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Linda Samuels, CPO-CD®

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« How to Work the Motivation Pendulum to Your Advantage | What Are Today's Interesting Finds? - v19 »

10 Most Common Motivation Challenges & Easy Solutions

Motivation is a hot topic. We think a lot about what motivates us to take action and move towards our goals. We also spend a lot of time struggling with the things that de-motivate and prevent us from going forward. What gets in the way of your motivation? By taking a look from the “challenges” perspective, we can identify and remove those obstacles. As you read, make a note of the challenges that resonate with you. Are there additional motivation challenges that you’ve experienced? What helps? I’d love to learn about you. Please add to the conversation.


10 Common Motivation Challenges & Easy Solutions

1. Abundant Choices

When the options are too plentiful, it can overwhelm us to inaction. The thought of moving ahead becomes exhausting.

Tip: Narrow your choices to just two or three options. Pretend you have blinders on and ignore the external input. If you’re still stuck, ask a friend to be a sounding board.


2. Fear of Failure

Perfectionism or being afraid of incorrecty doing something can stop us from moving forward.

Tip: Being perfect isn’t possible. Striving to be our best is. Failing is an essential part of the journey. We learn by trial and error. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Test out this alternate perspective.


3. Fear of Success

Low self-esteem can compromise your view of success. You might doubt that success is possible and lack the motivation to attain it.

Tip: Look to the past. Acknowledge your small and large successes. Look at the present. Be aware of your current accomplishments. Practice noticing and appreciating your wins. Build from the past and present to reduce your fear and boost your confidence.


4. Lack of Clarity

When we don’t know which step is next or why we’re doing what we’re doing, we can quickly become de-motivated.

Tip: Take a step back. Set aside time to revisit your projects, goals and values. Perhaps there has been a shift in the parameters and it’s time to make adjustments.


5. Exhaustion

Sleep is essential for the optimal mind and body functioning. When we’re exhausted, it’s difficult to remain motivated.

Tip: Review your current sleep patterns and needs. If lack of sleep is contributing to your lack of motivation, make the necessary adjustments. Experiment with how much sleep you need to feel rested, alert and ready for the day.


6. Comparison

Focusing on how we do or don’t measure up compared to our colleagues, family, friends, neighbors or whoever only promotes unproductive thinking. This is a sure-fire formula for de-motivating ourselves. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It also can be the thief of motivation.

Tip: Forget about the “grass is greener” concept. It never is. Instead, practice gratitude. Focus on your gifts, successes, dreams, and desires. Build a life that is uniquely yours.


7. Excuses

We all make them. They are the negative messages we repeatedly tell ourselves, which prevent us from doing. We say things like, “I’d like to do ‘x,’ but I’m too tired or busy or not smart enough or…”

Tip: Set the internal alert. Become aware of the excuses that are not useful, real, or true. Begin challenging them when they appear. Reframe the dialogue to the positive.


8. Drudgery

Routines can be useful, but they can also become so tedious that we lack the motivation to maintain them. 

Tip: If you are feeling bored, find ways to add the fun factor back into the equation. Playing upbeat music, introducing pleasing colors, or bringing enervating scents into your environment could make a difference to your patterns? How about a change in the pace or sequence of the routine? Experiment with altering one element and see how that influences your motivation.


9. Patience

We expect so much of ourselves and want instant results. When things aren’t happening as fast as we think they should be, it can de-motivate us to continue.

Tip: Striving to achieve, become, and do takes time. Extend yourself the gift of patience. 


10. Distractions

When your attention is pulled in too many directions, we can lose focus and motivation for working on what’s most important.

Tip: Pay attention to the “distraction-makers.” Are you being interrupted by people, sounds, emails, and phone calls? How can you minimize the distractions during certain times of your day? Recently, I turned off all the dings and alerts on my electronic devices. The positive effects on my focus, productivity, and motivation have been noticeable.


We’re human. We experience times when our motivation wanes. That’s normal. Understanding which is your motivation challenge and implementing some of the suggested strategies will help get you back on track. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Come join the conversation. What de-motivates you? What gets you unstuck? 





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Reader Comments (20)

These are all so great and so true as to why we cannot move forward. I would love to share your post at some point during my six week challenge on my new group page if you are okay with that.

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKim

@Kim- I'm so glad you that you like the post and are interested in sharing it. I'd be honored to have you share it with your "challenge" group. I recently spoke with a clutter support group and shared this with them.

July 2, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I love the way you laid out this post, with specific tips for each of the potential challenges. Exhaustion is certainly one I run across a lot. Often, more sleep is desired but individuals have difficulty getting it, either because others in the family are interrupting them or because their bodies aren't cooperating. I hope we continue to learn more on this, as it is hard to do anything well when we are wiped out. The "too many choices" is so true!!! I have felt this many times, and if I feel the decision requires too much effort, I'm more apt to walk away. Narrowing choices is a simple way to break through this challenge.

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSeana Turner

@Seana- Ahhh. Those pesky sleep issues. I remember feeling sleep deprived for five years when our daughters were little. We had a revolving door thing going on with constant sleep interruptions. We managed, but I'm sure I wasn't at my best during those years. And of course, our physical and mental health can also greatly impact our sleep patterns. But there's no question that having a good amount of sleep (which varies for each person), matters... A LOT. Interesting too about the "too many choices," and how you tend to walk away without making a decision. I know you're not alone in this one. It's not always so simple to narrow the options, but talking them through with someone else can help sort through the muck.

July 2, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I love your point about routines in #8. I'm quite an upholder when it comes to my schedule and routines, but you're right when you say it can start to feel like you're just dredging along. This is a good nudge for me to try a few new things this summer so I don't feel stuck in my routine rut!

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Soboleski

@Sarah- I'm with you as far as loving routines. But even the best routines we can become complacent or bored with. Have fun jazzing things up this summer. If you feel like sharing, I'd love to hear about some of your experiments.

July 2, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

You've created an exhaustive list of what exhausts us too much to get motivated!

Even though my kids are 8 and 12, I'm still feeling exhausted (#5). That tired feeling is definitely not motivating! If one of them wakes me in the middle of the night with a bad dream, I know I probably will have to adjust my sleep schedule the next day and move a few items off my to-do list. I'm sure the day will someday come when I won't be so tired! Looking forward to that!

July 2, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterStacey Agin Murray

@Stacey- You're so smart to know yourself that well. When your sleep is interrupted, you make adjustments the next day to compensate. I can attest to the fact that the day WILL come when the kids are off living their lives and they no longer will be waking you up at night. I can't guarantee that other things won't keep you up, but it probably won't be the children. You will sleep again. In the meanwhile, glad to know that you're pacing yourself.

July 3, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I love this list and most probably all of these are part of what I hear as what is most difficult - just getting started. Working with a partner is a great solution for this. The partner arrives, you talk about your goals, and you get started. The motivation can be there or not, however it doesn't always translate into action. Your list is a great start for talking about obstacles in your work too!

July 5, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEllen Delap

@Ellen- You hit the nail on the head! Getting started is probably the pre-cursor to all motivation issues...and it's one that underlies almost all of these. You're so right that have a partner to talk about the goals and then dive right in to get started, is one of the best ways of doing a motivation workaround. As you said, it's especially helpful when the motivation to begin isn't there. That accountability/partnering piece works beautifully for external motivation.

July 5, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Thank you for this list, Linda! I love the way you laid it out with tips to battle these de-motivators. Fear is a huge de-motivator for some of my clients. I find it's not just fear of success but fear of the unexpected results from the outcome. What will happen once this has been achieved? I advise my clients to take note of all the small victories and to watch the ripple effect. Then to note how they feel about that.

July 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Quintana

@Diane- Fear can stop us in our tracks. All of those "what ifs?" Sometimes they can excite us and other times paralyze us. I love your advice about noting those small wins, their effect, and feelings about them.

July 9, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Linda, I love how your posts always make me think and reflect.
So many golden nuggets on this one as I navigate my professional motivations and help students explore their own.
Thank you!

July 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHelena Alkhas

When I need to get motivated, I give myself a pep talk (especially if I'm nervous about doing something new). And, I seek out other people who can help me see a new perspective or just simply get me moving forward. Also helps to find people who make me laugh. Laughter always puts me in a different frame of mind!

July 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDeb Lee

@Helena- What a lovely thing to say. Thank you so much. I hope you find something here to help as you use your professional expertise to help others.

July 10, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

@Deb- It's wonderful that you're able to be your own best cheerleader. I totally get that need for those internal pep talks, especially when nervous about exploring something new. We can so easily psyche ourselves out with negative self-talk. I also love your willingness to turn to others for an alternate perspective to boost action and motivation. Laughter is another great tool for so many things, including relaxing us enough to garner the motivation forward. Love all of your multi-faceted resources!

July 10, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

I've struggled with every one of these at one time or another. Sometimes I recognize that my lack of motivation stems from the fact that the activity just isn't interesting or important to me, so I'm trying to keep that in mind as I decide whether to say yes or no in the first place.

August 27, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJanet Barclay

@Janet- You've identified something that's so the activity you're "not motivated" to do actually worth pursuing. It's great to listen to that inner voice because it gives us some excellent clues. I identify with what you said. I also find that if I keep postponing something (which isn't typical for me,) it probably means that I can cross it off my list.

August 27, 2018 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

Great list of struggles and solutions to overcome them.

I find that if I get into a routine for too long a period of time, it’s hard to break out and make some changes. For me, meditation or early morning silence to listen to my inner voice shows me what I should modify. Then, when I determine a goal to do, I do research to decide how to go about doing that. This gives me ideas and inspires me to accomplish the goal.

July 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSabrina Quairoli

@Sabrina- Thanks so much. I understand what you mean about how challenging it can be to break a long-standing routine or set of habits. I love how you use your quiet or meditation time as your guide. That, along with your research, sounds like a creative and effective process for inspiration and action.

July 19, 2019 | Registered CommenterLinda Samuels

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