What do you do when your motivation wanes, when you feel like everything is a huge effort with no payoff, when the muse doesn’t show up, when you feel like you’re losing momentum, and when you start to wonder why am I even doing any of this?
What do you do when you just “don’t feel like doing it”?
When you’re not feeling and seeing the results of a daily practice, it’s easy to feel unmotivated. Rest assured that you are not alone. Everyone feels this way at some point.
Lately I’ve been feeling in a rut with my morning workouts. I am exhausted. My body is fighting back. My workouts often feel lackadasical at best, and I’m not building strength or endurance. Exercise is supposed to boost your strength, stamina, and energy. And when it doesn’t, it can be easy to wonder what’s the point?
Many mornings this past week, I have felt unmotivated.
When this happens, I show up anyway.
5 Mindsets to Keep on Keeping On
Here are 5 mindsets that help me get to the gym — or keep on doing my other daily rituals — when I don’t feel motivated.
(1) Training for life
My mindset about my fitness, and about all of my daily practices, is that I’m training for life.
Training for life means you show up, every day. It doesn’t mean you need to go full-throttle every day, but it does mean that you stay in the game.
Training for life means you honor your rhythms and seasons.
I know that my body typically shuts down more in winter. Cold weather and I don’t get along. I spend more time inside. I feel less energy across the spectrum of my life. Knowing that this is my rhythm helps me honor it with self-compassion.
I stick with the process, adjusting my expectations to fit the season.
(2) Process over outcome
To honor the rhythms requires maintaining focus on the process over the outcome. Progress is not a linear path; it ebbs and flows. Sometimes we see massive results from our actions, and sometimes we don’t see results at all. We might even see what looks like regression.
In moments when I am not seeing results, I remind myself of two things:
(a) We can’t see the big picture in this moment
In the confines of the moment, we don’t always know whether we are progressing or regressing. With the perspective of time and distance, what once looked like a step backward might reveal itself to be the set-up for the giant leap forward.
Think of it like pulling back a rubber band on a slingshot: in the moment, it looks like whatever is in that slingshot is moving in the wrong direction. But when you let go, it catapults forward.
(b) We don’t control the outcome
As we might design a process to produce a specific outcome, we don’t really control the outcome as much as we may think we do. Going back to that slingshot, once the object is released into the air, we no longer control where it lands.
Engaging in the daily process even when you aren’t seeing results builds the resilience muscles.
(3) Environment is more powerful than willpower
I know that if I didn’t do any fitness, I’d feel less motivated. Getting out of my apartment to go to the gym keeps me in the rhythm of my routine.
Environment is a powerful force that influences our actions. At the gym, I’m more likely to receive that motivational spark. I’m unlikely to get that spark on the couch.
That spark may ignite a burst of energy that fuels an amazing workout, or maybe it’s just a slow walk on the treadmill, stretching, and foam rolling. Whatever it is, I recognize that something is better than nothing.
I put myself in a place where I’m more likely to do something.
(4) Adjusting is easier than starting
When I hit a stagnation point, I know that the best way to reignite momentum is to change up my routine.
The hardest part of doing any new activity is starting. What makes starting so difficult is creating the space for the activity.
I do not want to repeat this work. Showing up every day maintains the space I’ve already created. This makes changing my routine an adjustment, rather than a restart.
It helps to keep moving even if you don’t yet know what change you need to make. Think about what happens when you are driving and make a wrong turn. Your GPS cannot redirect you if you stop completely. Once you’re moving, even if slowly, it begins “recalculating route.”
(5) The Muse shows up when you do
In any long-term endeavor, we will have periods of rapid improvement and periods of stagnation, or even regression. We often lose motivation and momentum. In our creative work, the muse may disappear for a while.
The only way to get them back is to stay in the process. Keep on keeping on, and adjust as necessary.
Motivation, momentum and the muse will show up when you do.
You need to show up first.
Get more tips on how to create daily practices for life by joining my movement, The Ritual Revolution.
What mindsets or strategies do you use to keep going in moments when you feel unmotivated? Please share in the comments.