Stuck in a Cycle That You Can’t Break

Do you sometimes feel like you’re stuck in a cycle, continually going in circles of starting then stopping, with no sight on ‘The End’? Or do you feel like no matter how hard you try to tell yourself to get up and start, it just doesn’t quite work out? As a result, you notice a progressive depletion in your willingness to even try, which makes you question whether or not this goal is even possible to be achieved. 

Motivation is one of those concepts that everyone is familiar with but no one knows how to explain, nor manipulate to their own personal advantages. By definition, motivation is “a force or influence that causes someone to do something” (Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 1982). In other words, the execution of activities in one’s life is based on the level of motivation that is experienced. So, now there’s the question of where does this motivation comes from, how do I get it, and what are some ways that I can maintain it. However, to answer these questions, one must first understand why there is a lack of motivation in one’s self in the first place. 

Why am I unmotivated?

To discover the reasons behind why you might feel unmotivated, you must first consider a few things. One of these things is your routine and structure, or lack thereof. A lack of structure and routines make it difficult to form a healthy habit, as you are just “going with the flow”. Similarly, if you are unaware of your purpose you might feel stuck, without a clear direction of the path you should take to achieve your goals. If you do have structure and know your purpose but still feel unmotivated, you should consider the goal or desire itself. Without realistic and achievable goals, you might feel as though the goals are impossible to achieve, which may make you want to quit. Ask yourself, “are these goals realistic, or am I shooting for the moon without a rocketship?” While having ambition is a great tool to have, it is also important to be able to manage and control how much ambition we are aiming towards our goals. Another aspect that is important for the maintenance of one’s motivation is the environment. Without the right setting or mood, your willingness to start and continue is less likely to be present. And finally, an aspect that may make up 50% of the maintenance process, is one’s belief in oneself. A lack of belief in your own abilities and capabilities in combination with a constant state of self-doubt is your own personal condemnation of “you will never achieve your goal”. 

Where can I find motivation?

According to the Self-Determination Theory, there are two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. The former is related to forces from within a person which drives them, such as a desire to improve. This type of motivation is free from the pressures of a deadline, reward, or compensation — “I am going to do it because I can and will”. On the other hand, extrinsic motivation is primarily driven by factors that are external to the individual, such as money or status. This type of motivation is primarily driven by the things that one can gain by performing and completing a task — “when I finish this project, I will gain prestige” (Deci & Ryan, 2000).

How can I get and keep motivation

1. Routine & Structure

Create a routine that is semi-structured, in which you have set times to work on your goals and other activities, while still allowing yourself the space and freedom to relax and reflect. 

2. “Just start”

It’s easier to stay motivated when you have already started on the activity, in this way you are building the momentum instead of finding the willpower to rev up the engine to start driving.

3. Setting the right goals

To keep your motivation, set goals that are SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. In other words, your goals should be realistic (something that is not too easy nor impossible), as specific and measurable as possible — instead of “I want to sleep better”, try “I want to get at least 6 hours of sleep every night so that I wake up energized”. It is also important to understand why you want to achieve this goal — the bigger picture. And finally, create a deadline for this goal (by what date will it be achieved).

4. Focus on your purpose

“What is my purpose?” You can ask yourself about where you would like to be (short- and long-term), what are some things that you would like to achieve on this journey, and why it is important. Thereafter, you can reflect on the skills that you already possess that can help you throughout this journey, as well as the skills that you have yet to learn and possess and think about the steps that you need to take to get to where you want to be.

5. Set the mood

The immediate environment, surroundings, or workspace can make or break you and your motivation. Establish a setting or mood that is right for you — be it a well-lit open space that is peaceful and tranquil, or a small room that has a lot of people and personality to it. While also paying attention to the people in your personal space — are they draining your energy or inspiring you to the point of maximum energy?

6. Me through my own eyes

One of the most powerful forces that drives a person is their belief in themselves. If you are a person who believes in their own abilities and capabilities and sees their goals as something that can and will be achieved, then you are already halfway there. By minimizing self-doubt you allow yourself to strive for greatness within yourself.

7. Be aware of potential obstacles

There will be certain things that will happen along the way through your journey of achieving your goal that might make you feel stuck all over again. But the important thing is to recognize these obstacles or stumbling blocks. Figure out how they should be dealt with, and keep pushing forward while reminding yourself of your (long-term) goals and your purpose. 

8. Reward & praise yourself

Each step throughout your journey of achieving your goal deserves praise — from yourself — as it is proof that you are getting closer to your goal. And with that, you become more and more comfortable and aware of what is expected of yourself, thus gradually making you an expert on yourself and the means necessary to achieve your goals.

With a better understanding of why you may be feeling unmotivated, what types of motivations there are, and where they come from, as well as methods on how to maintain the motivation, you are better able to set your specific goals and watch them come forth and flourish before your very eyes.

About the Author 

Alyeska Lake, BSc, is a psychologist who specializes in working with children and adolescents by using a client-centered approach with respect to the usage of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, as well as a Solution-Focused Brief Therapy perspective

– Thinking about solutions rather than problems.