• Kristin Schuchman, MSW

Lost Your Motivation? How to Keep Going When You’re Losing Steam


It happens to the best of us. We get overwhelmed, exhausted, and frustrated, losing our ability to focus or deal with the minutiae of a given project. You know you have work to do yet can’t seem to resist the temptation to toggle over to Facebook to check out Vine videos of your cousin Carl’s trip to Moab. When this happens try out these strategies to catalyze your momentum.

1. Take a break. When a deadline is looming taking a pause seems impractical, but studies indicate that a short break every hour boosts productivity significantly. Activities that get your body moving physically work better. Even a 15-minute break spent shooting hoops with a mini Nerf ball or taking a stroll around the block will do wonders in clearing out the cobwebs that tend to collect in a work-weary brain.

2. Exercise regularly. The benefits of physical activity extend beyond losing weight and firming muscle tone. Exercise also increases concentration of norepinephrine, a chemical that positively moderates your response to stress, a major motivation killer. Plus, the endorphins released during exercise that increase feelings of happiness extend beyond the times of your workouts to boost overall mood and increase energy levels.

3. Make a motivational music mix. In my experience, few things are more powerful in changing a mood than an incredibly good song. Create a music mix you can play while you work to keep your juices flowing. Yes, the obvious choices are Eminem’s Lose Yourself, Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing and the theme from Rocky work well, but spice things up a little with Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping and Enigma’s Return to Innocence. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

4. Work near a room with a view. Even if your workspace doesn’t afford you an attractive landscape, go to a coffee shop or a place in your building or home with prettier perspectives. Make a point to dress up the interior of your office to keep you motivated with objects that inspire more expansive thinking. This doesn’t have to include a Buddha head or a Ganesh statue, although these are excellent choices. It should be anything that brings you joy -- a picture your child drew, a photo from a favorite hike, or a Georgia O’Keefe painting.

5. Build incentives into your day to keep you going. Don’t feel bad for finding little things like motivational pastries or permission to watch an episode of House of Cards. You can even break a wearisome project into smaller parts and provide incentives along the way -- 5 minutes of YouTube for every half hour of work. (I realize you may not be in a workplace where you can do that. In that case, reward yourself with something in your off hours that will make all of the tedium of your present task seem worthwhile. I’m not ashamed to admit that the lemon muffins they sell at the coffeehouse around the corner routinely motivate me to finish cumbersome projects.)

6. Watch this video. Narrated by the great motivational speaker Les Brown, this video will lift you up when things seem hopeless. The best line is “Someone else’s opinion of you doesn’t have to become your reality.” The source is www.mateuszm.com, a great resource of inspirational quotes and videos.

7. Vision board It may sound woo-woo, but it works. Find pictures, words, quotes, and glue them into a collage that call out to you. Don’t feel like trotting out the art supplies? Just take a magnet board or bulletin board and start pinning items that you find inspirational. The act of creating this board will improve your mood and, as your eyes drift around your workspace from boredom, give them a place to land that will propel you forward.

Research suggests that vision boarding or drawing pictures and journaling about our aspirational future can actually help bring our goals to fruition. This works, neurologists believe, because once the brain has decided that we've made a decision to do something by visualizing it, it is primed to set about making it a reality.

The picture above is my latest vision board -- an attempt to infuse more "play" into my life. You can just thumbtack pictures to a bulletin board in full view of the place you do the most work. Below is the latest addition to my bulletin vision board -- a photo of a hot springs nestled in a beehive-shaped cave in Utah. One for the bucket list, for sure.

(Pictured to the left: Homestead Crater in Utah, a hot springs located inside a cave near Salt Lake City.)

#motivation #visionboards #goalsetting #moab #homesteadcrater

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