Do you feel like an unmotivated blob sometimes? I certainly do. I bet every one of us, even Jim Rohn, had his share of blue days. This article discusses seven ways on how you can get yourself out of a funk.
Laziness: Being incredibly motivated to do nothing
December is here. At least in the northern hemisphere, the days are short, and the nights are long. I call this funk weather. It's easy to hibernate while you let days turn into weeks. Or worse, months.
Unfortunately, items on your to-do list don't fade away. Stuff still needs to get done:
The impending certification test requires you to study; the upcoming late spring marathon needs you to start logging training miles, and the overflowing garage begs for a cleaning.
I understand. You have the right intention to get it all done. But the spirit is lacking.
If, like me, you evaluate your mile-long wish list of stuff you wish you had done or could do but can't seem to find the wherewithal to, just know this: you're not alone.
We're in a state of collective funk.
Thankfully, there is a solution. There are ways to pick ourselves up and move from a state of a slump to one of productive purpose.
In this article, I've listed seven tried and tested ways that I find work well in snapping me out of demotivation. Typically, you'll need just one or two. Sometimes, like how stubborn stains on clothes require additional treatment, dogged funkiness, could use most of these tips.
Seven ways to get yourself out of a funk
No one, not even Jim Rohn or Tony Robbins, can be rah-rah-rah all the time. You'd think they have it all sorted all the time. Na-huh. But what they do have are a ton of backup plans - from Plan B to Plan Z.
Motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you growing.
I use the following seven suggestions to keep me disciplined when the same-oldness of things wears me down. Believe me, they work.
I cannot think of anything better that will improve mood than physical movement. My choice, of course, is always a run. Though there have been plenty of times I've resisted the idea of a run, I have NEVER retrospectively regretted going out for a run. Ever.
If you think you can't run or if you don't want to run, then Walk. Or do Jumping Jacks. Skip rope. Stretch with Yoga or Tai-chi. For those allergic to the word exercise, movement can happen in other ways – physically running around the house with kids or dogs, dancing to your favorite tune. Anything! But, MOVE. Please.
If you can hear the desperation in my voice, it's because I've read the research. The bottom line is this – how you feel is always all about what chemicals are floating around your brain and body. In other words, to get yourself out of a funk, you need to sort out the chemical imbalances that cause the funk in the first place.
Of course, there are multiple ways of getting back to chemical equilibrium. Like with everything in life, some methods are better and safer (exercise-induced) than others (drug or alcohol-induced).
So, trust me when I say the act of moving will go a long way in making you feel like all's right with the world again. Read this article if you need to be convinced about the importance of exercise.
2. Pit Eeyore v Elsa
Sometimes, I need a break from me. I think most of you will agree. (Note: I meant each of us needs a break from ourselves. Hopefully, not everyone is saying they need a break from me – personally)!
We get too caught up in our own though patterns and pity parties. At such times, I've found it incredibly helpful to shift focus by doing something for another person. It's not easy, but the feel-goodness of altruism is an incredible high! There's a catch here, though.
Do something for someone else WITHOUT EXPECTING ANYTHING IN RETURN—no quid-pro-quos, whatsoever.
Selfless thinking helps us get outside our bubble and empathize with another person's problems. Again, it's a chemical thing. When we realize how insignificant we and our problems are, really, in comparison to that faced by many, it's easy to get yourself out of a funk. Elsa, in the form of gratitude, will somehow sneak in and make you feel better, even if your inner Eeyore is stubborn.
The body physically heals itself when we practice real, non-transactional gratitude. Try it.
3. Up The Stakes
I know the feeling. You start excitedly on a new project. But a few days in, you're not so sure or motivated anymore.
May be its time to start being a little stricter with yourself. When carrots don't work, time to line up the sticks.
Here are some examples in real life of how this works.
There are apps for writers facing blank-page-syndrome, aka writer's block, that use threats as motivation. One such app requires the writer to type continuously for some time. If there are pauses, the app starts to delete the words the writer already typed, with no way for them to retrieve what was lost. Freaky!
Similarly, you have the option to subscribe to services that automatically debit money out of your checking account to send to charities if you don't log in and confirm on time that you've reached the goals you set for yourself.
The fact that these threat products and services are viable in the marketplace points to one fact - people are willing to pay random strangers to blackmail themselves in the quest for personal growth. Far out!
I haven't (yet) used third-party products to threaten me since I figured I'm great at self-flagellation already. For instance, I typically sign up (at the beginning of each year) for a certain number of popular full and half marathons across the state or country. The entry fees to the races, with the additional cost of travel, lodging, etc., usually add up to quite a bit, and most of it is non-refundable. Then I let guilt be my motivating factor for the rest of the year.
Of course, this may not work always. That's why gyms are still in business, and that's why you're probably, right this minute, staring at an expensive and space-consuming laundry rack, aka the treadmill.
But it's worth a try. Putting out a non-refundable deposit is one way to up the stakes and help get yourself out of a funk. Find something you hate to lose – money, vacation time, a spa trip – and wager some of that as a way to keep yourself motivated.
4. Be Inspired
Sarah grew up in Nelsonville, Ohio, sometimes with no electricity or phone lines, and limited holiday festivities, because the family couldn't afford to pay the bills. Despite the financial shortcomings, her mother still found a way to enroll young Sarah in ballet lessons. These lessons proved useful by helping Sarah land parts on Broadway shows.
From Broadway, Sarah worked her way up to TV before attaining celebrity status through the TV sitcom, Sex, and the City. Sarah Jessica Parker's portrayal of Carrie Bradshaw was so popular that the British newspaper, The Guardian, named the character Bradshaw, the icon of the decade for perpetrating a cultural shift in women's issues.
This is an inspiring story of how a plain Sarah turned into THE Sarah Jessica Parker. There is no shortage of such inspirational material, nor are they hard to find.
When, in a funk, reading or listening to inspirational content can trigger a dopamine hit and get us refocused and motivated.
Learning something new by reading an inspiring story/book or listening to a rousing podcast or lecture may be all we need for that little spark to reignite our enthusiasm. The motivation stems from the 'If he/she can do it, so can I' philosophy and can be enough to get yourself out of a funk.
Miss a meal if you have to, but don't miss a book – Jim Rohn
5. Get Blinders
Yes, the world is an exciting place, and we want to do it all. But having your fingers in many pies at the same time isn't helpful and can lead to severe overwhelm.
When you wake up and stare at a list that says you have to run 15 miles, finish your work project, write 3000 words of your novel and enjoy a home-cooked dinner with family – all within the space of 12 hours, it's not surprising that you choose to pull the covers over your head and pretend you just peeked at someone else's list.
I admit some overachievers may be able to get through such lists once or even a few times. But, last I checked, superheroes are fictional. We are all merely human.
Having too many things to do can engulf you in worry and cause a slump in energy. To get yourself out of funk, do what horse riders do to get their horses to focus. Get blinders.
Find a way to put some metaphorical blinders on for a while, so you're not distracted by other items on your list.
One thing at a time is an excellent tenet to adopt in such situations.
6. Get Creative
As I had alluded to earlier, on every project, no matter how exciting at the start, there will come a time when things get tedious. You will have to embrace the suck, which, in turn, means finding a way to work past the boredom.
Research has proven that using a creative outlet to express that boredom – such as playing music or creating arts and crafts are some of the best ways to get yourself out of a funk. These creative activities cause the brain to release bursts of feel-good dopamine. You get the same effect as you would with drugs and alcohol – but without the downsides.
Even the most mundane jobs - threading strings on to bookmarks or testing the temperature of frozen peas on a production line – may start to look less daunting after a creative session.
7.Call For Reinforcements (But Avoid Debbie Downers)
We are a social species. While we may find it easy to tackle little projects on our own, other more challenging pursuits such as a substantial weight loss journey, quitting smoking or completing an Ironman necessitate us to have strong support systems around us.
Build a good support group to help you through your pursuits. The support personnel can be family, friends, or even complete strangers. Your support system fulfills two main objectives:
- Makes you realize that some problems are universal and that you're not alone. Knowing you're not the only miserable soul somehow helps make the misery, well, not so miserable.
- Support groups usually have experts who've been there, done that. While it's good to learn from your mistakes, it's way more efficient to learn from others' mistakes.
Now, a caveat. Yes, you are a caring soul. But sometimes, even you need to catch a break.
When you're feeling unmotivated, it's best not to pick up the phone to talk to a Negative Nancy (NN).
These are the folks that may tell you that every corpse you find on Mt Everest was once a very motivated person. There is no chance to get yourself out of your funk if you listen to that kind of talk.
Instead of getting motivated, you'll end up reinforcing the funkiness. NNs are easy to identify. You'll inherently feel dread when you're in their company. They unload their negativity onto you but somehow still retain enough funkiness in themselves to carry over to the next conversation.
If you must speak to Debbie Downers or Negative Nancys, do so when you're feeling all sunny and bright, after you’ve smelt the roses.
Feeling like an unmotivated blob every so often is quite natural. Everyone has days when life seems a little dull. It feels like your eyeglasses are smudged, but you're too tired to find a clean cloth to wipe off the dirt.
Being in a funk is like wearing grime-covered spectacles. It's alright for a bit, but it would be a travesty not to find a way to get a clearer vision. If you feel like you're floating on a rudderless boat, you need to find ways to take control to steer your life in the direction you'd like.
It is impossible to be always motivated. That's why you need to have the discipline and tools, such as those described above, as backup.
When life shuts a door in front of you, don't brood. Open it again. It's a dang door, after all.