5 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Not Feeling Motivated

Office & Culture


Many of us struggle to get motivated. Whether it be in work or at home, pushing ourselves to exercise, or up-skill, creating new habits and challenging ourselves is never easy. Thankfully for you, psychologist and coach Jayson Moran is here to walk you through the factors that contribute to finding that ever-elusive ‘motivation’.

Keep reading for Jayson’s 5 questions to ask yourself when you’re not feeling motivated:

We often don’t take advice – so sometimes it can be better to ask ourselves some questions that guide us to the help we need.

  1. Is it Physical?

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Sometimes we are not motivated because our physical needs are not being met. You would be amazed at the amount of people who come to work with me because they are not motivated – and this is the cause. When we have a look at what’s going on – it is often they have been pushing themselves too hard for too long – and not taking care of themselves.

So, if you’re not feeling motivated the first question to ask is – are you not motivated because my physical needs are not being met?

  • Do you have a health or mental issue that needs to be addressed?
  • Is your diet good enough (e.g. too much sugar, not enough fibre?)
  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Are you exercising regularly?
  • Are you working crazy long hours?
  1. Is it My Wellbeing?

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Sometimes we are not motivated because our psychological needs are not being met. This will kill our ‘mental energy’.

  • Do you have freedom and choice? Do you have enough autonomy and independence? Can you choose how you spend your time?
  • Are you apathetic? Do you have meaning and purpose in your life? Do you have something (or someone) important in your life to dedicate your time to?
  • Do you have connection, positive relationships and a sense of belonging in your in your life/work?
  1. Is it Fear of Failure? 

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We are not going to feel motivated to do something – if we don’t believe our efforts are going to lead to success. Why put in all that physical and mental energy to a project or task, if we don’t believe that we’ll get the results we want?

What to do about fear of failure? Well, I don’t believe affirmations work. Simply telling ourselves that ‘I can do it’ while looking in the mirror is ineffective. Why?  Well we don’t bloody believe ourselves is why!

A more effective method is Socratic questioning – applying a series of questions designed to test the truth (and usefulness) of a thought or belief. (Give it a google for a more comprehensive list)

If your not motivated because of a fear of failure ask yourself :

  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • If that happened – how could I cope?
  • What’s the best that could happen?
  • What’s the most realistic outcome?
  • Is the belief 100% accurate? Why and why not?
  • What might be an alternative viewpoint?
  • Is the belief helpful?
  • What might be a more helpful belief?
  1. Who Can Hold me to Account?

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Having an external source of motivation can be a powerful tool in terms of getting things done. This is partly why organisation like weightwatchers (weekly weigh-ins), alcoholics anonymous (weekly meetings with others), and working with a coach, are so successful. They provide a consistent source of accountability.

However, the true meaning of accountability is often mis-understood. Many believe that it’s a form of social pressure to ‘force’ you stick to your resolutions through fear of judgement by others. This is not how accountability works (we will eventually just avoid the pain of judgemental others eventually). Accountability actually works by giving an ‘account’ of our actions to others. This helps us better understand what’s working and what’s not – i.e. to better understand our behaviour -as well as gain support, encouragement and feedback.

Ask yourself the following questions?

  • How would you rate the level of accountability you have for the task or project?
  • Who can you discuss your plans with?
  • Who can you discuss your progress and challenges with?
  • Where can you find support and external feedback?
  1. What is Important?

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So, what can we do when external motivation is lacking? We can focus on internal or intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is very much associated with our identity i.e. who we see ourselves as, that is ‘who we are’. In turn, ‘who we are’ is very much associated with ‘what we do’. We look at our own behaviours to get a sense of the kind of person we are.

We have various roles in our lives (e.g. parent, professional, partner) and we can overcome worrying about how we feel – by focusing on what’s important in terms of playing these roles well. Ask any mother of a new-born if they are motivated to care for their child despite feeling exhausted ( xceptions due to post-natal depression apart).

Obviously, I’m not saying that we should ignore our feelings, or that those who are struggling emotionally should just ‘get over it’. Many of us at times need support with our mental health (I know I have). If you feel that this is the case, I implore you to reach out to a qualified professional (it was one of the best things I ever did!)

However, I am suggesting that we don’t always have to ‘feel’ motivated to do something.

So, next time you’re not feeling motivated ask yourself:

  • What’s really important here?
  • Am I going to react to how I feel or based on what’s important?
  • Who do you need to be in this situation? What would that person think? Feel? Do?

We hope these questions reaffirmed for you that we don’t need to find motivation, but rather, we should look to create it! Stay tuned for Part 2 from Jayson Moran very soon!

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