Motivation, Drive, Learning
April 23, 2014 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone ever experienced a reduction in their motivation and drive? If so, what things have you done to try and change it? In the past, my motivation has been influenced by pain and fear, but that doesn't seem like the most useful way of staying motivated at least that is what my friends have told me. On the same topic, does anyone have any book recommendations or movies that have helped them get motivated again?
posted by nidora to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Pain & fear are not great motivators because they drive you away from something rather than towards anything. As well, there is the possibility (I think it a likelihood) that you can beset yourself with pain and fear on all sides, in which case your optimal response is stasis (which you might experience as procrastination and explain as laziness -- it's not, it's just an optimal pain-avoiding strategy for no-win situations).

The healthy way to motivate yourself is to support yourself and to lavishly reward even small accomplishments. I know I've recommended it here in the past, but I have gotten a great deal of benefit out of this book, The Seven Secrets of the Prolific by Hilary Rettig.
posted by gauche at 10:19 AM on April 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm usually motivated by pretty, shiny things. I'm unapologetically materialistic though.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:23 AM on April 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: "If I were running towards something instead of running away from something, what would I do about [x]?" where x is some problem you are facing (career, interpersonal relationship, etc)

"Working within the system in which I find myself, if I were someone that stood up for his/her beliefs and feelings and - within the Golden Rule - zealously pursued what would make me happy, what would I do next?"

Make it a habit of doing the answers to these questions.

It's gonna hurt at first, and feel like you are giving up a part of yourself. You are; you're giving up the part of yourself you don't want around anymore.
posted by 3FLryan at 10:24 AM on April 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

I'm not motivated right now because so many things in my life are ostensibly being churned in a blender without a lid. I don't know where I stand with my current job, my career is in stasis as I wait to hear back about another opportunity, and a boyfriend I had last year just did a major romantic gesture in order to reconnect but I haven't heard from him since then. I feel like if I make any moves, the already delicate balance keeping everything in the air will shatter. I know, though, that all I can do is think positive and remind myself that I am only in control of myself and my reactions, so I am pushing through by thinking about how good it will be to move beyond this period of my life where I feel so profoundly out of control. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just have to keep moving forward.
posted by Hermione Granger at 10:34 AM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

What helped my motivation was actually examining why I procrastinated on stuff. I hit upon a lot of literature that broke it into a few main categories. I pulled these from this article on Psychology Today.

*Arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
*Avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability.
*Decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.

Once I did some deep digging into why I procrastinated, and consequently wasn't motivated to do great work and move forward, I realized that I'm definitely #2 Avoider. It helped a lot with my motivation because I started to deal with why I'd avoid certain tasks and projects.

As always when someone is inside their own head, I recommend trying CBT with writing down where what you're not motivated about and why you think that is with "rational" responses from yourself.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:35 AM on April 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you're motivated by pain & fear, then when it goes away it might feel boring and unmotivating. Because that anxiety (which is nervous energy) goes away.

And then in that vast space you can ask yourself: well, who am I now? What do I value? From my heart, what do I want to achieve?

When you've decided on what you want, you imagine that future / outcome in detail. Consider all the good benefits of having that outcome, and consider all the downsides of staying where you are right now. You can have daily or weekly reminders of that outcome.

Shit I sound like I am advocating for a vision board or something. For the record, I loathe those things. And "The Secret" and all that jibber-jabber. But I guess I'm talking about a mental vision board.

I also think of a family member, who runs triathlons and iron man. I respect & admire the dedication it takes to wake up at 6am and swim 2km and try to emulate that in my chosen goal.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:39 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Stuff that motivates me:

Music, especially upbeat music.
Falling in love or crushing.
My family needing me.
Buying nice new things for myself.
Delicious food/treats or rewarding myself with massages, etc.
Really creative upbeat friends with good senses of humor.
Really moving or unusual art.
New experiences in general.
Making life more game-like: giving myself "points" and assigning things numerical values, tracking my progress over time, etc.
posted by quincunx at 10:42 AM on April 23, 2014

Sometimes when I'm feeling really lethargic or unmotivated, I try to *think* my way into more energy... but more often it's by doing physical tangible things that don't take brainpower that I regain mojo. Stuff like going to bed early, ordering a great, healthy meal at a restaurant, doing yoga, buying cheap but pretty jewelry, calling an old friend... stuff that is "fun" not work and raises my happiness levels so that I have enough oomph to make healthy choices again.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 11:19 AM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

You should read Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals which is the best, most science based self help book I have ever read.
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 11:45 AM on April 23, 2014

I am frequently motivated by incremental success. If I have a complex project, I frequently motivate myself by breaking up the beginning of the project into two or three easy beginning steps, make a checklist for it, then feel like a pro when I get to check them off. It often makes me want to put more thing on the checklist because I guess I get a little dopamine hit or something by visibly achieving something.
posted by mermily at 11:52 AM on April 23, 2014

You might also check out these motivational speeches.

And YouTube has plenty more!
posted by quincunx at 11:59 AM on April 23, 2014

I guess I'm motivated by different things - sometimes many at the same time - for different activities, and the most effective motivators change over time. It really depends on the activity or goal. I would say that for most of the more difficult activities that matter to me, I have a more-or-less clear vision of the end goal, which I suppose connects to my ideal self or plans for my life.

Example: with fitness, I'd just broken up with someone at the same time that a number of other life changes happened, most of which were not driven by me. Probably the first motivator I was aware of was vanity. Only slightly second was a need for control - I thought if I couldn't direct anything else in my life, I could certainly control my body (which later turned out not to be true, because, injury, but anyway, this was a big part of the initial push). Working out was also satisfying as a kind of emotional catharsis. Improved energy, mood and well-being soon came into the picture, and worked as immediate and short-term reinforcers. I also got into wanting to learn as much as I could about fitness - I wanted to [try to] master what I could of it, improve my technique, etc. Eventually, I saw results, which lined up with my goals. (I think fitness is unique, though - I can think of few things that offer those kinds of hedonic rewards almost immediately.)

(Notable: although I know for sure it furthers my health and I have seen and believe in its value, doing my physiotherapy stuff is in no way as motivating as my old workouts were. Doesn't tap into my vanity, and ankle raises are nowhere near as fun as burpees.)

When I decided to return to school, my overriding goal of changing careers propelled me through every midterm and final. My goal was an A minimum in every course. Formal education's also funny, in that criteria for success are clear, it's rigidly structured, and smaller goals are built in. But I think it's true that once you've got a clear picture of an important goal, the smaller steps kind of emerge. I think tracking successes, however you define them, might be a substitute.

(I did get burned out of school for a while because of other stressors; reducing those helped some, better sleep and more daylight hours helped a lot.

I guess my key takeaways are: 1) big, clear, positive, self-focused goals, with littler ones along the way; 2) more than one reason to do things, some of them fun; 3) vanity.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:21 PM on April 23, 2014

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