Sunday, April 3, 2011

Overcoming a Loss of Motivation


How many times have you started a new activity (such as a personal project or exercise routine) with a burst of enthusiasm, only to see that initial momentum evaporate? This often leads to depression and causes us to give up prematurely. I’ve experienced this letdown dozens of times myself. But fortunately, with a bit of thought and reflection you can turn this negative emotion around.
The key to harnessing your emotions is understanding them. The natural pattern of human emotion is peaks and valleys. When we start a new project we’re filled with tremendous optimism. All we can think about is the expected benefits, and since we haven’t started yet, we aren’t aware of the difficulties involved. This natural high causes a surge of mental and physical activity. The peak is a great thing because the energy boost gets projects off the ground. If you’re a creative type like me, you know that this period is euphoric. You feel like nothing can stop you.
The downside of this surge of energy is that it inevitably ends. Exerting large amounts of energy wears you down, and after the initial optimism wears off we feel extremely tired. However high you started off, you fall down just as low. This causes a loss of confidence. The combination of fatigue, scant results, and an awareness of impending adversity makes us want to give up. From personal experience I’ve learned a few ways to hold strong against negativity.

Be Prepared for a Letdown

Emotions, by nature, lose their power when we understand them. Prove this to yourself. Next time you get angry, take a moment to reflect on the reason behind the emotion. When I step back and reflect, it’s easy to see that my anger is caused by insecurity/selfishness/jealousy etc. After I understand the cause my anger fades away.
The same technique applies to a loss of motivation. Instead of giving into negativity, step back and analyze. Look at the causes. Are you tired, burned out, disappointed by the results? Are these feelings justified, or are they a by product of a low point in the emotional spectrum?
To illustrate these ideas, I’ll use my most recent project as an example, the creation of this site. When I launched Pick the Brain it took an enormous amount of effort. I was completely new to blogging, web design, and traffic building so there was a steep learning curve. Writing new posts, setting up the site, and trying to build traffic took up nearly all my free time. After about three weeks I was completely burned out. I got depressed and started to question if the site was worth the effort. I wasn’t seeing any returns and I started to find enormous faults in my writing and the purpose of the site. There were moments when I was resigned to failure.
One reason I was able to overcome this loss of motivation is that I prepared myself for a letdown. Beforehand, I researched blogging and learned that it generally takes 9-12 months before a site begins to see significant traffic. Knowing that my lack of success was perfectly normal helped me get over it. The same is true for other endeavors. If you know losing 20 pounds in a month is unrealistic, you’ll be able to accept losing only 5 more easily.
I also knew my own emotions and was prepared for the initial emotional peak to pass. When I was first inspired to launch a website, my expectations were through the roof. Dreams of AdSense revenue danced in my head and I pictured throngs of loyal readers as if they already existed. But because I understand my emotional pattern, I realized this optimism would give way to depression. In the back of my mind, I foresaw the impending motivational battle, and when it came I was ready.

Reevaluate Your Strategy and Motivation

The passing of the emotional peak is a blessing in disguise because it allows us to reevaluate our plans from a fresh perspective. At first we are blinded by our own optimism. When we lose our motivation we can see gaping holes our in plan. We can either get down on ourselves and give up, or we can use this negative emotion to discover our faults and correct them. After I pulled myself out of the motivational cellar, I went back to all the negatives thoughts I’d had and applied them to improving the site. Having a pessimistic attitude opened my eyes. It made me realistic about my abilities and expectations. Emotional valleys bring us back to reality. Without them we’d be raving lunatics with unlimited self-confidence.
Use a loss of motivation as an opportunity to reconsider what your motivation really is. One reason I lost motivation is that I became too concerned with the financial aspect of blogging and lost sight of the real reason I started: sharing my passion for self improvement and the pursuit of happiness. When I realigned my motivation with my passion, the lack of results didn’t matter. My motivation returned because I realized connecting with people through my writing is an end in itself. Even if this site never makes I dime, sharing my ideas and experiences to help other people is worth the effort.
In truth, sometimes giving up is the right decision. If you started doing something for the wrong reasons you’ll likely lose your motivation. This is a good thing. It allows us to see what really motivates us. In these cases, the best choice is to move on to a new endeavor. Don’t fight self doubt, use it for your benefit.

Conclusion

Dealing with emotional highs and lows is an experience common to all people. We generally accept our emotions as beyond our control. They are powerful and mysterious and appear quite irrational. But if we contemplate our emotions, if we explore the inner workings of our minds, we find that like all things, emotions obey the law of cause and effect. Armed with this knowledge, we can continue to allow our emotions to dominate our lives, or we can use them to our benefit.
Don’t be surprised by a loss of motivation and don’t be disappointed by it. Understand it as natural effect of the human mind, and utilize this knowledge of self to make your emotions work for you.

66 comments:

  1. Great post, I really wish I could follow this kind of advice though. I always say I will and end up being lazy, it's come to the stage where I realize I'm not even going to bother while I'm still reading the article.

    However, your post did raise my motivation levels somewhat, I think I'll do the work I need to do now in fact!

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  2. Be Prepared for a Letdown. Is the best advice Ive ever been given.

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  3. I think everyone needs to learn to control their emotions better, it will help them use those emotions fro them, in ways such as motivation.

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  4. It takes awhile to actually apply these advice to your daily life. Normally people can't simply add habits to their daily activity through mere recognition and agreement. Good post though.

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  5. good points people must find motivation somewhere

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  6. I like your blog style! Keep up the great blogging!

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  7. Thank you. Thank you for your powerful words

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  8. Your conclusion says it all, "make your emotions work for you", completely agree.

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  9. thanks! very interesting!

    http://all-around-toto.blogspot.com/

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  10. excellent info - now if I can just put some of it to use!! :)

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  11. Great blog!

    http://newsfromnorthwest.blogspot.com/

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  12. turning negative energy into positive energy? win

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  13. Great post, good stuff as always

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  14. Wish i had that kind of will power!

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  15. awesome post! :D exactly my style.

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  16. I usually function by expecting the worst of any given situation and when it finally happens it aint that bad.

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  17. Always good to stay motivated!

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  18. I could seriously do with some motivation right now.

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  19. good article on getting over apathy :) nice blog man!

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  20. I function on an emotional plateau so I don't really have to worry!

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  21. I like that you mentioned the motivation loss moment is also an opportunity for improvement, agree with whole post.

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  22. wow, this is actually true.
    I believe your life will be better if you start seeing things this way but it might take a while until you get used to see things this way and not the other... it is like some kind of self training u impose on your brain so you will change your way of thinking. Good Post, really liked it.

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  23. Kinda needed this today...thanks for this post¡¡

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  24. Personally, I find the best way to get back up again is to talk to lots and lots of people. I kind of fell out of blogging the last few days, but after texting and talking to so many people, I'm back into it!
    :)

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  25. This will motivate me for like 1 hour... not your fault though ;-)

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  26. Be prepared for a letdown is best advice that I have heard all day.

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  27. You know Papa I thought id say I really enjoy reading your blog, im going through a tough time in my life at the moment and everything you write seems too strike home.
    Thanks buddy.
    <3

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  28. Thats a nice writen post for the general public to contemplate.

    Good Job!

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  29. reading this was motivating, usually online readings aren't so helpful but this was very inspiring :) thanks for posting!

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  30. i like your blog. keep up the good work

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  31. you're so right. this happens to me all of the time! especially trying to play an instrument. I get bored after only a few minutes.

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  32. How often did I lose that motivation I used to have! It reminds me one of my post on my side blog.. I'll sure go read it out again to gain some motivation!

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  33. Overcoming a loss of motivation is HARD. I hate when I get into a rut of demotivation.

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  34. Excellent post man! Was a really interesting read! thanks for sharing!

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  35. That was so interesting to read!

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  36. You can write very well. Good job dude.

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  37. Nice write-up. This disorder has affected me many times. I have such a wide array of interests, and have started so many projects that go unfinished. It sucks, but I do actually complete a lot of things, given the massive amount of things I start up.

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  38. I seriously do this all the fricken time it anoys me. I'm defiantly going to use your tips from now on.

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  39. It's kind of funny and hard to believe, but my motivation for most of my life has always been a quote from my mother. She basically just said "Look, if you aren't willing to bust your a*s and do something 110%, don't f*cking bother with it. There's no point. Your d*mn life is too f*cking short to half a*s anything."

    She had a foul mouth but I can't think of another thing in the world that ever motivated me more than that one sentence.

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  40. really good read, more like this
    +1

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  41. Wonderful post +followed!
    Remember to return the favor /b/rothers.

    http://rumblereport.blogspot.com/

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  42. Typically, my cure for motivational loss is to think about puppies and kittens being murdered. Then i work MUCh faster. Btw, i'm looking for $upport.

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  43. What a great post! Having a reminder about my emotions and keeping them in check really does help. Thanks!

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  44. i seriously have to finish my script. But first: smoke some!
    *'m like fin Towlie from South Park*

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  45. Dude I love the positive vibe. Its funny how much an effect our emotions really have on everything we do. I find it so empowering when I am able to overcome them.

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  46. That is really interesting, I will probably go back and read it because I just skimmed through it.

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  47. Great tips, I am going to have to remember these, thanks for the post. This article is also motivational, haha.

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  48. happens to me like every week lol. i'll have to try this on my next new project. or maybe revisit an old one with this in mind

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  49. Your posts are always so organized and well thought out. Much better than most advice blogs on blogger!

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  50. This is really really helpful. recently I've been very unmotivated, probably from watching too much TV. but I'm getting back into the groove

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  51. Im pretty bad at motivating myself, but when the pressure comes on, I usually do it. Ive once done an essay in half an hour, right before it was due in, was pretty impressive I must say.

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  52. One of the best blog posts I've read so far

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  53. Thanks for your words! I really like what you said about emotional peaks and valleys - I seem to operate in peaks and valleys - not just emotionally but also in understanding certain concepts or feeling fulfilled in life, etc. That's why I named my blog Surfing Through Life - my concept of many things in the world is in peaks and valleys and I ride the waves up and down. I'm in a valley right now so it's really nice reading your posts. Cheers!

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