How to Stay Motivated When Things Get Tough

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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.

38 thoughts on “How to Stay Motivated When Things Get Tough

  1. I love this! thanks a lot for sharing. I totally agree that sometimes you just have to get out of your head! Stop “feeling” and just start “doing”. On the other hand, breaks are SO important (especially for Type A people!). Great post!

    1. You definintely need to start! That one is always tricky for me as well. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Great post!
    Love the quotes!
    I am definitely someone who makes big goals and dreams big, even about little things. But once the tasks get piled too high or it starts to get overwhelming I quit or heavily procrastinate. Really trying to work on that. Great tips!

    1. Breaking down those barriers to finishing goals definitely takes time. I tend to procrastinate as well when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Awareness is always a great first step though! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you so much – I’m glad you found it helpful! And thanks for dropping a comment! πŸ™‚

  3. Getting out of your head is great advice – sometimes that can be the biggest demotivator, halting you in your tracks.

  4. Celebrating wins is so important! I tend to be an overachieving perfectionist, so it’s always on to the next thing, great but how can I make this better, etc. I’m learning to pause long enough to express gratitude and squeal over even little wins before diving back in to the grind. Thanks for this post! πŸ˜‰

    1. Awesome – good for you! It’s a tough thing for overachieving perfectionists to do but so important! Thanks so much for stopping by! πŸ™‚

  5. Thanks for sharing these tips. Staying motivated is so important, yet can be so hard sometimes. It helps to get some perspective on things and look at the bigger picture.

  6. I lost motivation these past few weeks. Even for the thing I usually love. Your arricle is really empowering and will help me get back on track. Thank you.

    1. I’m so glad you found it helpful! Good luck on the path toward your goals! πŸ™‚

  7. Very applicable ideas! I needed this to keep motivated to keep a hess as Lehi lifestyle and fitness regiment. It’s hard now during the pandemic.

    1. I agree that the pandemic has thrown a wrench in so many of our plans. I’m so glad you found the post helpful and good luck with all your goals!

  8. I completely agree. When you are in your head it stops you from staying motivated because you are fixated on everything that could and has happened and are unable to get out of that pattern of thinking. But learning to have fun even in tough times is definitely important.

    1. Absolutely! As an introvert, I tend to spend a lot of time in my head but learning to open up and have fun has helped me tremendously! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment! πŸ™‚

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