Why Can’t I Get Motivated?

woman running marathon

We’ve all been there. You have an ongoing urge to do something new – start a fitness regime, cut out sugar, take up a hobby. But invariably, you find yourself putting it off, promising to ‘start tomorrow’. The question is – if it’s really something you want to achieve, why can’t you get motivated? Shane Pearson is a wellness coach, speaker and trainer who offers a mind-body approach to stress management and health. He has some useful advice when it comes to sticking to the goals you’ve set.

“We can often get motivated in the short-term”, Shane begins. “Staying motivated is more of a challenge!” The main reason, he says, is that we haven’t mapped out what achieving our goal will actually entail. “We tend to underestimate just how much is involved in making lasting change”, he notes. “It can actually take three to six months for a new behaviour to become habit.” By that time, we’ve often lost interest, and tend to fall back into old habits.

life coach session

Willpower Not Enough

Feeling guilty about not achieving a goal? Don’t – it’s human nature. Shane cites American psychologist Abraham Maslow, who noted the ‘inner battle’ going on within us all. “One part fights to keep things as they are”, he says, “while the other wants growth and change.” With that in mind, willpower and discipline are often simply not enough to ensure that second part of our psyche wins the battle. “A life coach is always looking to build up your ‘intrinsic motivation’, says Shane. “That’s that inner drive that gets people to do anything from completing a crossword puzzle to climbing a mountain. We’re trying to tap into what will keep a person going in the long-term.” Shane has certain tactics to help clients connect with that inner drive…

Visualise

One thing he advises them to do is visualise that end result. This will help them access their own intrinsic motivation, and build positive associations around their goal. “Have a really clear vision of having already achieved it”, he says. This means really taking the time to paint a vivid picture of what it would be like to have completed the journey. “Be specific – when you really do it well, it’s like plugging co-ordinates into a GPS system. That way, your brain knows exactly where you want it to go.” For example, want to get fit? Imagine yourself in six months, feeling healthy and invincible, having built up your strength through regular exercise. Eager to start a new skill, like PhotoShop? Visualise all the wonderful creations you’ll come up with – as well as the confidence you’ll feel – once you’ve mastered the tool.

Take Note

To really solidify that image and kickstart your motivation, Shane suggests writing down a comprehensive list of all the reasons you want to achieve your goal. “In this day and age of many distractions, we need to create a compelling, convincing reason why the journey would be worth it.” This list will be your friend when you feel your motivation waning… when the alarm goes off for that 6am run, for example! Get as creative as you like; take a notebook, find a quiet spot, and write, draw or sketch all the reasons this goal is important to you.

man writing notes

Set Mini Goals

The first few steps of a long journey are always the most daunting. Rather than dwelling on the mountain peak though, aim for the smaller hills along the way. “It’s always helpful to break down big goals into sizeable chunks that are less overwhelming”, says Shane. “Focusing on the next week or month ahead is important, especially with long-term goals.” It can help at the beginning to introduce a simple rewards system too. Attended that first class? Take some time afterwards to relax with your favourite TV show, or listen to a piece of music you love.

Success Breeds Success

With so much hard work put in to achieving a goal, it can be a strange (and wonderful) feeling when you finally achieve it! However, you may find that your new-found confidence means you end up setting your sights even higher. “If you’re getting close to achieving your goal”, says Shane, “you should have the next one in place.” Maybe your initial aim was to run a 5k race. What’s to stop you now aiming for 10k? “We know as coaches the first goal is the hardest. But if you’re enjoying the challenge and your confidence is growing, we might change the focus to a different area of life and ask, what’s the next level? Remember, success breeds success.”