achieving it. Decide in advance how you’ll take action.
You’re Waiting for Inspiration
When was the last time you wrote an easy 2000 words in a couple of hours?
There’s nothing like riding the wave of inspiration, feeling invincible, finding yourself blasting through preconceived limits.
The only problem with inspiration is that it fades, like any peak-level state. We become addicted to its high, thinking we’re incapable of progress without those intoxicating brain chemicals that lead to laser-sharp focus, productivity, and creativity.
So what can you do to churn out quality work, especially when you’re feeling ordinary, vulnerable, hypercritical, or flawed?
Solution: You need an easier plan.
Schedule your daily activities in small, incremental steps, leading up to your ultimate goal. If you’re unsure about the actual steps, begin at the finish line and work your way backwards until you arrive upon a logical sequence.
Every day, without exception, complete practical, pre-set goals. Create a checklist, and follow it to completion. Makes sure it fits with your schedule, and make it easy to complete. Watch your goals become as easy as ticking boxes.
Apps & Resources:
Your Relying on Willpower
Ah willpower… that fine, elusive quality that serves us well in the short term. Why does it consistently fail us over the long haul? Think about your last diet. How well did that go, after the passion, excitement, and discipline wore off?
Willpower works best when applied to short-term goals. If you’re relying on it for long-term progress, realize that your supply is limited. When you reach the limit, you’re going to fail.
When you’re stressed or overloaded in multiple areas of your life, you have less willpower available for reaching your writing goals. And it’s not your fault; it’s just the way we’re wired.
Instead of willpower, create small, manageable habits you can integrate into your daily routine. Think habits, not willpower. Write every day to establish a habit. Choose an achievable word count, something you know you can commit to, and establish a time for daily practice.
You’re Not Tracking Your Progress
When was the last time you created a spreadsheet to track your progress?
I know. It sounds like tedious work; however, a ten-minute session with Excel or Google Sheets can make all the difference.
Tracking allows you to see your progress in real time, making it tangible, fun, and rewarding.
If we can’t see and measure our progress, we’re less likely to trudge on when a task becomes routine or boring.
Tracking becomes addictive, like checking Facebook stats or recent messages.
When applied to productive goals, you’ll find that it keeps you energized and focused on the end goal.
You Aren’t Celebrating Your Success
Like tracking your progress, celebrating each small victory keeps you primed for success. Every time you reward yourself for a job well done, your brain remembers the pleasure, making it easier and easier to link important, mundane tasks with pleasure, making success a natural byproduct.
Make a list of important milestones, and promise yourself a reward for each successful completion.
Splurge on a good meal, a movie night out, or a special purchase you’ve been putting off.
On a smaller scale, wait until completing your predetermined tasks before refilling your coffee, taking a break, engaging in conversation, or reaching for a snack.
Make progress meaningful, and you’ll find it easier to reach both short and long-term goals.
You’re Not Scheduling Time Off
Are you more likely to pull an all-nighter or adopt a slow-and-steady pace to complete a big project?
Regardless of your personal working style, down time is essential.
While the all-or-nothing worker will eventually crash, requiring extra sleep and extended periods of inactivity to reach equilibrium, the slow-and-steady personality rarely needs to stop and regroup. Everyone needs to unplug and recharge to keep the energy flowing.
It’s important to schedule your down time, just like working time, family time, or any important activity.
And don’t wait for a formal vacation. What you schedule gets done. So schedule some down time throughout the week, even if it’s just an hour per day to slough off accumulated stress.
You’ll experience increased productivity as well as greater periods of creativity.
There’s a reason why we’re more creative while walking in nature or taking a shower. At these times, we briefly let go of our mind chatter and responsibilities, allowing our unconscious to take the wheel.
You’ve Forgotten Why You’re Doing This
Have you ever wondered why some activities are easier to complete than others? If you stop and think about it, those tasks usually contain a compelling reason behind them.
They’re either highly pleasurable or the effects of not completing them would cause significant pain.
If you’re struggling with motivation for certain goals or activities, find out why you want to complete them. Often it’s just a matter of finding the best way to perceive them. Find ways to link greater pleasure and greater pain to their outcomes.
If you find yourself failing continuously in a certain area, try linking the failure with a painful outcome.
I have friends who donate money to causes they don’t believe in, causes they actually abhor, when they fail to meet a predetermined goal. A little creativity will go a long way.
You’re Addicted to the Hard Way
Some of us seem to take the difficult path to the finish line, always beating ourselves up, holding out for perfection, for a record-breaking performance.
Are you one of those people who learned early on that hard work was synonymous with character and self-worth? If so, you might want to unravel those long-held associations.
For some of us it takes years or decades to learn how to say no, to learn how to set limits, to ask for help when needed. Remember, Superman and Wonder Woman are fictitious characters!
Solution: Develop practical, reliable systems you can repeat without struggling.
The systems you create, especially the ones that solve complex problems, will become your greatest assets, leading you to extraordinary success.
You may find that the hard way is unnecessary, a coping mechanism you adopted without conscious consideration. Ask yourself what you’re getting out of abusing yourself on a regular basis.
You may decide that the unconscious fix isn’t worth the cost.
You Don’t Have Enough Support
If you want to be more successful, you need support systems: industry peers, mentors, and friends. These support systems allow you to sound off, vent frustrations, solve problems, and maintain balance.
When was the last time you enjoyed a long lunch with a friend or an industry peer?
Help, advice, and comfort can be a phone call away.
Have you thought about organizing a mastermind group? Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich, popularized the concept. Countless self-made entrepreneurs attribute their continued growth to a Mastermind group.
You’re Not Using Tools
In our app-driven society, there’s no excuse for doing everything on your own. From fitness, to diet, to scheduling your day, “there’s an app for that!”
Software and apps help us leverage time to stay ahead of our responsibilities. Why bog down your memory with details that can be stored elsewhere?
Freeing up time and space leaves you with greater motivation to complete your most important tasks. Spend 30 minutes this week researching time savers to keep you moving forward with ease.
You’re Not Feeding Yourself
Unfortunately, motivation doesn’t happen organically.
When the excitement of a new project or goal wears off, you’ll find yourself craving that original jolt of energy and inspiration. Like a car needing gas to get from point A to B, you have to fill your tank to keep moving forward.
To properly feed motivation, try these two proven strategies: gratitude and positive reading.
Every day before going to bed or before starting your morning routine, list 5 things that you’re grateful for.
Each day, find something new to celebrate. This practice orients your brain toward pleasure, magnetizing your awareness toward positive thinking. You’ll find motivation following close behind.
Read five to ten pages per day from a positive, motivational book.
Set the tone for the rest of your day by reading success stories from inspirational authors.
There’s enough negativity in the world. Why not inoculate yourself each morning with a positive message to guide you through your day.
Your Activities Are Out of Alignment
Have you ever tried to stick to a diet when your spouse wasn’t onboard?
Imagine coming home from a long day’s work to find the cupboards stuffed with cheese curls, potato chips, cookies, and candy bars, their bright, familiar packages taunting you from the shelves. You’re tired and irritable, and the effort it takes to prepare a healthy salad doesn’t excite you. What’s most likely to happen—if not today, tomorrow, or the next day?
You’re gonna’ cave.
Think about your goals for a moment.
How many daily practices actually sabotage your progress? Take a personal inventory of your daily habits. Which activities support your goals? How many activities work against your stated goals?
Most people have positive and negative activities that cancel each other out, making progress impossible. This one-step-forward-two-steps-back treadmill guarantees failure, and it kills motivation.
Track your activities for a week: your lifestyle habits, your spending habits, your subsequent energy levels. Put them into two columns and evaluate. Decide which activities to keep or eliminate.
Make sure you get it onto the page; there’s something powerful about seeing it in print.
You’re Not Taking Yourself (Or Your Goals) Seriously
We’re culturally conditioned toward selflessness.
We praise acts of kindness, generosity, and charity. We prioritize our jobs, our bosses, our spouses, our children, and our communities, leaving little room for our own needs.
On subtle levels, we may actually believe that we’re not entitled to our own desires. We feel selfish or indulgent when we think about them.
At some point, in order to move forward toward the best versions of ourselves, we need to take ourselves seriously, to acknowledge and prioritize our own dreams and goals.
Time marches on, and we wake up unfulfilled, wondering how we wandered so far from our path.
You must take yourself seriously, more seriously than anyone else on the planet; you come into the world alone, and you will take your exit the same way. In between, your life is up to you.
You Have Too Many Stress Goals
How often do you should all over yourself?
Shoulds are often stress goals, those nagging, perfectionistic voices telling you to do more, to be more, to accomplish more. The problem is that stress goals mask a negative message: that you’re not good enough in your present state.
Choose your goals carefully and honestly.
Make sure they’re specific and achievable; make sure they support your highest, kindest vision for yourself. Make sure you’re setting goals for yourself instead of measuring up to some imaginary, external pressure.
There’s nothing less motivating than a goal you adopt to please some vague other, trying to conform to societal rules that just don’t fit or support your authentic self.There’s nothing less motivating than a goal you adopt to please some vague other, trying to conform to societal rules that just don’t fit or support your authentic self. Click To Tweet
You’re Not Working With Your Strengths
How often do you find yourself swimming against the current, spending inordinate blocks of time working with your weakest talents?
If you’re trying to be all things to all people or trying to prove you can conquer a perceived flaw, you may be wasting valuable time and energy.
Run with your strengths, your own unique skills, and outsource your weaknesses. If this isn’t possible, know when to acknowledge when good enough will suffice.
Every successful person has weaknesses, probably more than you might imagine. Oprah struggles with her weight. Tiger Woods struggles with his temper. Mother Teresa struggled with a lack of faith.
Do your best, and move forward toward your goals. Focus on activities where you can shine.
You’re Efforts Aren’t Coordinated
For every step you take toward a goal, you can combine other compatible steps.
For example, you can achieve creative time, down time, and exercise in a single activity: taking a long walk or a jog.
Combine healthy eating, parenting time, and an expression of gratitude with a daily family meal.
Need an inexpensive mentor or coach, download S.J. Scott’s Habit Stacking. Learn how to leverage the power of small, manageable habits.
You’re Not Raising the Bar
Maintaining the status quo kills motivation.
Over time, maintaining the same level of accomplishment becomes draining. It often takes the same level of effort to maintain something tedious as it does something worthwhile.Often, maintaining the status quo kills motivation. Over time, maintaining the same level of accomplishment becomes draining. It often takes the same level of effort to maintain something tedious as it does something worthwhile. Click To Tweet
Periodically, your goals will need a little fine tuning, a little boost up the ladder to keep you challenged and growing in new directions.
Many entrepreneurs, when looking back over their lives, remember their years of struggle fondly, as times of great excitement and possibility.
We need to push our boundaries, keeping our risk and challenge muscles in shape. Nothing motivates like a goal that’s just beyond our grasp.
You’re Giving Up Too Soon
Remember Eeyore, that pathetic, pessimistic donkey from Winnie the Pooh?
How many times have you given up when the path became difficult or treacherous?
How many times have you acted like Eeyore, resigning yourself to mediocrity, giving up at the first sign of trouble?
Obstacles as well as failure are part of most endeavors. How worthy are your goals if they’re always easy to achieve? Failure isn’t final, unless you give up.
To keep your motivation high, expect to encounter roadblocks. Realize they’re part of the terrain. Embrace them.
Each time you overcome an obstacle, you create new solutions, new strategies you can use for your personal benefit.
Don’t give up; you may be closer than you realize.
You Simply Have the Wrong Goals
Even with the best intentions, the wrong goals will deplete your energy. Instead of feeling empowered or fulfilled, you’ll end up feeling empty when you reach the summit.
How do you know whether your goals are aligned with your best interests?
You simply won’t care if others support your goals or not.
Authentic goals often run counter to the mainstream, against the grain of your family, friends, and peers. If they’re uniquely yours, they’ll likely ruffle some feathers.
You may wish to keep them to yourself, choosing to approach them quietly, solitarily, keeping them fresh and alive for you, safe from the judgments and criticism of others.
Authentic goals are often hard to say aloud in the presence of other people; they’re unique and original, like you.
You Haven’t Really Committed
Have you ever wondered what single factor predicts success?
And I don’t mean, trying, sampling, or approaching a venture with a cautious wait and see attitude.
Words like perhaps and maybe don’t show commitment.
Without a complete commitment, you’re going to abandon your path at some point. Obstacles will slow you down, or you’ll run out of resources. It’s a matter of time.
So take failure off the table. Anything short of completion won’t suffice.
What do you think?
What’s your best motivational tip? Share it in the comments section.