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The Psychology Behind Low Motivation

At Key Psychological we’ve encountered countless individuals struggling to find their motivation.

It's a common experience among many narratives, yet each experience is profoundly personal.

This blog aims to unpack the psychology behind low motivation, guiding you toward rediscovering your inner drive.


If you lack motivation then let’s explore how to recapture your passion again!


Why have I lost motivation?

Motivation ebbs and flows and is influenced by a myriad of factors.


Psychological research suggests that changes in motivation levels can be attributed to internal shifts—such as emotional states, cognitive overload, or lack of sleep—and external changes, like stressful environments or unfulfilling tasks.


In extreme cases, it can lead to burnout - a state of perpetual exhaustion where any task seems daunting. It is often accompanied by neglecting our needs and a lack of self-care.


It's crucial to recognize that losing motivation is not a flaw but a signal from your mind and body, urging you to reassess and realign with your values and what genuinely matters to you.


How do I re-discover my inner drive and find motivation?

Rediscovering your motivation involves introspection and understanding the different types of motivations that influence us.


It’s about looking in to assess where you are in your life and looking out towards the opportunities in front of you.


Marcus Aurelius once said that the impediment to action advances action, what stands in the way becomes the way. In other words, the obstacle is the way.


Your struggle with motivation at this exact moment is the obstacle in front of you, but it’s also the opportunity to re-discover your passion and ultimately find motivation.


Do not see the struggles of low motivation as a burden on your life but instead as an opportunity. We learn a lot about ourselves when we lean into the discomfort. When we go to the place we least want to go, in order to find what we have been looking for this whole time.


Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic motivations

Intrinsic motivation comes from within, driven by personal satisfaction or the joy of doing something.

It's the pleasure of painting because you love the process, not because you're aiming for a masterpiece to display.


Intrinsic motivation is hampered by a fear of failure, negative thoughts, and self-esteem issues.

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is fueled by external rewards—like working late hours for a bonus or studying hard to earn praise from parents.


However, extrinsic motivation is also hampered by the dependence on the opinions of others. Many might think “I don’t care what other people think of me”, but that is simply not true.


Human beings are extremely social creatures and our minds are hard wired to care about what others might think of us.


The key is to be aware of it and only allow it to influence our motivation if it is helpful to the goals we actually want. No easy feat.


To reignite your motivation, begin by identifying activities that align with your values and intrinsic interests.

Ask yourself, "What activities make me lose track of time?", “When’s the last time I felt really aligned in what i was doing?” or "When have I felt most fulfilled?"


These questions can guide you toward understanding what inherently drives you, beyond external rewards.


By looking within and working to fortify your intrinsic motivation, the external pressures of the world around you will become less important, making your motivation less susceptible to being derailed by outside forces.



Staying motivated

Staying motivated, especially in the face of routine and obligation, requires a balance of strategies tailored to your unique needs and preferences. Here are a few approaches to consider in your daily life:


  • Goal Setting—Set Small, Achievable Targets: Break your larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks. The satisfaction of ticking off these tasks can boost your motivation and provide a sense of progress. It’s always helpful to know what your goals are so that you’re better aware whether or not you are on the right path.

  • Seek Out Inspiration: Surround yourself with sources of inspiration, whether it's through books, podcasts, or conversations with people who inspire you. Sometimes, seeing the world through another's eyes can rekindle your passion.

  • Embrace a Growth Mindset: View challenges as opportunities to learn rather than insurmountable obstacles. A growth mindset can transform your approach to setbacks, making the journey more rewarding. This is different from a hustle mindset. Here’s an article worth reading by the Harvard Business Review about “How to Keep Working When You’re Just Not Feeling It.” In addition, Carol Dweck’s book “Mindset”, is a great resource to help change from a “fixed mindset” to a “growth mindset”.

  • Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself during periods of low motivation. Recognize that no one is motivated all the time, and it's okay to have off days. Notice if there are unhelpful self-critical thoughts that make things worse. Be patient and understanding with yourself so that you can quickly “get back on the horse”.

  • Find Your Community: Connecting with others who share your interests or goals can provide a motivational boost. Whether it's joining a local club, an online forum, or simply reaching out to a friend, community support is invaluable. You can think of them as support groups and that’s okay.

It's okay to feel this way

Lastly, and most importantly, it's okay to feel unmotivated at times.


Our society often glorifies constant productivity, leading us to believe that any moment of rest or lack of drive is a failure.


Your lack of motivation is not necessarily a result of laziness or procrastination, though some will say that it is. And it’s not always mental illness or a symptom of depression either.


This couldn't be further from the truth. Emotions and motivational levels are like tides—they come and go. And we are all bound by this.


Acknowledging and accepting your feelings without judgment can be the first step toward understanding and eventually overcoming periods of low motivation.


Remember, rediscovering your motivation is about learning about yourself over time and doesn't have a one-size-fits-all solution.


It's about exploring what makes you tick, setting meaningful goals, and being gentle (but firm) with yourself along the way.


As you build awareness of your thoughts, actions, and beliefs, and live a life that is truly in-line with your values - you'll find yourself moving closer to living more intentionally and, ultimately, more motivated.

In conclusion, experiencing a lack of motivation is universal, but it doesn't define your capabilities or worth.


By exploring the psychology behind motivation, understanding the interplay between intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, and adopting strategies to stay motivated, you can navigate through this period with grace and resilience.


And remember, it's okay to feel this way. And now that you realize it...what are you prepared to do differently?



If you’re looking to talk to somebody about your lack of motivation, book a 15-minute risk-free phone consultation to see if Key Psychological is the right mental health professional for you.


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