“What to Do When You’re Not Feeling Motivated”

“What to Do When You’re Not Feeling Motivated”


As a culture in the US, we’re taught to do more, have more and be more.  I bought into this concept in my twenties—and still do at times.  Although this drive to succeed is seen everywhere, from memes on Facebook and Instagram to personal development seminars, this theme of maximizing your potential is pervasive just about everywhere you look.

This country was built on the hard work and sweat of fearless entrepreneurs who wanted to not only make money but wanted to leave a lasting legacy.  From Henry Ford, who invented the assembly line format of building cars, to fast food leaders like Harlan Sanders and Ray Kroc—as well as other titans of industry— the drive to succeed is part of our American heritage.

It’s pretty obvious that to succeed on this level you need to stay motivated, right? Or is it?

I’ve heard it said that motivation is simply “motive in action”.  This is where you have an idea or passion and you take it as far as you can to achieve your desired outcome. Inspiration, on the other hand, is where an idea takes you and you’re literally pulled by the desire to see it through. 

I’ve found that many days people simply aren’t motivated. Others are inspired and motivation is not necessary.  I’ve gone through it. I’ve been inspired about something (and I’ve had a number of serious passions in my life), worked on it—sometimes for ungodly hours—and time stood still and it seemed effortless. I’ve also had passions where I lost motivation and had to literally force myself to continue. 

I do recognize some people are completely driven and never lose the passion or excitement for what they do. Gary Vaynerchuck comes to mind here.  From what I understand, Gary works 14-16 hours per day 5 days a week and never seems to lose the fervor for his business or helping others.  I know there are many others like him that have that continual drive to produce as well.  But again, what about other people who wake up on some days and can’t seem to find the fire?

This is where the practicality of discipline comes in handy.  Discipline is a skill, like anything else, that needs to be cultivated.   I remember over 25 years ago when I decided to quit my regular job and strike out on my own entrepreneurial ventures.  I had to develop the discipline to work at set times and get things done that needed to be done—regularly.  My “motivation” was my passion for sure. My wife at the time had a job so we had at least one regular paycheck coming in. But I still had to develop discipline to do the things that needed to be done to not only make a living but build my business.

There have been many days since that time that I’ve woken up completely unmotivated and not feeling like working at all.  But because of self-discipline, I have been able to push through and do what was necessary in my business. 

It’s been said that successful people do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether they feel like it or not.  And that is self-discipline in a nutshell. 

Here are 4 things you can do when you’re feeling unmotivated.

1. Recognize that you’re not always going to be motivated. This takes the pressure off you.  Just because you don’t have the passion on certain days doesn’t mean you’ve lost your drive—unless it lasts for an abnormally long time.  Do the work anyway.  See the bigger picture and the end result.  This will help you do what’s necessary. 

2.  Go back to when you were on fire with your goal.  If you started a project or something you’re passionate about, and aren’t motivated on certain days, go back and remember why you started the project or business in the first place. Many times, going back to those early days when you were really excited can be just the trick to get you going. 

3. Make it a habit. You’re most likely going to have repetitive tasks to do in your project or business.  If you can do it for 3 weeks straight then, in most cases, it becomes a habit. As human beings we need to repeat a behavior for at least 21 days for it to become an ingrained habit.

4. Is this really your passion?  If you go through a period of total lack of motivation, you may need to look at the project or goal and re-think it. Is it what you really want? Or is it what you thought you wanted but didn’t turn out to be as exciting as you thought it was?   Asking yourself these hard questions and being honest about the answers can explain a lot about your lack of passion.

Being unmotivated on some days happens to many of us.  It’s on these days—if you’re really committed to your goals—that self-discipline can be used as a tool to get over this hump.  If not, check yourself to see if you’re headed in the right direction with your goals.