In general, we all know what we need to do to get what we want from life – take a course at night, spend more time with friends, or perhaps lose some weight. Why then, are people constantly complaining about not being able to do these things? If you’re a devotee of the saying “when there’s a will there’s a way,” the only possible conclusion in most cases is that it’s the will, or rather the motivation to take concrete action, that’s lacking.
We all want to strive for happiness, liberty, better health and success as defined in whatever terms, but this cannot translate into deeds if we’re unable to think of anything to do that will improve our situation. Sadly, this is a common symptom of clinical depression, which can harm somebody’s ability to live life joyfully in a number of ways.
However, if this is the problem, there is usually some little thing that will take a person in the right direction, even if only a little bit. As one U.S. admiral put it: “Always make your bed in the morning.” Although his military background has probably resulted in him being a fan of stretched sheets and sharp corners, what is meant is: if you can’t think of anything significant to do, do anything productive. This will help anyone realize that some parts of their world are indeed under their control, and help give them the confidence to try something more difficult. If your dream is to become independently wealthy, you won’t be able to make millions by wishing for it, but you can read a book on investing. If you want to become a rock star, a recording contract will initially be out of your reach, but guitar lessons won’t be. Even if you don’t manage to achieve your goal, at least you’ll end up knowing some cords and economic jargon.
With so much unscientific nonsense available on the internet, it’s no wonder that many people still don’t realize that their bodily health has a major effect on their state of mind, including their willpower. The brain requires things like oxygen and calories to function correctly just like any organ, lack of exercise and poor nutrition will tend to leave someone feeling lethargic. Low levels of motivation may be no more than a symptom of a diet of junk food, so a visit to a doctor or nutritionist may be all that’s needed to reverse the situation.
Fear of Change
Weird though it may seem, people can actually become emotionally attached to circumstances they do not actually like. Sometimes these kinds of thoughts are expressed in demotivational cliches like “you have to be a psychopath to climb the corporate ladder,” or “the nice guys never get the girl.” Both of these are demonstrably false, but this does not stop people from using them as weak excuses for not leaving the devil they know behind.
This is only one way in which we allow our own thoughts to subvert our happiness. One way of addressing this is a course of cognitive behavioral therapy, which is basically training on how to think about thinking, and discarding unhealthy, counterproductive mental habits. This is also something that a person can do by themselves, perhaps starting to evaluate their beliefs on the sacrifice some achievement will demand compared to the benefits it will yield.
Few people enjoy spending time around people who are too full of themselves, but such people tend to have high levels of motivation (or alternatively, they simply turn to bragging to hide a lack of real achievement). Many people are afraid of disappointing the expectations of others or have experienced failure too frequently to believe that success is within their abilities.
If someone feels that they are somehow not deserving of happiness, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy regardless of the basis for such belief. While feelings of low self-worth are complex issues that can have several causes, one approach that can overcome it is to focus on activities that you enjoy, rather than those that “should” interest you.
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A lack of motivation at school, work or any other setting is rarely the result of simply being lazy. The human mind is a complex thing that isn’t described well by simple labels. Should someone believe that their level of motivation is not all it could be, talking to a professional will often reveal the real causes, which will often be very different from what a person suspects.