How to Get Out of a Motivational Slump

by Henrik Edberg

How to Get Out of a Motivational Low Point

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice”
Wayne Dyer

This is a bit of a follow-up to the article about New Year’s resolutions that I posted a few days ago.

If you go for making such a promise to yourself or are just setting a new goal or establishing a new habit then you run the chance of running into a motivational low point.

A point where you just feel like giving up, like it really doesn’t matter if you continue.

What to do then?

Here are a few tips that have been helpful to me. You may want to combine a few of them. One example is to first go to the gym and when you get home review and appreciate.

Take a break.

Yeah, sometimes you just need to take a break. Perhaps your time-plan for your New Year’s resolution or new habit is just too optimistic?

Maybe you have worked yourself harder than you can manage right now.

Then take a break. A few hours or days of rest and recuperation can change how you feel in remarkable way and recharge your batteries.

Surrender to your emotions.

If you are trying to keep your emotions out, they can pile up until they overpower you and create the motivational low point. But the power that the negative feelings have over you mostly comes from you resisting them, from trying to keep them out. You resisting the feelings is what feeds them with new energy and even amplifies the problem. So if you accept the feelings and surrender to them, if you let them in, then you stop feeding them. And they soon vanish. A short exercise I’ve posted numerous times when it comes to surrendering – meaning letting in, not giving up – to your feelings is this one:

When you feel a negative feeling then accept that feeling. Don’t try to fight it or to keep it out (like many of us have learned throughout life). Say yes to it.

Surrender and let it in. Observe the feeling in your mind and body without labelling or judging it. If you let it in – for me the feeling then often seems to physically locate itself to the middle of my chest – and just observe it for maybe a minute or two something wonderful happens. The feeling just vanishes.

Review and Appreciate.

It’s easy to get lost in the new process of changing your life. You may go to the gym time after time and after a while it just feels like painful work. And so the reasons why you are doing it get lost. That’s why it’s useful to have all your reasons for making the change written down. If you have such a note, don’t leave it in a drawer. Put it on the fridge or somewhere you can see it everyday and especially when you need to see it. If you don’t have such a piece of paper consider creating one.

You can also spend a few minutes not just reading that list. Instead appreciate how your change in your life already have and will help you. Just reading a list of reasons can become a bit stale and unemotional after a while.

Appreciating the positive things you get out of the change activates not only your thoughts but also your feelings. Just appreciating for a few minutes can really break your emotional pattern and turn your feelings around. I think it also useful to appreciate yourself, how you have made a choice to improve your life and to appreciate the progress – no matter how big or small – you have made so far.

Rewrite your map of reality.

I have previously written about how one big mistake people make is that they give up too soon. It’s easy to be fooled into dreams of quick success by advertising and society in general. The promise of such a success is a good way to sell more products. And sometimes you can have success pretty quickly and easily. Other times it takes a while longer.

That is one of the reasons I keep talking about why it’s important to educate yourself. Reading about your new lifestyle change and talking to people about it can keep you motivated. And it can pick you up from a motivational slump. It’s important to reinforce how things actually work as opposed to how you’d perhaps like them to work. To build a mental map that is a bit more accurate than your old one.

How you think and behave can radically change your results. So I’m not saying that you should just keep going and everything is hard etc. The map of reality you borrow from other people is at best an OK fit for you. But I think those maps are better maps to use a as a help while you keep constructing your own one than a wildly inaccurate map based on your own initial enthusiasm and promises made in some advert on TV or on the internet.

Educating yourself but also re-evaluating your own progress so far can help you tweak your own process and map. Ask yourself what has worked best so far and where you have found pitfalls and made mistakes. And with the help of you own mind and minds of others try to improve your strategy and mental map.

Exercise.

This is one of the most effective ways to change how you feel. I like it because even if you feel too frustrated and down to do some stupid appreciating or research you can still drag yourself to the gym or wherever you go to exercise. And if you just do your pretty mindless repetitions then you body will do the rest. Endorphins, testosterone and other chemicals will be released. Your emotional pattern will be broken. After the workout you’ll be in another emotional state than you were before. Plus, you’ll probably get a boost of new energy.

Talk about it.

Sometimes you just need to let it out and talk to someone about your motivational low point.

Letting it all out can release a lot of pent up emotion and let you get a new, more positive and healthy perspective on things. Often we build our own small or medium-sized problems in big scary monsters in our minds. Letting the monsters out into the light and letting others see them can make use realize that we were making a too big a deal of all it. It allows us to lighten up a bit, to not take things too seriously and to start moving out of the self-created slump.

So talk to a friend or family member. Or try an anonymous internet forum with likeminded people. Perhaps you’ll even get a few pieces of great and free advice.

Image by fabbio (license).




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{ 12 comments }

Ray Blake December 20, 2007 at 6:11 pm

Great timing – I feel one of those slumps coming on right now. I’ll try out these tips.

John December 20, 2007 at 6:17 pm

A great post. The lead-in quote was perfect. When it comes down to the simple choice, what do you pick?

Thanks for the great article.

Hannah December 20, 2007 at 11:41 pm

Great timing for me too…thanks for all the great articles…

Peter December 21, 2007 at 11:33 am

Forget it man. Talk about it?! Do something! Plunge yourself into a set of success material and make sure you use this as a motivation to soar. We are all driven by desperation.

Tarun December 22, 2007 at 2:32 pm

Thanks

Tas December 22, 2007 at 4:07 pm

Hi,

Great article dude. I usually try exercising or doing something very different from my usual activities to boost me up. And that tip about accepting negetive emotion is brilliant. I used to think positive while trying to resist all negetive emotions and pretty soon I felt emotionally exhausted and easily defeated. It took so much time to get back up again.

Thanks for revising everything again.

Keep up da good work dude!

HS December 23, 2007 at 7:16 pm

I really enjoyed this article and felt that it was particularly relevant to some of the issues I’m dealing with right now. I just left a PhD program and now am in the midst of trying to secure a good job. I feel unmotivated to complete the final two papers for first semester and am wallowing in self-pity and doubt over my skills and career direction. This article showed me that first I need to acknowledge these negative emotions and only then can I do something about improving my life and feelings of well-being. Now, I am going to work hard to get these two papers out of the way as well as focus on meeting a number of goals that were previously on the back burner – like working out and maintaining solid friendships.

Henry, you’ll never know how many people your words and advice touch in a meaningful way. Keep up the great work!

Tom Haynes December 23, 2007 at 7:40 pm

Some great advice in there.

I think an important one is just acknowledging how you are feeling. When you fight an emotion, you are giving it power and control over you. This is a main teaching of the Sedona Method, which I highly recommend as a simple, always-there-for-you approach to these things.

Henrik Edberg December 26, 2007 at 4:48 pm

Thanks for all the great comments and feedback, guys. I’m glad you found the article helpful.

Ryan December 30, 2007 at 7:11 am

Guess the way to change how you feel is to refocus your attention onto the positive things that you’ve done that actually makes you good. Where FOCUS goes, ENERGY flows quoting Anthony Robbins!

cyberpenguin August 31, 2008 at 6:12 am

Excellent post! Thanks for the useful tips. I agree that the best way to release oneself from the grip of negative emotions is to simply express them. All of your suggestions center around that general idea: Exercising, taking a break, talking about it — These are all manifestations of the same principle. They are each ways to break past ineffectual emotions & thoughts which keep us from realizing our potential.

Celestine Chua February 6, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Hey Henrik! Your tips are timeless, even though you wrote this in 2007! I totally agree with your first tip on taking a break. I was in a slump a few months ago (I wrote about it my blog (http://celestinechua.com/blog/2010/01/why-we-have-slumps-and-how-to-get-out-of-them/) and I found it was because I had not given myself proper rest. Many of us have the tendency to go on and on without resting which leads us to fall into a slump. It’s just like driving a car without stopping for fuel – in time to come it’s going to splutter and stop on the road. If we want to walk the longer road ahead, we need to rest and recharge ourselves when needed.

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