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No motivation? No problem!


“To be motivated” is a common goal that many clients have in therapy. Whether one is deep in the trenches of anxiety or depression, grieving a loved one, or dealing with a painful heartbreak, the feeling of motivation is usually one of the first to vacate the scene of crisis or difficulty. As if it weren’t difficult enough to be stuck in a metaphorical hole, we have now seemingly lost all will and desire to put one foot in front of the other and climb our way out. This can lead to us feeling stagnant, hopeless, and maybe a bit panicked as we search for ways to spark the motivation to heal. So, what do we do about this? How do we find the all elusive feeling of motivation when it feels out of reach but we believe we need it the most? 


Well, what if we first accepted that it’s okay to feel unmotivated. That, perhaps, we don’t actually need to feel motivated in order to act motivated. The two can exist in separate realms. Sure, it’s definitely nice when the two match up… but this isn’t always a choice we have or the case. The feeling of motivation can’t necessarily be willed or chosen in an instant and is therefore often outside of our control. And, in reality, it is often subsequent to the act of doing. So, rather than searching for motivation to act, it can be more helpful to focus on action as a means of potentially shifting our emotional experience and sparking motivation. We are likely to stay unmotivated without action, but there is a chance we become motivated with action. Essentially, we can spend a lot of time in the metaphorical hole waiting for motivation that may or may not come… or we can figure out how to take action and climb out of the hole, in hopes there may be some lurking behind a ledge along the way. The latter option always gets us out of the hole faster. 


It can be empowering to know that this behavioural aspect is something that we do have control over, even when the task at hand feels really hard and daunting. Despite what our lack of motivation tells us, we don’t have to listen to it or give it power by acting on it. We can choose differently and still give ourselves permission to do all of the things that make our lives meaningful, valuable, and full. This choice moment is something to be mindful of. In every decision we make, there is a fleeting moment of choice. This moment can become clearer and we can utilize it in more authentically valuable ways if we realize that it is a moment separate from our emotional feeling. One can feel drastically unmotivated in a moment. But it is the noticing of this and consciously acting from the choice moment rather than automatically from the feeling, that allows one to take back their power and do what’s important. 


When it comes to being unmotivated, starting is always the hardest part. So, I challenge you to accept feeling unmotivated, recognize your choice moment, and shift focus towards embracing the action that will add to your life and perhaps serve to spark some motivation.



Kaylee Garside, MA, has extensive experience in the areas of mindfulness and acceptance practices, plus many more. For more information on Kaylee and her work, click here to link to her full bio page.