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Do You Lose Motivation Because “Real Life” Takes Over?

Why We Lose Motivation

My good friend Sandra* told me she’s not loving her job even though she’s been moving up quickly. Despite her success, the work isn’t necessarily aligned with her purpose or passions.

If she could figure out her mission – the work she really wants to do – she could transition to a company or a role that’s more fulfilling. We got together, we identified her mission, and she was psyched.

Shortly thereafter, I followed up with resources that would help her start thinking about the transition.

When I asked her how it was going, she replied with, “I was really motivated, but then real life took over.”

Real life. What does that mean?

In this case, I define real life as the routine, the day to day, the responsibilities – the things that we think we have to do.

It seems our days are so filled with real life activities that we can’t find the motivation or the time to pursue the things we want to do.

Although I’m sympathetic to real life sometimes sucking the life out of us, I also believe that our thinking is flawed. Why is it that we associate making a change or reaching a goal with suffering?

You want to lose weight? Great. Get ready to punish yourself.

You want to be wealthy? Awesome. Prepare to not sleep, not see your friends, or go on vacation…for years.

When we associate the process of making a positive change with hardship we’re obviously a lot more likely to lose motivation. – Tweet it! 

Let me be clear. Making a change is hard work. Commitment, dedication and motivation are key. But these characteristics should drive us not stump us.

If we can change our thinking about the process of it all, perhaps we’re more likely to stay motivated.

Stop Overthinking. Make the Jump

To make a career change, here is what Sandra would have to do: Set aside 30 minutes to 1 hour per day for the next five days to research the work she wants to do (i.e. industry, opportunities or people to speak with).  

This is all she has to do in the immediate future. (Following this, there will be phone calls, finessing her story, more research, possible interviews, etc., but let’s not think about this yet.)

How do you find an extra 30 minutes when your day is already full?

Sandra already has a packed schedule. She lives on a farm, she has a family, and she spends two days a week commuting to and from work for all-day meetings as she typically works from home.

Although it may seem impossible, build the 30 minutes into your daily schedule for the first week only. Add it to your to do list, and make it a priority. (I’m not going to say too much more here because we can all find an extra 30 minutes in our day.)

Do the work.  

Now, how does it feel? If it feels good – the learning, the possibility of creating a positive change – leverage this to keep going.

This is all it takes to get started. That’s it. No other commitment is required.

Success without the Sacrifice. How to Enjoy the Process

As you have to keep going, and take the second step, and the third, and the fourth, roadblocks will appear, from a busy schedule to exhaustion to whatever else real life throws your way.

How do you keep the process enjoyable?

Let’s start with what’s important to you, What do you care about? (These are your values.)

Sandra, for example, cares about growth, adventure, and service.

Rather than focusing on the work, all the “things” that need to be done to go from A to B, Sandra can make the process more enjoyable by building these values into her day to day.

For example, she can leverage the experience of working on her transition as a way to grow and learn.

Furthermore, when we’re making big changes, we don’t often think about how we want to feel; instead, we’re focused on the end goal.

Must get new job. Then I’ll be happy.

Stop. What will make you happy now? How do you want to feel as you’re in the process of this transition?

If you value adventure, for example, it’s critical that you bring this into your daily routine as you’re going through the process of change. Keep things fun.

Learning to enjoy the process can be difficult. I still struggle with this at times. But, enjoying the process means doing more of what you love and less of what you dislike. We have to check in with ourselves to make sure we’re prioritizing our values.

Think Bigger

What’s the big picture? What do you want to accomplish?

Sandra, for example, wants work that’s more in alignment with her passions and interests. The long-term benefit of this is spending her regular eight-hour work day doing mission-driven work that feeds her soul and creativity.

Even if she likes the work she’s doing now, it’s still providing marginal benefits in creativity, energy and challenge in comparison to doing work she loves.

I’m a big believer that we can’t afford to settle.

If nothing changes one year from now, how will you feel? How about five years from now?

If you feel any sense of dread envisioning this future, it’s time so start working on a change. Let the dread and the big picture be your motivation.  

We often hear that building a company, launching a successful career or making a BIG change – whatever that may be (ie losing weight) is not for the weak.

You have to be resilient, motivated, a hard worker, determined. For those of us who don’t identify with these terms, we may give up before we’ve even started.

Rather than quitting let’s change the questions to arrive at a solution that works better for us.

Working bigger and better – working on our mission –  actually means we’re going to reduce “real life” activities. It means less work that leads us to exhaustion, and more activities that lead us to live better.

I’d love to hear from you. When do you feel like real life stumps your motivation? And what’s your immediate reaction to feeling bogged down by the day to day?


*name has been changed

Belma McCaffrey

Author Belma McCaffrey

More posts by Belma McCaffrey

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