BY LEO BABAUTA: ZENHABITS.NET
Get Off Your Butt: Get Motivated When You’re in a Slump
It’s not hopeless: with some small steps, baby ones, in fact, you can get started down the road to positive change.
Yes, I know, it seems impossible at times. You don’t feel like doing anything. We’ve been there, and in fact, we still feel that way from time to time. You’re not alone. But there are a few ways to break out, get off your butt and get motivated when you’re in a slump.
When exercising doesn’t happen due to illness or injury or disruption from things going on in life, it’s hard to get started again. There’s always a way to break out of that slump, and here are some things that have helped:
Whenever you’re in a slump, it’s often because there’s too much going on in life. And it saps energy and motivation. It’s probably the most common mistake that people make: they try to take on too much, try to accomplish too many goals at once. You cannot maintain energy and focus (the two most important things in accomplishing a goal) if you are trying to do two or more goals at once. It’s not possible. You have to choose one goal, for now, and focus on it completely. That can be hard, but you can always do your other goals when you’ve accomplished your One Goal.
Inspiration can come from others who have achieved what you’re wanting to achieve, or others who are currently doing it. Read blogs, books, magazines, Google your goal and read other’s success stories.
This sounds obvious, but most people don’t think about it much: if you want to break out of a slump, get yourself excited about a goal. But how can you do that when you don’t feel motivated? Well, it starts with inspiration from others, but you have to take that excitement and build on it. Talk about it, and read as much about it as possible, and visualize what it would be like to be successful (seeing the benefits of the goal in your head). Get excited about a goal. Once you’ve done that, it’s just a matter of carrying that energy forward and keeping it going.
This will sound hard, and many people will skip this tip. But it really works. If you find inspiration and want to do a goal, don’t start right away. Many of us will get excited and want to start today. That’s a mistake. Set a date in the future — a week or two, or even a month — and make that your Start Date. Mark it on the calendar. Get excited about that date. Make it the most important date in your life. In the meantime, start writing out a plan. And do some of the steps below. Because by delaying your start, you are building anticipation, and increasing your focus and energy for your goal.
Post your goal.
Print out your goal in big words. Make your goal just a few words long, like a mantra (“Exercise 15 mins. Daily”), and post it up on your wall or refrigerator. Post it at home and work. Put it on your computer desktop. You want to have big reminders about your goal, to keep your focus and keep your excitement going. A picture of your goal also helps.
None of us likes to look bad in front of others. We will go the extra mile to do something we’ve said publicly. Now, you don’t have to commit to your goal in your daily newspaper, but you can do it with friends and family and co-workers, and you can do it on your blog if you have one. And hold yourself accountable — don’t just commit once, but commit to giving progress updates to everyone every week or so.
Think about it daily.
If you think about your goal every day, it is much more likely to become true. To this end, posting the goal on your wall or computer desktop (as mentioned above) helps a lot. Sending yourself daily reminders also helps. And if you can commit to doing one small thing to further your goal (even just 5 minutes) every single day, your goal will almost certainly come true.
It’s hard to accomplish something alone. Find your support network, either in the real world or online, or both.
Realize that there’s an ebb and flow.
Motivation is not a constant thing that is always there for you. It comes and goes, and comes and goes again, like the tide. But realize that while it may go away, it doesn’t do so permanently. It will come back. Just stick it out and wait for that motivation to come back. In the meantime, read about your goal, ask for help, and do some of the other things listed here until your motivation comes back.
Stick with it.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. Even if you aren’t feeling any motivation today, or this week, don’t give up. Again, that motivation will come back. Think of your goal as a long journey, and your slump is just a little bump in the road. You can’t give up with every little bump. Stay with it for the long term, ride out the ebbs and surf on the flows, and you’ll get there.
Start small. Really small.
If you are having a hard time getting started, it may be because you’re thinking too big. If you want to exercise, for example, you may be thinking that you have to do these intense workouts 5 days a week. No — instead, do small, tiny, baby steps. Just do 2 minutes of exercise. Commit to 2 minutes of exercise for one week. You may want to do more but just stick to 2 minutes. It’s so easy, you can’t fail. Do it at the same time, every day. Just some crunches, 2 pushups, and some jogging in place. Once you’ve done 2 minutes a day for a week, increase it to 5, and stick with that for a week. In a month, you’ll be doing 15-20. Want to wake up early? Don’t think about waking at 5 a.m. Instead, think about waking 10 minutes earlier for a week. That’s all. Once you’ve done that, wake 10 minutes earlier than that. Baby steps.
Build on small successes.
Again, if you start small for a week, you’re going to be successful. You can’t fail if you start with something ridiculously easy. And you’ll feel successful, and good about yourself. Take that successful feeling and build on it, with another baby step. Add 2-3 minutes to your exercise routine, for example. With each step (and each step should last about a week), you will feel even more successful. Make each step really, really small, and you won’t fail. After a couple of months, your tiny steps will add up to a lot of progress and a lot of success.
Read about it daily.
When you lose motivation, read a book or blog about your goal. For some reason, reading helps motivate and focus you on whatever you’re reading about. So read about your goal every day, if you can, especially when you’re not feeling motivated.
Call for help when your motivation ebbs.
Having trouble? Ask for help. Join an online forum. Get a partner to join you. Call your mom. It doesn’t matter who, just tell them your problems, and talking about it will help. Ask them for advice. Ask them to help you overcome your slump. It works.
Think about the benefits, not the difficulties.
One common problem is that we think about how hard something is. Exercise sounds so hard! Just thinking about it makes you tired. But instead of thinking about how hard something is, think about what you will get out of it. For example, instead of thinking about how tiring exercise can be, focus on how good you’ll feel when you’re done, and how you’ll be healthier and slimmer over the long run. The benefits of something will help energize you.
Squash negative thoughts; replace them with positive ones.
Along those lines, it’s important to start monitoring your thoughts. Recognize negative self-talk, which is really what’s causing your slump. Just spend a few days becoming aware of every negative thought. Then, after a few days, try squashing those negative thoughts like a bug, and then replacing them with a corresponding positive thought. Squash, “This is too hard!” and replace it with, “I can do this!