When You Have to Do Stuff—But Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything
Article by Chris Widener
In all of my interactions with people, I've never found anyone, regardless of their level of success, who doesn't sometimes find themselves simply not wanting to do the things that they need and want to do.
It is a part of human nature that there will be times that, in spite of all that we need to do, and even desire to, we will find ourselves not wanting to do anything. What separates those who become successful from those who maintain the status-quo? The ability to find inner motivation at those crucial moments, motivation that will enable us to conquer our complacency and move on in action.
It is a part of human nature that there will be times that, in spite of all that we need to do, and even desire to, we will find ourselves not wanting to do anything.
I find that I confront this issue in my life on a regular basis—mostly when I'm trying to get myself to the gym. These strategies are not merely pie in the sky techniques, but proven ways to get yourself to go even when you don't feel like doing anything.
Connect the Action With Good Vibes—Not Pain
Psychologists have long told us that we humans tend to connect every action with either pleasure or pain. Tony Robbins has popularized this even further in the last few years with something he calls Neural Associations. The gist: We connect every action with either a pleasure or pain.
When we lack motivation, we're probably associating the action we are thinking about with pain, rather than pleasure. For instance: When I'm considering not going to the gym, I am usually associating working out with having no time, the pain of exercising and weight lifting, or the boringness of running on a treadmill for an extended period of time. What I can do to re-associate is to remind myself that by going in and doing my exercise I will feel better about myself, I will lose weight, and I will live longer. This brings me pleasure.
When we lack motivation, we're probably associating the action we are thinking about with pain, rather than pleasure.
When we begin to run those kinds of tapes through our minds, we release our internal motivating force and change our attitude about the action that we are considering. Other examples: Maybe you are a counselor who really doesn’t want to spend the day listening to people. Your association may be that it will be boring, or that you will be inside while it is sunny outside. Instead, re-associate yourself to the truth of the matter: Someone will be better off because of your care and concern. Think of your clients and the progress they have been making recently and how you contribute to that.
Honestly Evaluate If You Need a Break
Sometimes, our body and emotions are telling us that we simply need a break. And this is where it takes real intellectual honesty. Back to my gym example: I don't particularly like to exercise, but I do almost every day. Sometimes, I find myself thinking about how I just don't feel like going. Most of the time? I am just being lazy. However, sometimes I realize that my body needs a break. So from time to time I will take a one- or two-day break from working out.
The benefits of this are two-fold: One, my body gets a break to regenerate itself. Two, after a day or two, I begin to miss my workout, and eagerly anticipate a turning to the gym. Perhaps you work in sales and you've been phoning clients for a week straight, day and night. You wake up one morning and just don’t feel like doing it any more. Well, take a break for the morning. Go to a coffee shop and read the paper. Go to the park and take a long walk. Take a break, and then get back to it.
When I find myself not wanting to get up and go to the gym, I will make a commitment to go and just do a smaller workout. I'll commit to doing just 15 to 20 minutes of aerobic exercise and 15 to 30 minutes of weight lifting. This is also good for two reasons. One, I actually get some exercise that day. And two, it keeps me from getting into a cycle of giving up when I don't feel like moving toward action.
Maybe you're a writer who simply doesn’t want to write today. Instead of the long day writing you had planned, decide that you will at least outline a couple of new articles. You'll at least get these done, and, once you get started, you might find you're more in the mood to write than you thought.
Change Your Routine
I find running on the treadmill to be extremely boring. Usually I can get myself to do it, but sometimes I need to vary my routine. So instead of 30 to 45 minutes on a treadmill, I will break down my aerobic exercise routine into a number of different areas. In one workout, I'll mix up the treadmill with the reclining cycle and the rowing machine.
I still get my exercise, but I'm bored a lot less. Maybe you are in construction and you have been working on the plumbing for a week, and it is getting monotonous. Don’t do the plumbing today! Find a new project you can hop on to spice things up.
If I get through the work that I need to, I give myself a little reward. Post-workout, I treat myself to a few indulgent minutes in the hot tub. Maybe you're a mortgage broker who can't find the energy to close a deal. Tell yourself that after the next three mortgages you close, you will take your kids to the fair or plan a girls' night out. Create a new incentive to push through the work—and let it help fire up your motivation.
A version of this article originally appeared on SUCCESS.com
Read next: How Gratitude Motivates Us to Tackle Our Goals
You’re more than your stress. Take care of your mental health every day with the Shine app.
Shine is supported by members like you. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. See our affiliate disclosure for more info.