Motivation Mastery: Four Probable Reasons You Feel Stuck and How to Fix Them.
I don’t know about you, but during the global pandemic I helped lots of people who struggled with having lots of time on their hands but a major block to implementing their goals. Why is that? Don’t we go through life desperate for more time? In this article I will outline four researched probable drivers for procrastination and share some insights and tools to help slay the inner-procrastinator.
In this article we will address four common reasons for your lack of motivation:
You're in Avoidance Paralysis
You do not value what you're trying to do
You're burnt out
Read on to find ways to self-assess and navigate these common problems
Theory Number One: Procrastination is a form of stress relief.
I first found this theory by watching Coach Mel Robbins, she outlines that procrastination will likely surface when we are stressed, overworked or overwhelmed. We can unconsciously delay putting more demands on a struggling system by avoidance or look for stress relief in mindless task like scrolling.
This makes sense, from a biological point of view I would add, we have a tendency to shut down when we are stressed or fearful about something specific. Typically when under stress we will go into fight, flight, freeze or fawn (submission/people pleasing.) So it’s not surprising stress could cause a sense that we are frozen or blocked in moving forward.
Some suggestions on moving through the stress block:
1. Deal with your fear. At its core, the freeze response is triggered by a thought which is based in fear. Use these journal prompts to unearth a negative dialogue causing you to stress and delay the avoided task: Where is my stress coming from? What am I afraid of? What are my beliefs connected to this? Are they factual? Are some of those beliefs or patterns of worry dysfunctional to me? What are some more true statements? What are my needs? How do I meet my needs? How do I complete the task?
2. Decompress from stress.
a.Try the box breath, 4 count inhale, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for four, repeat 4 times.
b. Exercise. Push yourself hard enough to sweat and to forget about the problem for a while, it’ll look different after.
3. Let go of needing the final product to be perfect. Done is most often better than perfect. Successful people let go and put their work out there and refine as they practice.
Theory Number two: The thing you are trying to motivate yourself to do isn’t in alignment with your highest values.
As Alis Pavell Executive coach says:”We all have something that we love doing. And when we do that thing, it doesn't feel difficult, it's not a chore or a struggle. Rather it seems to give us joy, and pleasure and makes us feel good. It's so much fun that we even forget how fast the time goes. That's because the thing we are doing holds a higher value in our eyes.This importance doesn't come from the world, nor the society, nor our parents nor our friends, but from within us, and for that we don't even need motivating.”
Now, that’s not to say that something we may not value like arranging our finances doesn’t help us to accomplish what we do value, like affording things like Education.
The knack to pushing through this block is somewhat in the discussion you have with yourself about the avoided task you don’t really value.
Some suggestions on moving through the values block.
Temptation Bundle. So, you like bacon but hate brocolli? Well, if you put them together it becomes enticing and palatable. We can apply this premise to our adulting. Make a line down the middle of a page and put things you don't enjoy/value but have to do on the left and things you do enjoy that you can incorporate on the right column. Pair them together. Successful pairings might be listening to your favourite song when you run, ringing a relative while you fold laundry or going for a sleepover at your friend’s house so you can both write your essay.
Manage your dialogue. “Unf*ck your Finances” Author Melissa Browne shares her strategy on managing her weight. She doesn’t value working out, she loves decadent food and life's luxuries, but she has collected loads of beautiful, expensive clothes over a long period of time. She is able to motivate herself to curb her unhealthy impulses and exercise when she thinks of being able to continue to wear and enjoy her treasures. Journal Prompt: How does what I am not good at motivating myself to do serve things that are really important to me? Find as many ways as possible you connect the boring task with things you value. Reframe this as “I choose to do A so I can have B,C and D.” Then go and do the thing!
Uncover your Purpose. Maybe you’re unclear or off track with your highest values altogether? You can download my Values and Purpose Definition Worksheet to clarify.
Theory number three: You are stuck in Avoidance Paralysis
So I am using the term avoidance paralysis to describe a function of the nervous system that comes up after a lull in activity or avoidance of a task.
The biological faculties are always trying to get you to be safe. We want to do as little hard work as possible and enjoy as much abundance as possible, so if you have any negative internal dialogue about a task it gets interpreted as a threat to your abundance and survival.
Let’s just say you decided you want to do cold water immersion therapy, but when it comes crunch time you aren’t feeling happy about doing it. It’s uncomfy, right? So let’s say this day your stress bucket is already at capacity and you end up putting the task off. Your biology interprets that you avoided a dangerous task and rewards you with pleasure chemicals because it wants you to be safe, and at some level whatever it is (ie. cold) is associated with danger. You then let go of the task until you are faced with an opportunity to do the task again, but the next time you go to do it your brain increases the amount of stress chemicals on doing the thing, so pushing through the avoidance is even more difficult. This cycle can repeat as many times as you choose to avoid it or are excused from it by another intervention. The pandemic has caused a lot of people to have things they would usually do disrupted, so we are back at square one from a motivation perspective.
Suggestions to curb the Avoidance Paralysis block.:
Recognise that the feelings of avoidance are a misguided attempt to keep you safe, and whilst they feel compelling, there’s not alot of reason to fear actual danger. Thank your body for trying to keep you safe but remember why you want to do the task in the first place. Maybe revisit task 2 on the Values block suggestions.
Suspend your attention to the negative feelings, remember this probably isn’t at all dangerous and acknowledge these feelings will go away once you do the thing a couple of times. Just detach attention from the negative feeling, count backwards from 5 and jump in the cold water on 1. Done. Repeat and it will get easier.
If ultimately you push through to do it and it never does get easier you might not be happy in the situation, ie, job/relationship and that pain is a messenger. Try to push through initially but if it recurs it has feedback on how to improve your life long term, have a listen.
Theory number four: You are burnt out.
The body needs healthy whole foods, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, sunshine, water , sleep, emotional fulfilment and more in order to continuously rise to the occasion. If you are experiencing fatigue or burnout symptoms you need to address dietary or lifestyle issues. There are a host of symptoms connected with burn out that you can begin to read and decode to optimise your energy.
Suggestions to address burn-out:
Visit a health food shop. If you have low energy there might be alot to do with your biochemistry This is not a comprehensive list but some things which indicate as low energy that might apply are adrenal exhaustion, (symptoms include glassy eyes and dizziness upon standing up “too quick”) Iron deficiency, (signs include restless legs, dry lips, cold hands and feet, fatigue.) and Gut issues. Go and have a good consult with a Naturopath at the Health Food Shop, they may just rescue your energy, but only if you…(next point)
REMEMBER TO TAKE YOUR SUPPLEMENTS. Sorry for shouting. There are some people out there who need that friendly reminder.
** Sensitive Subject Warning.** Ask yourself “Could it be Depression?” Some of the signs of Depression are not finding joy in tasks you once did and difficulty with motivation. I might recommend you ask for an assessment from a GP who believes in the value of mental health. Getting help can be daunting, but life is long and you have a right and possibility to be happy. I often say to clients that Depression is a healing response, and can go hand in hand with burn-out. Your body is tired of living in a hostile environment and exerting energy to fix/worry/strive everyday when things don’t seem to change for the better, so the body pulls the switch to get you to withdraw from the world and get your energy back somewhat. Sometimes all we can seem to motivate ourselves to do is watch Netflix and lie in bed when Depression worsens, but we need energy to contend with the sources of unhappiness in our lives and restore our faith and hope in our future. You are not alone and there are so many gifted professionals who can support you if this is your case. Consider asking for a Mental Health Care Plan from a good GP you trust. Kinesiology Sessions are also a great adjunct to other forms of health care, and it's holistic, meaning it has little bits of lots of therapies like lifestyle advice, Nutrition, emotional clearing and Acupressure to name a few. As such some people find Kinesiology really helpful for emotional work, and overcoming blocks to realising their dreams, too.
Ultimately it’s a lie to believe that doing productive, worthwhile things is always going to be fun or easy, so we need a little emotional intelligence to get back on track when motivation lags.
Now, choose something worthwhile you can undertake, count backwards from five and get started when you get to one! You got this!
Yours in health and happiness.