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Motivate Yourself Out of a Slump

Listen on The Extraordinary Life Podcast

The end of the year is on the horizon, and with it comes the new one. Whether you make resolutions or not, it is still a time when most people think about being motivated and actively working on their goals. It’s always easy to motivate yourself in the beginning when something is new and exciting, but when you're in a slump? Not so much. If you’re ready to break free of the doldrums, keep reading for ways to motivate yourself out of a slump.

What Motivates You?

The first thing to consider when you find yourself with the blahs, is what usually motivates you? Part of your answer will be your “why”. If your “why” is strong enough and you can reconnect to it, it might just be enough to jumpstart you again. If not, it’s time to go deeper. Let’s talk about the types of motivation you can use to propel you forward again. 

Types of Motivation

There are two types of motivation: extrinsic (external) and intrinsic (internal). This can be helpful not only to motivate yourself, but when you’re trying to motivate others as well. 

Extrinsic Motivation

When you’re extrinsically motivated, you are driven by things outside of yourself. This often comes in the form of rewards and punishments. A reward could be winning first place and a gold medal, buying yourself something nice for meeting a deadline, or receiving the recognition of others for a job well done. 

Others are more motivated by avoiding a bad outcome, like a punishment or having something taken away. For example, if you push through your work and finish sooner, you get a three-day weekend. If you don’t, you lose that extra day off. It’s really two sides to the same coin; some people are more motivated by the reward (the day off), while others are more motivated by avoiding the punishment (working the extra day).

If you’re in a slump, put up a picture or reminder of a reward or punishment that you find motivating. Every time you see it, you’ll be reminded about what is waiting for you. 

Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is the motivation we all wish we could have while in a slump: self-motivation. It's something deep within you that fuels your passion and your drive to succeed. You want to reach your goals because you want to please yourself, though everyone’s internal reason will be different. 

One person may be intrinsically motivated because they want to prove to themselves they’ve got what it takes to succeed. Another person may want to be the best at what they do out of principle. It all comes from within… Yes - it’s your “why” again! 

When you’re feeling down, recall again why you want to succeed. Remind yourself why you want to accomplish that thing. 

If You Don’t Know Your Why

Understanding your “why” can be difficult when you’re in a slump. You feel unfocused and unsure of what step to take because you don’t know where you want to go! This is one reason I run Design Your Decade Workshops. It allows you to clearly envision what you want your life to be like ten years from now. With a longer timeline, you have room for when “life happens” (because it will), and room to create the habits in your life to support those goals. 

At the end of the workshop, participants have ten statements describing their dreams as if they'd already happened. One of mine is that I want to be an extraordinary wife. When I write that in my journal every morning, it reminds me to act in that manner. It motivates me to be kinder to my husband when I’m feeling crabby or make him a cup of tea on a cold day. 

Writing my dreams down each morning takes motivation in itself, but good habits build on themselves. This brings us to the final tip to motivate yourself out of a slump. 

Pick a Motivating Habit

If you’re still in your slump, try choosing a new, motivating habit. You can use the extrinsic/intrinsic types of motivation, or you can simply look for one that will make you feel good every time you do it. 

Writing down my ten dreams each day makes me feel excited about the day ahead and the dreams I’m making come true for my life. Let’s say you are in a slump but are wanting to lose weight. What’s a habit that would make you feel good doing it? Exercise gets your heart rate up, and releases adrenaline and feel-good endorphins into your body. So, every time you work out, the adrenaline will keep you going, the endorphins will reinforce the habit, and you’ll finish feeling great! Oh, and you’ll lose weight by being consistent, too. 

Once your new habit becomes routine, your goal will be that much more attainable. You’ll have the built-in motivation and that slump will be long-forgotten. 

When Things Get In Your Way

With all of the knowledge and tools we have about being and staying motivated, life will still throw obstacles and challenges in your way. When you’ve got a big problem looming over you, it blocks your view of your goals and dreams. It can be hard to look beyond the present and stay motivated for the future. 

When this happens, it’s okay to take a breather. Sit back, take a deep breath, and regroup. Soon, new opportunities and solutions will show themselves so you can move around whatever is in your way. 

I’ve been sharing about my son’s bike racing this past year. He wants to be a professional racer, and we’ve been traveling a lot for it. Unfortunately, every time he raced, he’d experience intense back pain after a few laps. The pain made it impossible for him to go full out and do what he knows he is capable of. 

Of course, it was super frustrating for him, especially as a teenager. All of the training, hard work, and traveling to simply not do well hit him hard. Now that the racing season is over, though, he’s been working with a physical therapist to stabilize his core muscles. It’s going to take him several months to see the results of the work he’s putting in now, but it’s what he needs to do to get past this setback. 

There’s nothing he can do about the season that’s passed, but he has this opportunity over the next several months to get even stronger for the activity he loves. As much as it hurt my heart to see my son struggling, I can see that the experience was invaluable and will serve him well in the future. 

Learn From the Past

While I don't normally recommend dwelling on the past, I do recommend learning from what worked, whether it's a mindset shift or another tool. If you're in the middle of a slump, go ahead and think back to what you did to get out of it and try to repeat that. You got out of it once, and you’ll do it again. 

When you’re in a slump, it can be hard to motivate yourself to get out of it. Sometimes, though, just looking at things from a different perspective - like what type of motivation works best for you - is enough to spark you into action again. I hope these tips helped you!

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