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Lacking Motivation and Inspiration? 5 Secrets to Get Unstuck

If you feel unmotivated, you might be surprised by what's really behind it.

"Regarding a goal, if you feel unmotivated is it a sign you should stop? Or is it self-sabotage?"

This is a great question. Here's my response, for her and for you:

1) Notice how you feel about the goal itself

Let's say you want to write a book and get it published. Forgetting how hard it might be to achieve this goal, do you feel excited about holding your published book in your hands one day? Does the idea thrill you? If so, you've passed the first test. Your heart is in this goal, it's less likely that external pressures have created it (unless you feel excited about holding the book in your hands because of something it will give you, or make you into, rather than the sheer joy of having created something that blesses and helps or delights other people).

2) Detail clearly what "unmotivated" feels like and looks like

If you can't get yourself to move forward on the path to achieving a cherished goal, what's the problem?

Do you dislike the work itself? If you want to write or study something, do you like your topic and feel that the message is an important one?

Do you feel unexcited about your workspace or environment? During seasons of my life where I've had yucky workspaces (one was a tiny office with no windows, another a cluttered space which hardly had room to turn around in) I got almost no writing or creating done. These days I'm in a beautiful bright space which is steps away from nature, I look forward to sitting at my desk and reward work done with a walk in the fresh air with my dog.

Often you'll discover that it isn't that you suffer from a motivation problem, you just haven't got the ingredients of your circumstances right yet.

3) Do you lack confidence?

When I'm working with a client and they haven't done their "homework," meaning they haven't taken the steps they said they would to move closer to their goal, I dig deeper. Often what's holding them back (though they may erroneously label themselves as lazy, unmotivated or flaky) is that they suffer from "Who am I to think I could" syndrome.

You may believe that even though you have lots of experience that you want to share and people have told you that your information has helped them, and that you have a talent as a speaker, you believe that you couldn't lead the workshops you would like to teach, because you need a long list of credentials after your name first. (Note: this is not to say that you should be teaching on something you haven't studied or don't have credible experience in; education and legitimate credentials are very important. There may come a time though, when it's time to stop learning or getting more credentials, and start sharing what you've learned with others).

You may be afraid you're not enough. Afraid that people will laugh. Afraid that you'll fail. Afraid that when you finally step up and decide to have a go at making the contribution you feel called to make to the world (big or small; big is not necessarily better), it will suck and no one will care and you'll have egg all over your face.

Most people who've ever done anything they've felt called to do have had to stare down these fears. One way to get past them is to do what needs to be done (figure out the next step and do it). Another is to pray, pray, pray and ask for guidance. I also ask God to help me to discern whether something I feel called to do is actually a true calling, or something I'm wanting to pursue for more murky or selfish reasons.

4) Understand Resistance

As a writer, I really enjoyed reading the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

Pressfield describes what he calls Resistance, the invisible force that rises up to block anyone who wants to accomplish anything (as a Christian, I would characterize this force as coming from the ultimate source of darkness or evil). If you want to do something worthwhile, this force will come against you. It will try to convince you that you should take a nap before getting started, or wait until tomorrow. It will make you feel bored, grouchy, totally uninterested in doing what needs to be done. Prayer can help to take this enemy down, it's the tool I most frequently use. And according to Pressfield, you also take down this enemy by stepping bravely forward and doing the work.

The next time you feel unmotivated to do something that you know you are called to do, push past the lack of inspiration and just go do it. Notice what happens. Today I really didn't feel like writing, but I've learned to force myself to sit at my desk and open a Word document. Now I've written almost a thousand words. Happens pretty much every time if I just get my butt in the chair and manage to stay off Facebook (one of Resistance's favorite weapons these days) long enough to write something.

5) Make It A Priority

Our lives are so busy these days that our schedules and demands can become an extremely handy, even subconscious, means of procrastination. If you feel called to a new direction in your life, or a meaningful project that will help to change your corner of the world, you have to make the space to do it. Otherwise, it will never happen. It's far too easy, otherwise, to just let the other things that are shouting for your attention (even if they're not worthy of the name "priority") to crowd out what really matters. Say no, and create space, and you'll find it much easier to actually get things done. I regularly try to create at least two days a week where I have no appointments booked, nothing on my to-do list other than whatever project or other important thing (such as time with loved ones) that I need to do that day. The rest of life will somehow have to get done in the other five. If not, it'll easily just take over everything.

If you're like most people, you have to accept that in order to get something important done, you'll have to get past a whole lot of unmotivation.

Of course, you may be genuinely unmotivated because you have a goal that truly isn't worth pursuing. That's important to consider, and I do so prayerfully and with the wise counsel of the people I trust.

Chances are, though, you just need to get up every day and do what you say you want to do.

Copyright Dr. Susan Biali, M.D. 2013

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