Completely lost my motivation to do what I love, what happened and how do I get it back?
July 14, 2011 2:50 AM   Subscribe

A few years ago I used go through a book in a day, was drawing constantly, writing for fun and was becoming halfway decent at the guitar. Now I can barely get around to reading the first chapter, haven't even written a page nor drawn anything in the last few years and my guitar has been gathering dust. What happened to me and how do I get my mojo back?

Nothing significant or traumatizing has occured to me when I started to lose my motivation. This leaves me utterly stumped as to why I now would rather skip through a movie instead of watching it all the way through, quit all my martial arts classes and have become the lethargic crap I am today.
posted by CreativeUsername to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Have you been screened for depression?
posted by brianogilvie at 3:56 AM on July 14, 2011

The fact that you would rather skip through a movie suggests that maybe your concentration has gone down the pan, which, in normal people, is supposed to be a symptom of depression. So I'd look into that by visiting a medical doctor who would probably also check for other physical causes.
posted by tel3path at 4:24 AM on July 14, 2011

Have you been spending more time on the internet? I think it changes your expectations of the rewards of paying attention.
posted by vitabellosi at 4:35 AM on July 14, 2011 [15 favorites]

I've dealt with this in the past (mostly for writing) and, in my case, it was definitely connected to depression. A therapist can help, but, if you don't have the inclination or the money, a few close friends can help with productivity by providing accountability.
posted by mean cheez at 5:49 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking just for myself, things shifted majorly for me when I spent more time online. My attention span for larger hunks of reading is out the window unless I make a concerted effort to focus.

Like you, I used to devour books and now I skim most things. I don't overly like it but it suits my needs and I know I can read longer things when I have the inclination.

But yeah, check for the depression stuff (because it feels to me like you've just plain lost interest in things that you are creating and my depression manifests itself as hardcore apathy. I can go to work and do all other things just fine but without meds I just don't give a shit about anything. Even the fun things, I'm all "whatever" about it.).

Just some anecdata for you. Good luck!
posted by Mysticalchick at 5:54 AM on July 14, 2011

It could be depression, but I also think that any kind of active interest requires a certain level of effort to maintain, and can easily fall by the wayside when even relatively minor circumstances (increased workload at one's job, a new social activity, etc.) start taking up bits of your time.

Something similar to what you describe happened to me when I went to college; rather than spending large stretches of time pursuing my writing or other interests, I spent more time hanging out with friends, watching movies, and being entertained rather than actively entertaining myself. So then I slowly lost my ability to focus like I used to and had to make a conscious effort to get it back.

You say nothing significant has happened to you, but has your routine changed in any way such that passive entertainment is easier/more accessible?

In terms of learning to concentrate again, what I started doing was letting myself write purely for play. Rather than try to work on something serious that required planning and thought, I wrote complete crap which I found amusing but which was, well, crap. The goal was to have fun and make myself laugh, not to do anything great. It's easier to write when there's no pressure. Slowly, I rediscovered the joy I had found in writing, and soon I wanted to take it the next level and write stuff which wasn't crap.

It takes time, and you will have to fake the motivation at first. Start small, but do start, because the drive isn't going to come back until you begin.
posted by moutonoir at 5:55 AM on July 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

Try travel. Even a car trip to the next (but not normal town) or a bus trip to see family you haven't seen in a while seems to function as a reset on my brain. The other thing that helps is to get good and bored, so consider removing your usual distractions such as the television and the internet, for a weekend.
posted by Phalene at 6:27 AM on July 14, 2011

I highly suspect it could be the internet. It's one of the reasons I don't own a computer in my apartment. Internet used to be a lively tool for my website many years ago but since I don't use it for business anymore, I find my personal time wasted in faux social sites. It's emotionally draining and seeing what other people are doing, made me lose my motivation in creating music, that apparently 700 of my friends make, so it's not magical as it used to be. I don't feel unique in my mojo like I did when I was a teen. As a child of the 80's and 90's I'm kinda lost in today's world. The instant gratification of the internet has caused me such anxiety, over my seemingly lack of focus and discipline for real world situations, (and this permeates everything from work to relationships.) I deactivated my FB account. You could start with that if you feel that will slightly help you refocus your energies.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 6:33 AM on July 14, 2011 [8 favorites]

has your diet/nutrition changed? many people may scoff at the idea, but your nutrition plays a key role in how you function on a daily basis, not just energy-wise but also emotionally.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:49 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Our brains have become accustomed to immediate gratification.

I find it helpful to carve out a space in time for activities I want to happen. For example, if I want to play more guitar, I'll just tell myself, okay for at least the next half hour, I've got nothing to do but play guitar. No pressure -- I can just sit there, but anything my brain wants me to do instead, I'll say, just wait half an hour.
posted by callmejay at 7:08 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

internet effs your brain.
posted by sully75 at 7:18 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

sometimes using a kitchen timer works for me. "i'm going to do nothing but practice/read/whatever for the next 30 minutes".
posted by sully75 at 7:19 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just getting older can have this kind of effect. I experience it as people, films, and books not being as interesting as they used to be, but it's me that changed, really. If that's it, or part of it,you may find a compensating gain in your stamina when you do actually settle to something.
posted by Segundus at 8:04 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have this as well, and, for me, it is the internet. I am so used to instant info/gratification, that I have to force myself to read. As a matter of fact, I have moments while reading that my hand will move to hit the non existent back button if I want to go back a page. It's disturbing.

But if I leave my computer at work, in a day or so, I can get back to focusing on things again.
posted by Vaike at 8:08 AM on July 14, 2011

Similar what to other people have said, you have to train yourself. Set aside a certain amount of time a day to work on your goals, and work on them. Set deadlines to learn new things. Achievable deadlines, say, a book a month, or master a new song on the guitar, or whatever.

Train your mind to expect to be concentrating on other things for a certain period of time a day. Be consistent about where and when you do those other things, and keep working away at them. You'll build momentum, and it will only get easier.

We're all busy. We work too much, we have families, we have social lives, we have hobbies, and there are a million distractions and stress factors. Don't be too hard on yourself when things don't work out. Bite your goals off in small chunks, and build momentum.

From a more mechanistic perspective, here's a few thoughts:

1) Low Vitamin D can cause lethargy and lack of motivation, among other things. It's not the only health condition that can lead to that, maybe it's time for a physical.
2) Likewise on lack of sleep.
3) Likewise, as stated above, on depression.

Take care of your body and mind, and work in small chunks, and you'll get back there. You sound a lot like me, and I've always found that even when everything is working right that life waxes and wanes. Don't be too hard on yourself, but don't let yourself down either.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:13 AM on July 14, 2011

To expand on the mechanistic perspective, a hypothyroid condition could also account for much of what you describe.
posted by Carlo at 8:51 AM on July 14, 2011

Re: getting older - my Dad used to feel as though he had read every book, seen every movie. I'm starting to feel that way myself now.

The problem is, I can remember him making a lot of instant judgements that were absolutely wrong (or so I thought). What if I'm doing the same? This is why I slogged through all 600 pages of The Historian, which was something of a watershed in my ability to tolerate long boring crappy books, in that, I just can't any more.

I don't know what the cure for this might be, but perhaps that's part of the cause?
posted by tel3path at 5:00 PM on July 15, 2011

I kind of skimmed through the responses, so I might have missed it, but can I throw in the possibility that you're looking back upon your annus mirabilis (or week, or whatever) and comparing the yourself of today with the yourself of yesteryear, to your detriment? You might have a negative feedback loop in your head going on, where your lack of motivation now affirms the hypothesis that you're not as motivated as you used to be, which used to be a lot, but now you're not, so, etc., etc., rinse and repeat.
posted by Busoni at 10:42 AM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older 3g for a short stay in LA?   |   What jobs pay well and don't need a degree in the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.