Three Ways to Find Motivation When You’re Running on Empty

Tim Denning

Think about this: You sit on your deathbed. Your children come into the room to say goodbye. What do you say to them?

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Motivation can quickly evaporate.

Just ask writers. We’re this weird breed of humans that spend our days smashing plastic keyboards with our delicate sanitized hands in the hope of providing a touch of inspiration to a bruised soul.

My motivation goes to zero a lot, despite readers thinking I have Tony Robbins’ self-helps gods looking out for me. I’m just as susceptible to a sudden loss of motivation as the next person. Here’s what to do if your motivation is running out fast.

Create a Zoom-out Moment to Disrupt Your Thinking

This is a bizarre form of motivation I’ve categorized as “Mortality Motivation.” You won’t find it listed in the book ‘Think And Grow Rich’ or part of the odd documentary ‘The Law of Attraction.’ I posted this exercise on various social media platforms and it left some people speechless. Imagine this for a second if you’ve lost motivation.

You sit on your deathbed. Your children come into the room to say goodbye. What do you say to them?
In that moment all the stupid stuff we chase in life — money, cars, titles — becomes meaningless. Fast-forwarding to that moment can change your life.

When you force yourself to remember you’re going to die one day, you act differently. The trouble is you need leverage. You consciously know you’re going to die because evolution has hard-coded it into your DNA. The trick I’ve found to take mortality motivation to the next level is to add the vision of a family member(s).

Have a conversation with your family on your last day. Even better, have a dialogue with unborn humans. If you have kids then have the dialogue with your unborn grandkids. If you don’t have kids yet, like me, then have the conversation with your future kids.

Watch how you talk to them. Now talk that way to yourself. Tell yourself it’s going to be okay. Zoom out to see where you’re heading.

Start again with 5-minutes per day

James Clear is the god of habits and wrote a book on it that has 210,000 votes on Good Reads.

His book tells the story of a man with a gym dream. The man goes to the gym each day for six weeks. Imagine this: he arrives, puts on his gym clothes, starts his workout, does 1–2 sets for five minutes, and then packs up his stuff and forces himself to leave. Onlookers must think he is the laziest weight lifter in the world. But looking lazy is how the man is able to find his motivation again. How?

The technique being practiced here is the power of momentum. Getting started when you don’t have motivation is near-impossible. Getting started when you have a tiny bit of momentum gives you a form of self-driving motivation. I do this often when I fall off the reading wagon. All it takes is a few life events and my reading habit takes a backseat.

The way I start reading again is by simply pulling out a book for five minutes per day and timing myself while I read. As soon as the alarm goes off after five minutes, then I stop reading and get on with my day. I practice this exercise for consecutive days until the habit has returned. A tiny habit provides the motivation you need to get out of a slump.

Looking lazy becomes automated motivation when you start with five minutes per day.

Figure out what’s stopping you

If we beat ourselves up for not having the motivation to start a task, then we’re not making any headway.
But by figuring out what’s stopping us, and then creating schedules and rituals, progress will come whether or not we feel like it. And in turn, the fire grows.
– Aytekin Tank, Jotform Founder

A lack of motivation occurs because something is stopping you. Right now I have a dream to create a newsletter. Other writers like Sean Kernan have already done it. Yet, my motivation to start writing in another place goes up and down. Some days I want to. Other days I don’t.

I sat down and asked myself the hardest question: “what’s stopping you?”

The answer is clear: I feel like I am not good enough. I feel a high level of imposter syndrome — like this whole writing thing is an accident and one day someone is going to figure out I’m not really a writer and just fell into it. Then the nightmare in my head says, “So you’ll be right back to a 9–5 job you hate because you avoided the truth, you sucker.”

Now I know what is stopping me, I can understand why my motivation levels go up and down. So what do you do? You make what is stopping you wrong by providing evidence to the contrary. You take action despite of the fear you’re not good enough.

None of us are good enough in the beginning. We become good enough through practice, and the evidence the habits we’ve built give us. To overcome what’s stopping me I’ve scheduled newsletter writing in my calendar to occur on the same day every week. Let’s seek if I can prove myself wrong.

Schedules create hidden progress over time.

Bringing it all together

None of us are immune to a loss of motivation.

Fast forward to your deathbed with your unborn children to zoom out. Or go to the gym for five minutes per day and look lazy in front of a bunch of gym buffs to build a tiny habit. Or sit down and look the fear that is stopping you in the face. Take FEAR — F-alse E-vidence A-ppearing R-eal — and create evidence against your out-of-control monkey mind designed to protect you.

Motivation is always present inside of you. Tapping into your natural motivation is the challenge to work on.

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Aussie Blogger with 100M+ views — Writer for CNBC & Business Insider. Inspiring the world through Personal Development and Entrepreneurship www.timdenning.com

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