6 Ways to Motivate Yourself When You're Feeling Unmotivated

Writing is fun. That’s why I do this right? Because it’s fun. The joy gets me through all the revisions, the tough starts, the long, laborious, complicated endings. Sometimes I get stuck, sometimes I get lost along the way, sometimes I get overwhelmed and I feel compelled to plan instead of write, to get lost in google search queries - what does it feel like to freeze to death? Drown? How to survive an airplane crash? And whats that phrase again? Something about horses…? All research for future books I promise myself, all the product of an over active daydream.

Then what happens when you get rejected, or turned down. It happens to everyone but how do you rehabilitate your sensitive little brain. How do you pick yourself up, power through the shit and get back to work? As artists, and humans, we’re in a constant battle with ourselves. We’re constantly trying to make our brains want to do things it doesn’t want to do. Math homework, going to the gym, doing the dishes. How do you motivate yourself to do the big stuff, the stuff you need to do to accomplish your Big Goals?

I hate to write a list, and I hate even more to title this post “6 ways to motivate yourself when you're feeling unmotivated” - but consider it an homage to my latest project with Girl Meets Strong and consider it also entirely glib.

1. A little bit today is a lot tomorrow

My daily writing goal is 2,000 words. It’s not that much and usually takes me about two hours. That means if I want to write a 100,000 word book it will take me fifty days. A few months of editing and wham, bam, thank you ma’am I am done! 

It’s never that easy, of course, but the concept is that simple. Work on something a little bit everyday, and eventually it will be done. I just saw a banjo player last night who built his banjo over the course of two thousand hours and twenty five years. It’s gorgeous, plays beautifully, and is a huge source of pride for him. Can you imagine working twenty five years on a single project? Me neither. But the concept is the same. Work every day, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you amass words, or paintings, or talent.

2. Don a super hero costume.

So you want to be a writer, an artist, an entrepreneur, a better secretary, draftsman, barista, or astronaut. What does that person wear? It can be cliche if you want, a beret, a suit with a red tie, glasses and a tight bun — but imagine it anyway. When you picture yourself as the best blank that ever lived, what are you wearing? What about when you accept your award for greatest barista ever? Come on, you’ve imagined it. When you’re a guest on Oprah (it’s okay, in your fantasy she can still have a show) what do you look like?

Now wear it. When you’re feeling unmotivated or uninspired put on your costume. Hell wear it even when you are inspired, I don’t care! Bam, you’re an artist. Pow, you’re an entrepreneur. See? It’s just that easy to become an astronaut. So a costume isn’t everything, but it’s a great way to trick your brain, to reinvigorate your dream, to entice excitement back into your world. For me it’s a gray hat and glasses, neither of which I need sitting in my dark office with 20/15 vision. See how long those eagle eyes last me wearing prescription readers and staring at a screen in the dark all day, but they make me feel like a writer damnit. And sometimes that’s just what I need.

3. Power cards

Okay so this is the most hokum new age mumby jumby I get. You can buy this amazing deck of cards on amazon with really great mantras on each. This is not your grandma’s famous quote book, these are deeply insightful powerful phrases that work. Everything I touch is a success. I release all criticism. Even as I write the phrases I can feel the stress melt off me, my breathing get easier. I am deeply fulfilled by all that I do. Ahhhhhhh.

I have four of the sixty-four cards propped up on my desk as I work, and they help. They really do. When they stop filling me with a sense of calm, I change them out. There are some that focus on relationships, family, and body image. Whatever you want to work on as a human in that moment, the cards will help. You can hang them in your bedroom, on your mirror, put them in your desk drawer at work, just make sure you really read them when you pass by. They'll reinvigorate your spirit. It's incredible.

4. You’ll be great. Eventually.

There are no overnight successes, and no child prodigies. There are only people who work very hard for a very long time. The great thing about that is, if you work very hard for a very long time, eventually, you’ll be great! The reality is, every second that you aren’t working, there is someone out there who is. They’re who you need to catch. They’re the ones to beat, that invisible jerk who’s working ten times harder than you. Go on. Run faster.

5. Do exactly what you want to do.

Bash all schedules, don’t look at any lists. Today you get to do exactly what you want to do. I used to think that schedules were the key to my success, and I still try to adhere to some - write every day at the same time, etc. But schedules aren’t everything. You are governed by this big gray mass sloshing around in your head, and this other red sinewy muscle thumping along in your chest. You have to take care of both in order to be successful. Follow your bliss for a day and see where it takes you. It might be just the break through you need.

6. Forgiveness.

You will miss a day. That’s okay. Something in your brain is telling you you need a break, you need to think about this longer, you need to take a walk, see a friend, tackle some things on your never ending real-life list. You’ll get back at it tomorrow, and the next day and the day after that. Forgiving yourself for one slip-up will make you more likely to come back tomorrow.

I once heard this great quote about success in a couple’s vows at a wedding. I wish I could attribute it to someone but here it is anyway:

If you want to succeed at a thing, you must jump in the water, swim as fast as you can, and slowly increase the speed.

Good luck!