How to Increase Motivation When You’re in a Slump

Before Bruno Mars became a fixture of every wedding playlist ever, he wrote the Lazy Song—a chart-topping ode to just chillin’. In this reggae-infused track, your mother-in-law’s favorite singer proudly proclaims, “Today I don’t feel like doing anything, I just wanna lay in my bed.”

How often have you felt like that? It’s such a common sentiment that religions dedicate entire days of the week to it. You might just need a rest. But what if you feel unmotivated every single day? That, my friend, is called a slump.

First, know that you’re not alone. A 2017 study found that 85% of employees are disengaged! We go about our tasks in the fog. Some of our days are so redundant that they could inspire a Bill Murray spoof.

In the past, the greats regained motivation through exploration. Before recording the White Album, The Beatles trekked through Northern India and studied transcendental meditation. Steve Jobs did the same, met a guru, and invented the iPhone. Prince Siddhartha left his royal palace one day to realize full enlightenment and became the Buddha.

But with borders closed all around us, the closest thing to wanderlust is grabbing a pizza across town—not quite as invigorating.

The good news is that you don’t need to live like a monk to get back on track. Motivation is everywhere around us; we just need to know where to look. This list is meant to help you overcome a slump—find the sources that speak to you, or just try each one for a day.

Here are ways on how to increase your motivation when you’re in a slump.

1. Unplug (but for Real This Time)

You won’t hear that much in the blogosphere where eyeballs mean dollars. But if you’ve stared at a computer screen for the last ten days, pause for a moment and change your surroundings. That work email or application can wait for a moment. Take your lunch to a park, or go for an urban hike.

Listen to the sounds of nature. Smell the plants and flowers. Feel how the wilderness teems with life. Focus on being entirely in the present moment, and you’ll realize the world didn’t suddenly end in 2020.

2. Put Some Motivation in Your Ear

If you’re stuck in a slump, I’ve found that all it takes is one rousing speech to change your mindset. Changing your mindset is a great way to increase your motivation.

The right motivational content at the right time can transform your attitude. So, pop in your headphones, and do a Google search for “motivation.” There are thousands of speeches on YouTube, even mega-mixes of motivational speakers like Joel Osteen, Wayne Dyer, Les Brown, etc. TEDx has inspiring speeches by Dan Pink, Angela Duckworth, Tony Robbins, and more.

3. Give Back to Others

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. –-Mahatma Gandhi

When you’re hurting, the best thing you can do for yourself is to help others. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true.

When you focus externally on making a difference in the lives of others, it provides you immense satisfaction, which can also increase your motivation. These acts of service make your problems look and feel smaller. Most importantly, you feel more empowered to overcome any challenges you face.

4. Call Your Most Positive Friend

We’ve all heard the adage, “you are the sum of your five closest friends.” It’s true because what our peers say affects us.

If you suffer from negative family members or peers, their cynicism will slowly infect you. Instead, drown them out. If your mother is pessimist-in-chief, tell her you to love her, and then cut her off! Spend more time with people that are ‘glass-half-full’—those that look for the upsides.

It doesn’t matter if it’s your best friend or that one girl you haven’t spoken to since high school. If you don’t have anyone like that in your community, join Facebook or LinkedIn Groups for positive thinkers. Attend a virtual Meetup of like-minded individuals. Don’t overlook the importance of your inner circle to staying motivated.

5. Find Your Creative Side

Creativity is an essential skill now and will gain more importance in the future. It’s one of the few things that can’t be automated, outsourced, or offshored.

One unseen benefit of the quarantine was that many people finally had time for creative projects. By invoking our imagination, we can often break through mental blocks at work. This can help us increase our motivation to do things.

Have you ever wanted to write poetry, play an instrument, or paint? Stop talking about it and start doing it. Pull out a piece of paper or buy a starter kit online, and unleash your artistic side to break through your slump.

6. Create a Bucket List

In the 2007 film The Bucket List, two terminally-ill seniors played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson decide to live their best life before kicking the bucket—think sky-diving, traveling the world, taking a safari.

Sure, many of these things are out of reach in 2020. But there’s still plenty of life experiences you can check off. It’s a fantastic time to learn a language, practice photography, or get your start in amateur film-making. You can write that book that you’ve been putting off for years or train for next year’s marathon. You might rent an RV and explore the backroads of your country. The possibilities are endless.

7. Listen to Music That Moves You

There’s never been a better time to go deeper into your favorite genres of music or to branch out and explore something new. Start with a “Best of” list, like the Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Websites like Soundcloud and Spotify’s Discover feature for finding new artists. Genres like classical music help people focus and inspire their creativity. Most importantly, they can help you get out of a funk and back to being productive.

8. Start a Gratitude Journal

“The struggle ends when gratitude begins.” Neale Donald Walsch

Let’s take some lessons from this horrible pandemic—a simple but profound one: just appreciate everything that we have.

This isn’t our first crisis, and it won’t be the last. So, let’s take heart in gratitude for the simple pleasures in life. Appreciate that satisfying meal, the roof over your head, loving friends, and family. It’s easy to fall into the cycle of wanting more. Instead, build the habit of writing down three things you’re grateful for in your journal every day.

You don’t need to list a million items. Instead, go deep into why you cherish a few people and things that mean the most to you.

9. Cherish Past Victories

Most people don’t chase their dreams because of fear. They don’t think that they have what it takes—talent, resources, connections—to accomplish their goals. The best antidote is to relive your own victory story.

Think back to a time where you did something that you previously hadn’t thought possible. Maybe you earned a promotion, got an A in a class, or gave a public speech. If it’s been a while since you stepped out of your comfort zone, go back to your childhood.

Remember how you learned to ride a bike when you were scared, made a new friend, or asked someone out even though you were shy. We’ve all overcome fear in the past. Let’s not forget it.

10. Jot Great Ideas Down

I’m sure you have dozens or possibly hundreds of great ideas each day. But life is a constant stream of distractions. We often forget about these ideas before we can give them a second thought.

Many comedians and artists get their best ideas in random moments—on the bus or waiting in line at the store. When a motivating idea or thought enters your mind or when you hear it outside, write it down immediately. This way you can refer and build on them later, rather than let them fall into the quicksand of time.

11. Sweat Out Stress

I am a firm believer that an incredible workout (and a delicious recovery meal) can cure almost any bad day. It’s no coincidence that so many successful people like to run or jog.

Getting into a physical state brings levels of mental clarity like nothing else. Can’t go to the gym? Follow home workout videos on YouTube or stream fitness classes on apps like Peloton. Prefer doing your cardio outdoors? Go for a run. Want to build muscle? Buy a pull-up bar or kettle-bells and get to work. Bad joints? Go for a swim in your nearest lake or ocean. Too cold? Go snow-shoeing or skiing.

The bottom line is that there are so many fun ways to stay in shape and get endorphins flowing.

12. Disable the Distractions

The average person gets interrupted once every 8 minutes. It’s no wonder that people struggle to stay focused.

My solution? Put your phone on do-not-disturb, or shut it off completely. Do the same for your desktop apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or email. If you’re in a noisy environment, get noise-canceling headphones or earplugs. Follow the Pomodoro Method and set a timer for 25 minutes. After one Pomodoro, take a 5-minute break, then start again.

By reducing distractions and scheduling regular breaks, you will find yourself getting more done and going deeper into your work. You’ll thus get better results, creating a virtuous cycle of motivation.

13. Learn From History

Now sure how to become the best version of yourself? Follow those who inspire you. Maybe your idol is a parent or mentor—ask them about their past and find out how they grew to be the person they are today. Investigate the lives of famous people and find where their success left clues. Start with biographies or autobiographies. Finding inspiration will help you increase your motivation.

Last year, I read the autobiography of Phil Knight (founder of Nike) and the portrait of Alexander Hamilton. Whether you agree with their decisions or not, you can learn a lot from their stories, their wins, and their losses.

14. Just Breathe

The most important part of my morning routine is meditation. You’re probably familiar with some of the benefits of mindfulness, such as feeling calmer and better able to handle stress. Through consistent practice, I found that my mental clarity and focus improved, too.

We all have a ‘monkey mind’ that’s always on the move, like a monkey swinging from branch to branch. All of life’s distractions consume our thoughts, even when it’s unproductive. By meditating, we better consciously choose which thoughts to interact with. Through this practice, you also gain the mental space to operate at peak motivation.

15. Reframe Your Questions

Let’s say that you are de-motivated by a problem that seems impossible to solve. What you can do is invest a lot of time upfront framing the right questions.

In the Tribe of Mentors, author Timothy Ferriss encourages his readers to ask, “how would it look if this [endeavor, goal, etc.] were easy?”

In The One Thing, author Gary Keller suggests you ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do that would make everything else less important or unnecessary?”

Think about the problem you want to solve and ensure you ask the right questions. Also, consider if you have assumptions baked into your line of thinking. Remember: it’s always better to ask (the right) questions than to assume. These methods can turn a frustrating problem into an inspiring solution.

Final Thoughts

Everyone encounters a slump at least once in their lives, but what differs from person to person is how they handle it. There are many ways that you can increase your motivation when you’re in a slump. You can start with these 15 tips on how to increase your motivation to help you overcome that slump and be the best that you can be.

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