How to Break Out of a Motivational Slump

by Henrik Edberg

Image by Alex E. Proimos (license).

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

If you are setting a new goal or establishing a new habit then it’s pretty likely that you’ll run 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’s what I do instead of giving up and going home.

Reconnect with optimism.

How you perceive what you are doing or are about to do makes a huge difference. The positive and constructive way of looking at things energizes and inspires you. It makes it easier to keep going even when you hit roadblocks.

The negative and defeatist way of looking at things will on the other hand suck the motivation out of you and you’ll probably quit just as soon as you hit a roadblock or two. It is essential to develop a more constructive and optimistic way of looking at things to keep the motivation up until you have reached your goal.

A very practical way to become a more optimistic person is to ask the better questions that will empower you.

Ask the right questions that will focus on the good such as:

What is awesome about this situation?

Ask the questions that will focus on the lesson or opportunity in a situation such as:

What can I learn from this? And what is the opportunity in this situation?

And ask the questions that focus on how to solve a problem. Instead of complaining, blaming or asking why you have the problem. Ask action oriented questions like:

How can I solve this? And what is the next small step that I can take to do so?

List the positives.

List the positives of getting this thing done or reaching your goal. Do it on paper, on your computer or just in your head.

When you feel unmotivated and don’t feel like doing something it’s very easy to get stuck and just focus on the negative aspects such as it being hard work or the risk of pain or failure.

So you need to change what you are focusing on to motivate yourself to take action. Making a list of positives like benefits, possible opportunities and simply reasons why you want to do this can be very effective for turning your focus around.

Remember how far you have come and to compare yourself with yourself.

Comparing what you have and your results to what other people have and have accomplished can really kill your motivation. I believe this is one of the most common motivational mistakes people make and it can make you feel really bad even though you may be doing quite good.

So keep in mind that there are always people ahead of you. Most likely quite a bit of people. And a few of them are miles ahead. So focus on you. On your results. And how you can and have improved your results.

Reviewing your results is important so that you see where you have gone wrong in the past to avoid similar missteps further on. But it’s also important because it’s a great motivator to see how much you have improved and how far you have come. Often you can be pleasantly surprised when you do such a review.

Work out.

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 ask yourself the right questions you can still drag yourself to the gym or wherever you go to exercise. And if you just do your pretty mindless repetitions then your body will do the rest. Endorphins, testosterone and other chemicals will be released. Inner tensions will loosen up and leave your body. Your negative 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 into big scary monsters in our minds. Letting the monsters out into the light and letting others see them can make us realize that we were making a too big of a deal of all of 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.

Remember to have fun.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the seriousness of a task and the stress and tension of completing it. So remember that you are allowed to have fun when you are working on it. There is no rule that says you have to be all serious about it all the time.

When you can, create fun in a task. Compete with yourself to finish it even faster than you did the last time, whistle a nice tune while working or have fun and joke around with your co-workers and class mates. Then, with a lighter frame of mind, you’ll stay motivated to keep working and finish it.

Take a break.

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

Maybe you have worked 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 a remarkable way and recharge your batteries.

What is your favorite way to get out of a motivational slump?

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thespartanpenguin February 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Gratitude – I find that helps me a lot. It’s really a combination of your points on remembering how far you’ve come and being positive. :)

Henrik Edberg February 7, 2011 at 12:19 pm

I agree, gratitude is powerful to help you to change your perspective.

Angela Schaefers February 4, 2011 at 8:09 pm

good post Henrik! I agree with each of your suggestions and have implemented them myself, as needed! I also practice a mindset of being able to re-evaluate fairly regularly. If I am in a ‘slump’ perhaps a change is called for. Sometimes we get so focused and stuck on one path, that in itself creates a motivational slump. On occasion I do something different, find a new way, let go of the old that does not work and suddenly I feel rejuvenated!

Henrik Edberg February 7, 2011 at 12:07 pm

That’s an excellent point, re-evaluating and perhaps finding a new way is a great way to rekindle the enthusiasm and motivation again.

Doug February 4, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I think your advice just to “talk about it” is very good (and simple). Left alone with any idea, thought or slump, we eventually need help in getting better. That’s part of what inspired me to start “The Betterment Blog” recently — — which is proving to be a good way for me (and blog visitors) to talk about all sorts of topics, many of which help to break out of a motivational slump.

Chris Akins February 5, 2011 at 5:54 am

Action generates motivation.

Henrik Edberg February 7, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Simple and true, thanks for sharing, Chris!

Jacque Cardier February 5, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Great tips. Thanks! :)

zeus February 6, 2011 at 2:57 am

Don’t focus on the whole problem or goal. Break it up into smaller parts and accomplish many small goals until they add up to bigger goals. This way you dont become overwhelmed and lose motivation.

Henrik Edberg February 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm

That’s a great point, by breaking things up it becomes a lot easier to keep going and to get things done.

Daniel M. Wood February 6, 2011 at 11:31 am

One problem that I have noticed many have (and myself at times) is that we can fall into a habit of being depressed. We don’t really have a reason to be depressed, but for some reason it is our chosen emotional state.

Reconnecting with optimism and forcing through the habit of happiness is a very important step to turning a slump around.

Henrik Edberg February 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm

That is very true, sometimes we don’t feel like doing anything. I have also found that reconnecting with the optimistic side of things does wonders at such times.

Rotem Cohen February 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm

These are some terrific tips. I like the way you simplify things.

When I’m entering a “motivational slump” I first allow myself to pause and take my mind off things. Next I’d go over my goals, maybe rewrite them and allow myself to dream…

Next, I would “release” my goals, or in other words detach myself from the outcomes, mainly by considering the worst case scenario
(what’s the worst that can happen if I fail to achieve my goal) and by reminding myself of everything that I’m grateful for.

To sum it up: Pause -> Dream -> Set Goals -> Release

That’s just one way I like to get my motivation back.

Henrik Edberg February 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Thank you! I really like that you mention the importance of releasing yourself from the goal. Being detached from the outcomes makes it so much easier to take action and to not hold yourself back because you get stuck in fear or other negative mental states.

Ryan Yokome | Authentic Inspiration February 7, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Hey Henrik! Great stuff as always. Love how you talked about working out. That is by far the #1 thing that helps me stay motivated and inspired bro!

Jimmy February 8, 2011 at 12:15 am

Your advise comes at the right time for me. I have been feeling dejected seeing how my blog progress. After reading this, I will keep up my good work.


Deb February 8, 2011 at 2:03 am

Great site and this is my first visit. I’ve been going through Tony Robbins Personal Power II 30 day challenge and have found his program to be very helpful with these issues. One of my favorite ways to re-motivate myself is to consider what it would cost me if I don’t follow through with a particular action. Another way to get out of a slump is to learn what Tony teaches by anchoring the emotion I want with a physical cue. That way, I can get to that emotion at will. Pretty cool.

Henrik Edberg February 10, 2011 at 9:28 am

Welcome! Thanks for sharing, considering what it would cost me to not take a specific action is a powerful motivator for me too.

Sukhi February 8, 2011 at 6:19 am

Hey Henrik,
First time here and LOVE it. This is awesome stuff man.

Love the simplicity of this post. Interesting in that I always say comparison Kills. And you say compare to yourself. Nice! Love that Gem.

Look forward to more and thanks for the e-book!

Henrik Edberg February 10, 2011 at 9:29 am

Welcome and glad to hear that you love it. :)

Peter G. James Sinclair February 8, 2011 at 7:29 am

Great post Henrik.

To be motivated, we either need a whip from behind or the enticement of a carrot from in front. I don’t know about you, but I’d choose the carrot time and time again.

The carrot is represented by the dream that I pursue along with the rewards that I give myself all the way towards the achievement of that dream. Little by little – rewarded each step of the way – I possess my dream – and remain highly motivated and highly rewarded BY ME.

Henrik Edberg February 10, 2011 at 9:34 am

Thank you for sharing your process for how you go about this, Peter. Good stuff.

M. A. Tohami February 8, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I find blogging about your goal to be a very effective way to keep the motivation up and increase the accountability.

If you blog about your progress and have some of your close friends monitor your activity regularly, you’ll be more accountable and motivated to achieve your goal.

Henrik Edberg February 10, 2011 at 9:30 am

Very good tip. The blog can really help you to stay motivated and accountable.

Katie @ Living Anxiety Free February 8, 2011 at 6:41 pm

It can be so easy to let one minor set back erase all of the huge steps forward in our minds. It’s so important to stay focused on the positive outcomes and the positive steps we’re taking. I have a “good stuff” journal where I record all of the things I’m thankful for, the steps I’ve taken toward my goals, and the good stuff that’s happened each day.

Henrik Edberg February 10, 2011 at 9:33 am

Excellent tip about the good stuff section, thank you for sharing!

Dion February 8, 2011 at 7:47 pm

I love reading your blogs, however, I don’t think that it’s that easy to stay positive with so much of the real world to deal with. I do think one can get back into a positive spirit after being knocked around by negative. I am one who tries to stay postive at all times but, fall short at times as well. How can we manage that in a positive effective way?

Henrik Edberg February 10, 2011 at 9:32 am

I think it is impossible to always be positive. The important thing is to try to improve little by little so you learn to turn around negative situations better and better over time.

John Sherry February 8, 2011 at 7:50 pm

To me a slump is when the energy has gone out of it. Find ways to re-energise yourself in mind, body, and spirit and then come back to it. Re-connect yourself to a better vibe be it a good walk, or great conversation, or some exercise. This rejuvenation and inner refreshment usually works wonders.

Henrik Edberg February 10, 2011 at 9:36 am

Yes, re-energizing usually works very well. Thanks for sharing your tip!

Eugene February 9, 2011 at 12:52 am

Reconnecting with optimism though asking yourself empowering questions. And not disempower ones. I like that! If you keep asking the wrong question then you will keep getting the wrong answers. Right? Especially with regards to getting out of a slump during the success journey. Great suff again! I love it.

miami Life Coach February 10, 2011 at 7:32 am

Inspiration, for me, comes from others who have achieved what I want to achieve, or who are currently doing it. I read other blogs, books, magazines. I Google my goal, and read success stories.

Henrik Edberg February 10, 2011 at 9:39 am

Good one, success stories can not only give you useful practical tips but also re-ignite those positive emotions and motivation.

Megan February 10, 2011 at 8:33 am

This is a really good article for this time of year. The New Year’s Resolutions are starting to fade and I’m feeling so drained already. I was literally right in the middle of a motivational slump when I saw this title, thank goodness for Positivity Blog. You really do save me from myself sometimes.

sara February 10, 2011 at 2:20 pm

THANK YOU SO MUCH! Now I’m going to call those calls I should’ve done months ago! Thanks.

Aref February 11, 2011 at 8:18 pm

I read your posts regularly…

We at InterFIT (we are new) just started a blog about motivation, happiness, and how it can all be brought to fruition through fitness…

New one up! Titled: Don’t let tomorrow take up too much of today…

Thank you :)

Dominic Knower February 16, 2011 at 9:17 am

Hi Henrik, At the moment my favorite way to keep motivated and prevent myself from sinking into a slump is to constantly remind myself of how lucky I am. When I think about all I have and how lucky I am to have it all, I realize I would be a fool not to make the most of it.


Social Natural March 7, 2011 at 12:04 pm

You’ve written a great post in the past regarding breaking the tasks up into tiny junks, so that way you it’s less overwhelming and with each accomplishment, you get a renew fresh sense of accomplishment to build your motivation back up. I use that tactic everyday.

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