How to Stay Motivated When Things Get Tough

How to Stay Motivated When Things Get Tough

Have you ever been in that place where you have the best of intentions but just can’t seem to follow through?

You have goals. Big goals that you’ve been working hard to accomplish. But then something happens. Maybe you get sick. Or are asked to put in more hours at work. Schools suddenly close due to a deadly virus and now the education of your children rests squarely in your hands. And by the way, who ever thought that last one would be an actual thing? Definitely not me!

Whatever the cause, you suddenly find your goals pushed off to the wayside.

It’s in these moments that all the hard work we have put toward our goals can quickly be derailed. Our formerly helpful routines are upset and progress grinds to a halt. We suddenly find it difficult to stay motivated.

It happens to all of us at one time or another. The punches life throws seem greater than we can handle. We get knocked down. Thrown off course. Sidetracked.

Illusion vs. Reality

A series of unfortunate events has recently cascaded into my own life, throwing me into a place of emotional angst. Events both at work and at home have taken their toll and I’m just plain tired.

In these moments it’s so easy to let overwhelm take over. It’s tempting to give in to the negative self-talk fueled by anxiety, self-doubt, and fatigue. Giving up on your goals seems like the only reasonable option in an otherwise challenging situation. It even seems as if relief from the all-consuming pressure is waiting just on the other side of admitting defeat.

But is it really?

Or is the relief only an illusion? A figment of your imagination which only exists in the place where it’s created. Is it possible that the relief is only temporary and regret over giving up will soon replace the relief?

Granted, there are situations when we make a conscious decision to shift gears on our goals. Maybe we start down a path only to discover that it’s not the right one for us. Or maybe we don’t actually enjoy doing the thing as much as we thought we would.

Those are not the situations I am referring to.

The situations I’m talking about are the ones where we enjoy pursuing our goals and they fit nicely into our talent set. But life happens and we suddenly decide that everything else is more important and therefore worthy of our time. We lose motivation. Suddenly our goals are tossed aside and no longer prioritized. After a while, we stop actively pursuing them altogether, essentially giving up on our dreams.

Stay Motivated

Let me ask you this…

If the goal was important enough to pursue in the first place, wouldn’t accomplishing that goal feel infinitely better than any temporary relief from giving up?

But how can you get back on track when everything else gets in the way and your motivation is nowhere to be found?

It’s not easy. I’ve been in that place of defeat so many times. I’m a firm believer that the only failure in life is giving up and having given up repeatedly in the past has only served to make me wiser in the present.

If you too are interested in how to stay motivated when life gets tough, I’ve got you covered!

1. Take a Break

Life is busy and some seasons are busier than others. If you are feeling overwhelmed and are finding it difficult to stay motivated, then maybe it’s time to take a breather.

It’s simply not possible to excel at everything all the time. We are human and regularly need rest, even from our biggest goals.

As a type A perfectionist, I’ve had to learn these truths over and over and over again. For the longest time, I equated rest with failure. I felt that if I wasn’t firing on all cylinders all the time then I was failing.

But the truth is that rest can actually make you better. Rest makes you stronger and is a necessary part of growth.

Think about the last time you woke up in the morning after a great night of sleep. Remember that feeling of being able to take on anything? Now think back to a time when you woke after a terrible night of sleep. I’m not sure about you but on those mornings simply getting through the day seems a task of monumental proportions.

Rest and a clear head enable us to take on anything. Sometimes the inability to stay motivated is a clear sign that we are tired.

Taking a break can also help you to see your goal through new eyes. Stepping away can fuel your passion for the project and give you an opportunity to re-evaluate your goals without giving up entirely.

Make a plan for how long you plan to step away and how you will pick back up again when the rest period is over. Planning out your rest gives you accountability and a sense of purpose, essential components for continued productivity.

2. Stay Motivated By Getting Out of Your Head

Have you ever geared yourself up for something and then talked yourself out of it at the last minute? I can’t even count how many times I’ve self-sabotaged this way!

It goes something like this. Let’s say you’re trying to get back into exercising on a regular basis. Tomorrow is leg day and you plan to wake up early to hit the gym. Your alarm goes off at 5 a.m. as planned. But your bed suddenly feels amazingly comfortable and you have zero motivation to follow through in this moment. You begin looking for every excuse in the book to stay cozy instead of hitting the gym.

And so you tell yourself that rest is equally as important as exercise. You reset your alarm and snooze further and further from your fitness goals.

You’re self-sabotaging.

We do this to ourselves so many times and in so many different ways! In those moments when it’s tough to stay motivated we instead give up and give in. We stay in our heads instead of taking action towards our goals.

Going after a new goal requires effort. Goals often demand change and sacrifice. In most cases, you are setting up entirely new routines and in so doing, are going against those previously set.

Ultimately only you can decide whether accomplishing your goals is worth the sacrifice of change. But if the goal is important to you, accomplishment will likely outweigh the discomfort of change.

Make the goal and instead of thinking your way out of it, take action.

No one feels motivated to work hard 100% of the time. Action is what moves us closer to our goals and unfortunately, thinking often gets in the way of action. Stop feeding into the lie that you must feel motivated to take action.

Get out of your head and take the first step.

You may also enjoy reading this post about how to stop caring what everyone else thinks.

3. Add Some Fun

Is it possible that your inability to stay motivated could actually be related to a loss of fun?

Although accomplishing any goal requires a certain amount of hard work, no one said it had to be boring!

Sometimes we set goals around activities we enjoy. This is not necessarily a bad thing but when we focus more on the goal than enjoying the activity itself, we set ourselves up for burnout. (I’m talking to you, type A perfectionists!)

It can be all too easy to lose sight of why we started in the first place.

Instead of giving up entirely when your motivation lags, look for ways to add fun back into the equation. Focus on the specific activities which brighten your day and add meaning to your life. Do more of what you love and revel in the feeling it gives you!

4. Stay Motivated by Celebrating Your Wins

If you’re the type of person who simply checks a box and moves on to the next goal, it’s time to consider celebrating your wins. Failure to do so quickly adds up, eventually leading to an inability to stay motivated.

This is a definite area of struggle for me. I find myself tackling one goal after the next without so much as time to breathe in between. After a while, accomplishing goals begins to feel mundane instead of triumphant. Goal attainment can quickly become an obligation instead of a privilege.

Taking time to celebrate even the smallest of victories puts the joy back into what you do. It also gives you the opportunity to reflect back upon all the hard work and sacrifice which went into this amazing accomplishment.

Celebrating wins is a new concept but one I’ve started embracing in my own life. It can take time to get used to looking for wins but if you stick with it, the pay-off is huge!

Start incorporating this practice into your life by attaching a reward to a specific behavior. Going back to the exercise example from above, consider a small reward for yourself after completing a certain number of workouts. After hitting your goal, make sure you actually follow through with the promised reward. It’s not enough to simply tell yourself that you will celebrate … you have to actually celebrate!

5. Find Motivation Outside Yourself

If you are still unable to stay motivated after working through all of the above, it’s time to seek outside motivation.

This may come in the form of advice from a trusted friend or accountability partner. You may find motivation in your favorite TED talk. It may also come from your favorite “stop waiting for life to happen and make your own way” kick-in-the-pants podcast.

Wherever it comes from, there’s a ton of great motivation out there if you know where to look. Sometimes all it takes to get back on track is a quick blog post, a list of the most powerful motivational quotes, or a YouTube video.

The motivation is out there but it’s up to you to go out there and find it.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes to get you started!

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Walt Disney

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Mark Twain

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Nelson Mandela

“Well done is better than well said.”

Benjamin Franklin

“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.

Oprah Winfrey

You may also enjoy reading this post about living with intention.

Go Out There and Be Awesome!

The truth is that everyone loses motivation at one point or another. But there is one key difference between those who succeed and those who don’t.

That difference is persistence.

Successful people know that relying solely on motivation when going after goals will result in failure every time. In order to succeed, you must plan for those times when you simply don’t feel like doing the things you need to do to get where you want to go.

You have to be prepared to never give up because success could be hiding just around the next corner.

I truly hope you have found tips to help you stay motivated toward your goals even in the toughest of times! Look for every opportunity to add a little fun back into your life and to reward yourself for all that hard work!

And don’t forget to share this post if you found something useful or drop a comment below with your main take-aways.

Now get out there and be the awesome person you are!

You may also enjoy reading this post about conquering self-doubt.

5 Ways You Can Conquer Self-Doubt

5 Ways You Can Conquer Self-Doubt

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

Sylvia Plath

Self-doubt is sneaky. It swoops in, stealing your confidence, your productivity, and most of all, your self-esteem.

There are many ways in which self-doubt can show up in your life. You may have vague feelings that you aren’t good enough or that you can’t handle what life throws at you. Or you may have overwhelming feelings of defeat regardless of the goal you are seeking to accomplish.

Self-doubt shows up in my own life as a place of inactivity. It leaves me constantly questioning whether or not to move forward with new ideas and keeps me stuck where I’m at. This negative mindset tends to feed into my perfectionist tendencies and keeps me stuck in the procrastination zone.

I have allowed self-doubt to creep in so many times. Sometimes I wonder how much farther along I would be in certain areas of my life if only I had refused to let self-doubt take over.

But we can’t spend our lives looking in the rearview mirror. All we can do is learn from our mistakes and resolve to do better tomorrow.

There are many reasons why we struggle with self-doubt. We may be carrying false beliefs from childhood. Or maybe we have had failed experiences in the past causing us to lose confidence in ourselves. After all, we failed once. What’s stopping us from failing again?

Whatever the cause, self-doubt holds us back from our full potential.

After realizing just how much self-doubt was preventing my own growth, I devoted time and research into figuring out how to overcome it. Although there are still times when I give in, my awareness of its effects has increased. Self-doubt is therefore much easier to spot early on which means I can quickly deploy tactics to divert it in its tracks.

1. Conquer Self-Doubt Through Awareness

“Being self-aware is not the absence of mistakes, but the ability to learn and correct them.”

Daniel Chidiac

As with many things in life, awareness is the very first step. It’s tough to fix something if you’re completely unaware it’s an issue.

But how do you know whether self-doubt is what’s holding you back?

Your self talk often holds the answer to this question. During moments of fear, doubt, and overwhelm, do you find yourself thinking any of the following questions?

  • “I’m not good enough to do this.”
  • “I just can’t do it.”
  • “This is too hard.”
  • “I don’t know how to move forward and even if I did, I would probably fail.”
  • “I’ll never be able to accomplish that.”

If the above comments sound familiar, chances are good that you are struggling with self-doubt. Recognition is powerful. It’s the key to changing this negative mindset.

Because the truth is, you can accomplish things. Big things. Hard things. Seemingly impossible things.

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t … you’re right.”

Henry Ford

But first your mind has to be in the right place. And being frozen by self-doubt is decidedly NOT the right place.

Practice identifying the subtle negativity hidden in your own self talk. If you are feeling overwhelmed by self-doubt, stop and ask yourself whether you would say these things aloud to someone else.

Chances are good that you wouldn’t. And if you wouldn’t say them to someone else, don’t say them to yourself either.

Stop self-doubt in its tracks by putting a name to it and refusing to feed into the negativity.

Take a vow to stop getting in your own way!

You may also enjoy reading this post about achieving a positive mindset.

2. Get Back to the Basics

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”

Lucille Ball

Banishing self-doubt requires confidence in yourself. It requires confidence in your decisions, abilities, and in who you are as a person. And there’s no better way to start than by showing yourself some much-deserved love.

Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually is crucial. You can’t build a house without a solid foundation and basic self-care practices form the foundation of success.

Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep are all requirements for success. Without these pillars, it’s almost impossible to move forward.

Although there have been times in my life when I have struggled with all three, sleep deprivation has by far been the most personally troublesome. Whether the lack of sleep was related to new babies or stress, those were some of the most challenging times in my life. Sleep deprivation robbed me of my motivation and hung over my life like a haze.

I can still remember walking around like I was auditioning for the part of a zombie extra in The Walking Dead. Waking up utterly exhausted day after day actually caused me to wonder whether I had some type of sleep disorder.

It was during this time in my life that my self-doubt was at an all time high.

I questioned everything. Each and every seemingly insignificant decision became a matter of life or death. From second guessing dinner plans to what I had chosen to wear for work that morning, everything became a big deal. I was constantly doubting myself.

Although I was eventually able to get my sleep back on track, it was a long road to where I’m at now. The road back did start with sleep testing, a story you can find here. It continued with learning everything possible about how to better manage my sleep patterns.

Even today, I am fiercely protective of my sleep because I know what happens when I don’t get enough. And I never want to be in that place again.

Although sleep is my weakness, you may find that self-doubt creeps into your own life when your diet is off. Or when you stop exercising. You may even find that when you stop taking time to pursue meaningful activities, self-doubt sets up a stronghold.

Take some time today to make sure the basics are present in your life. And if they aren’t, what can you change to make things better?

3. Remember Past Success

“Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome.”

Unknown

Our mind plays so many tricks on us. If we listen to the negativity, we are suddenly convinced that we are the only ones in the world struggling. No one else could possibly be going what we’re going through.

And nothing we’ve done has been as difficult as whatever hurdle we’re facing. This is by far the toughest thing we’ve ever encountered. And there’s no way we can overcome it because nothing we’ve done has ever prepared us for this.

But is that actually true?

NO!

It’s a lie fabricated by your subconscious to protect you from the unknown. Our brains are wired to keep us safe. By sticking to what we know, we are lulled into a false sense of security.

But this is absolutely not the case!

It’s in these moments that we tend to forget all our truly amazing accomplishments! The things that you once thought were truly impossible but yet somehow attained.

Moments of self-doubt are the perfect time to recall all of those incredible feats. You have, in fact, done hard things. Very hard things. Even in those times when you did not do what you set out to, you learned. As long as you were able to take something away from the experience, consider it a win.

Write down the actions which have brought pride. Keeping track of your accomplishments and learning experiences will give you a bank to draw from when self-doubt tries to halt your progress.

You’ve done plenty of hard things in the past. And you’re definitely up for the challenge of tackling more in the future!

You may also enjoy reading this post about identifying your strengths.

4. Be You

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

E. E. Cummings

You are unique. There’s no one in this world quite like you. And the world needs your exclusive blend of personality, interests, and talents! The authentic you, imperfections and all.

No one needs some watered down version of who you truly are. We need the real you!

And guess what? You’ll never be anyone else so you might as well be the absolute best version of yourself!

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with self-doubt. I know it may seem off topic but it actually has everything to do with this negative mindset trap.

Just as self-doubt has a greater chance of sneaking in when you’re not paying attention to your health and wellness, so too does it creep in when you’re paying too much attention to other people.

Self-doubt often occurs in relation to other people. Situations in which we either compare ourselves to others or situations in which we are too absorbed in what others think of us.

Either situation quickly fans the flames of self-doubt, causing it to rage out of control.

The truth is that you are you. You can never be anyone else. Comparing yourself to anyone other than who you were in the past is a waste of precious time and energy.

People tend to show us their best sides. Their sunny sides. We typically don’t see the storms or secret battles they wage within. There’s no way of knowing just how much they’ve had to wade through to get where they are today.

So stop the comparison trap. You’ll be happier for it!

And stop worrying about what other people think. It’s impossible to simultaneously please everyone in your life. So please the person who actually matters and who you have full control over … you.

Be you!

5. Conquer Self-Doubt by Taking Action

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie

Self-doubt thrives in small, dark places. It looks for each and every tiny insecurity you have about yourself and grows it from a seedling of doubt into a gigantic, tangling jungle of negativity. After awhile, the jungle of self-doubt chokes out your confidence and so deeply entwines you in its tangles that it’s nearly impossible to overcome.

Self-doubt, if allowed to grow, keeps you stuck where you’re at. And stuck feels safe. Staying where we’re at is familiar. Our subconscious loves familiar because it knows exactly what to expect. There are no surprises. No possible hidden threats.

Except that one big, hairy gigantic threat. The threat of you believing the lies stemming from your own insecurities.

But how do you overcome the tangled jungle of self-doubt?

You take action.

It starts with the smallest possible step. Once you tackle the first step, move on to the second. And so on and so forth.

With each step, your confidence grows. Every step is an opportunity to chop away at that tangled mess just a little bit more.

But the longer you stay stuck in your head, endlessly pondering worst-case scenarios, the tougher it will be to take a step forward. Stop ruminating! Take action! Messy, imperfect, forward, and enthusiastic action.

You may enjoy reading this post about living with intention.

It’s Your Turn

Overcoming self-doubt is far from easy. It requires consistency and the desire to overcome a negative mindset which is holding you back from your full potential.

If you are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain on a consistent basis, it may be time to seek medical care. You may have an underlying condition contributing to your mindset and would benefit from accurate treatment. Getting help just might be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself!

And talk with someone you trust about what you’re going through. They may be able to give you insight into the mental blocks holding you back. Chances are, they can actually help you dispel some of that negativity and move you toward taking action.

I hope you have found a few helpful tips on your journey toward conquering self-doubt! Don’t forget to comment below about what you found useful and where self-doubt is showing up in your life.

Now get out there and take action today!