How to Motivate Yourself When You Can’t Be Arsed

A man lifting a barbell with weights. Read these tips on how to motivate yourself.

You sign up for a gym session and sack it off. You do a healthy food shop and order a takeaway because you don’t want to cook. Why are you doing these things and how can you motivate yourself when you can’t be bothered? 

“My motivation has gone out of the window” and “I can’t get motivated lately” are statements we commonly use in everyday life. But more often than not, motivation isn’t the issue. The real reason we can’t bring ourselves to do things is because of underlying problems holding us back. 

If you’re struggling to stay on track, here’s how to get motivated and sustain that motivation. 

1. Ask yourself what’s holding you back

When we procrastinate, we tend to call ourselves lazy. Procrastination isn’t the same as laziness. Procrastination means there’s underlying fear, anxiety or discomfort around the task you’re putting off. 

Think about the dreaded task and why it bugs you so much. Is it a presentation at work, a uni project or the thought of booking an appointment?  Maybe it’s because you’re afraid of embarrassment or failure. Maybe it’s because you’re not fulfilled by your job. If you don’t pinpoint the problem, you’ll keep churning out the same excuses. 

2. Set concrete coals that challenge you

If you’ve set a vague goal that isn’t time-specific (or haven’t set any goals at all), you’ll struggle to motivate yourself. When you don’t care if you succeed or not, it’s because you haven’t established what you want to achieve.

We all need something to work towards. Your goals need to challenge you enough to inspire you. If you’re not motivated at the minute, maybe you haven’t set a big enough goal that pushes you. Setting SMART goals is something I work on with clients in life coaching sessions because they help create goals that are tangible, realistic and enable you to stay on track. 

3. Motivate yourself with love

Instead of telling yourself “If I don’t lose a stone in 6 months, I’m a failure,” use rewards to motivate yourself. For example, if you stick to your training and nutrition programme for a month, give yourself a treat at the end.

Trying to build muscle or lose weight? Treat yourself to some new gym clothes when you hit a milestone. Cutting down on booze? Save the money you’d have spent on alcohol and put it towards the holiday you’ve been dreaming of. Adopting a positive mindset helps you feel more optimistic about your goals instead of constantly self-sabotaging and punishing yourself for failing. 

4. Make 1% changes

How often do you dread something only to wonder what you were so worried about? If you keep putting tasks off, just spend a short amount of time on them to begin with.

Take 10 minutes to skim through the emails you need to reply to. Work on that presentation or essay for 15 minutes. Do a 20-minute workout at home or go for a short walk. Instead of avoiding the 20 tasks on your to-do list, start with the 3 most important ones. When you take baby steps and make 1% changes frequently, you’ll realise none of these things were as bad as you thought.

5. Buddy up 

Accountability is a great motivator. When you team up with someone to help you stay on track with your goals, you’re both less likely to fall off the wagon. So if you’re struggling to get to the gym, ask a friend to go with you or work with a personal trainer. If you’re trying to quit smoking or drinking, ask your partner or a friend if they’ll do it too. Start holding each other accountable to stay motivated. 

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