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Picture this: Oprah waking up in the morning and thinking to herself, “nah, I don’t feel like doing anything today.”
Or Walt Disney thinking that storytelling is just too much work.
Well, at some point, all of these things have probably happened. The truth is, everyone goes through periods where they have no motivation to do anything. In fact, sometimes we can become so unmotivated that we don’t even want to put forth the energy to make a change.
However, getting yourself out of your rut doesn’t have to be a huge project. I can recall several times in my life where I finished a day and thought to myself, “So, this is it? This is what ‘happily ever after’ is supposed to look like?”
This is usually during times when everything has become so monotonous that my life’s trajectory seems pretty bleak.
When this has happened to me in the past, I made a few small changes–nothing drastic–and I would regain inspiration and a sense of purpose.
That's why in this article, I will reveal 21 ways to get out of your rut if you're experiencing a lack of motivation.
But first, let me answer an important question that will help you make sure you're getting the right information for your personal situation.
What You Will Learn
- What if My Rut is Actually Depression?
- RELATED: 12 Good Morning Routine Habits
- 21 Ways to Overcome Lack of Motivation
- 1. Stop putting words to negative thoughts.
- 2. Create one goal.
- 3. Change your routine.
- 4. Spend some time outside.
- 5. Get some exercise.
- 6. Meet up with your friends.
- 7. Get offline.
- 8. Create a vision board.
- 9. Commit to something.
- 10. Help someone else.
- 11. Read an inspiring autobiography.
- 12. Embrace one new healthy habit that can improve your life.
- 13. Find something to look forward to.
- 14. Surround yourself with positive people.
- 15. Start a conversation with a stranger.
- 16. Don’t ignore the small pleasures in your life.
- 17. Take baby steps.
- 18. Use positive reinforcement.
- 19. Regain control.
- 20. Align yourself with your values.
- 21. Write down your goals every day.
- Final Thoughts on Getting Out of a Rut
What if My Rut is Actually Depression?
The feeling of being in a rut can go unnoticed for a while before you realize that you’ve been stuck on autopilot for several months. If this is the case, or if you have been aware of your negative state for quite some time and haven’t taken any action to change, it could be a sign of depression, which is very different from being in a motivational slump.
If you have lost hope or feel like there is no point in living anymore, the help that you need is beyond the scope of this article. Rather, it’s best to talk to a trained mental health professional. There are many resources such as SAMHSA and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that are available to help you if you feel completely lost.
However, if you have no motivation to do anything right now, but you believe it’s a temporary issue and you just need to shake things up a bit, then we are here to help.
Hopefully, you already know that you won't find the inspiration you’re seeking in that extra drink at night, or a new relationship to help fill a void. You also won’t find meaning in your life if you ignore your feelings.
Being in a rut is your brain’s acknowledgment of stagnation. And, to be honest, it is actually a good sign that you know you’re in a rut. This self-awareness means that you have high standards for your life that aren’t being met, and you want to get the most out of your time on earth. And, it means that you know you're ready to make a change.
RELATED: 12 Good Morning Routine Habits
Want to build a success-focused morning routine? Well, watch this video to learn about the 12 morning routine habits of the world's most successful people.
21 Ways to Overcome Lack of Motivation
So let’s look at the 21 techniques whenever you're feeling a lack of motivation and want to get out of your rut…
1. Stop putting words to negative thoughts.
It’s easy to say how boring your job is or how there’s never anything exciting going on during the weekends. But saying these negative things puts them out into the universe and they can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For example, imagine it’s Sunday night and you’re thinking about the week ahead and you say, “Ugh, this week is going to be so boring” or “This week is going to suck”. Once you say those things out loud and hear yourself speak those words, you’ve now verbally declared that your week is going to go a certain way and you will probably be exactly right. The issue with declaring a negative thought is that once you say it, something in your brain clicks, and you believe whatever it is that you said.
Instead, be aware of this passing thought and replace it with something positive. Then, say it out loud so you believe it. For example, “This week is going to be great because I am going to be productive at work and feel a sense of accomplishment.”
2. Create one goal.
When I’ve been in ruts in the past, I’ve learned that sometimes it is because I have too many things going on and I’m overwhelmed. I’m trying to squeeze too much into each day and it completely deteriorates my spirit and motivation. If you try to take on too much, you can’t maintain the energy and focus that you need to get anything actually accomplished.
Choose just one goal to give your full focus to. Sure, this can be hard. But when you take on too much, you certainly won’t get anything done well. Plan to address your other goals once you’ve accomplished your first one.
3. Change your routine.
We are very much creatures of habit, and this repetition can get boring. To break up the monotony, find ways to add in new experiences to your day.
For example, if someone invites you to do something—say yes, no matter what it is. Or sign up for a class in something that has always interested you, or simply strike up a conversation with a stranger who looks like they could be interesting.
Communicating with the same people day in and day out, eating the same foods, taking the same commute–this sense of predictability in your life can be damaging to your inspiration. You need to have some new experiences to find more meaning in your life.
4. Spend some time outside.
Studies have found that people who spend time in natural environments have a decreased likelihood of developing depression and other mental illnesses than those who tend to stay locked up inside. Going for walks outside can also help reduce stress, increase your mental wellness, and improve creativity.
Research that was performed in Finland found that people should aim to spend five hours per month out in nature to maintain their mental well-being. For those who are in a rut or who are experiencing depression, trying to get outside every day is recommended. Additionally, the simple act of changing your physical space when you have no motivation to do anything can be inspiring. You can change your state of mind simply by forcing yourself to get up and out of your current surroundings.
5. Get some exercise.
While you’re outside, get some exercise. Or if the weather is not permitting, head over to the gym. Moving your body–especially by doing aerobic exercise–can reduce symptoms of depression and help you escape your rut. In fact, not only is exercise equally as effective as prescription anti-depressants for most people, performing 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise five times per week can be an effective tool for countering more severe periods of depression.
6. Meet up with your friends.
Now, this does not mean text your friend or send your friend a message over social media. Human interaction is one of the best things you can do to overcome your rut, even if socializing feels like the last thing you want to do.
It is important to feel socially connected in our progressively isolating society. Your friendships can help you feel a deeper sense of belonging and a greater sense of purpose. These bonds can also make you feel happier, less stressed, and more confident as you realize your self-worth through your close relationships.
7. Get offline.
Even if this is just for a day or two, take a break from the (often negative) internet. Whether you are used to seeing other people’s lives portrayed on social media and it makes you feel inferior or you spend too much time reading the news–which is often depressing–try to focus on yourself instead. Whenever you do return to the online world, be more deliberate about the things that you read.
8. Create a vision board.
Looking toward the future, think about the things you want, what you need, your values, and how you want to feel when you achieve a life that incorporates all of those things in it. All of these things together will create your intention in life, and your vision board will be a visual representation of that.
Get creative with colorful paper, pens, and cutouts from magazines to put your board together. Not only will this help you be innovative in decorating something that is personal to you, it will also help you find inspiration and meaning in your life as you envision what you want for your future.
9. Commit to something.
What is one thing that you always say you will do but never follow through? Maybe signing up for yoga? Training for a marathon? Or something as simple as visiting a friend or family member for a weekend who lives out of town? Make “one day” happen today. This will help to easily switch up your routine because it is obviously something you haven’t done in a while (or ever).
10. Help someone else.
Whether this is by volunteering your time to a local organization or simply offering your forgiveness to someone who has wronged you, being selfless and giving just because you want to lets you to let go of expectations. If you’re lacking motivation because you don’t feel like you’re getting much out of your life or your career, doing something without expecting to get anything in return can be eye-opening.
Research has found that while having strong friendships leads to happiness in life, giving to other people leads to a life of purpose. Whether you spend one evening a week serving dinner in a soup kitchen, or you offer to drive an elderly family friend to the grocery store each week, giving your time and energy to others can help you feel like your life has more meaning.
(If you want to learn how to motivate those around you, here's our article on the ways to motivate others.)
11. Read an inspiring autobiography.
Many autobiographies tell stories of successful people who endured great struggles. Reading about someone else who was able to overcome adversity may inspire you to get out of your rut.
12. Embrace one new healthy habit that can improve your life.
You can start small. So today, go on a ten-minute walk before work. Or switch your lunch from a frozen meal to a fresh salad. Just make one healthy change.
13. Find something to look forward to.
When there is something on the horizon that you’re looking forward to doing, it can give you a better sense of purpose during the day and allow you to have a goal to work toward. Even just having plans for the upcoming weekend can brighten your spirits.
Having something to look forward to can help you cope with the troubles that you’re facing now. When you’re anticipating a reward in the future, you can have better self-control and a stronger sense of willpower.
In one study that used chronic gamblers as subjects, the participants were asked to imagine an upcoming event–such as a vacation that’s on the horizon. By thinking about something that they were excited about, they were able to reduce their inclination to gamble.
Instead of focusing on their immediate gratification, they were able to think about their long-term goals. This means that you, too, can take your mind off of your present circumstances and look toward the future.
14. Surround yourself with positive people.
Think about the people that you choose to spend your time with–so not your co-workers or close family members. Are they making a positive change to the world? Or do they feel passionate about the work that they do? That attitude is contagious, so make sure you’re surrounding yourself with inspiring people.
15. Start a conversation with a stranger.
Sure, it may feel awkward at first, but if you can strike up a conversation with a stranger, it can introduce you to new activities or career opportunities that you would otherwise never know existed.
You may even learn about new things you can do or places nearby to explore. And you never know, these new things could be the missing link to help you discover your purpose.
16. Don’t ignore the small pleasures in your life.
Yes, when you have no motivation to do anything, you may view your tasks and commute and routine at home to be extremely bland. But what about those moments in the week that you feel just a bit of happiness? Maybe it’s on Thursday nights when your favorite TV show comes on, or every other Friday when you meet your best friend for lunch at your favorite place. Focus on the highlights that are still in your life.
17. Take baby steps.
Identify something that interests you but you feel like it’s a bit outside of your current skill level. Start small with a step that you know you can accomplish without waiting around for the motivation to hit you. Force yourself to start a new hobby by signing up for that kickboxing class or gathering the materials to learn a new language.
Once you have found a new skill and mastered it, you will feel occupied with it and you’ll likely be interested to learn more about it. This will boost your sense of intrinsic motivation and help you enjoy the process of what you’re doing. Also, the more competent you feel in whatever you’re doing, and the more you’re able to learn about it, the more motivation you will have to keep doing it.
18. Use positive reinforcement.
It’s ok to bribe yourself to get started if you have to. Just give yourself small rewards for making a little bit of progress here and there. Of course, this is not something you can do with every step forward that you take, but once you start to gain momentum, you can promise yourself a bigger reward for the future.
19. Regain control.
Consider the areas in your life in which you have little to no control. For many people, this will be their work. While you may have chosen your career, once you’re in it, you likely have to follow the lead of your boss and do the projects that are assigned to you.
When you feel like you have no control over your life and the work you are doing is truly someone else’s vision or goal, then it’s no wonder that you have no motivation to do anything–you’re not doing anything your way or on your terms.
If this is the case, find a way to make those areas of your life more personal to you. Change the project you are doing in some way to make it feel like it was your choice, or put your own personal touches on it so you feel more in charge of its outcome.
20. Align yourself with your values.
Think back to high school. What was your favorite subject? Did you like the analytical functions in math or did you prefer to study literature and the English language?
Now come back to the present day. How does your occupation align with those original values? Are you working in accounting when what you really want to be doing is roaming the halls of the library?
If your goals or projects do not line up with your core values, you aren’t going to find the motivation that you need to be successful. In this case, you either need to find a way to relate your projects to your key values or you need to consider restructuring your everyday routine to be more in line with those core values.
21. Write down your goals every day.
Not only should you write them down, but refer to the list at least once a day. You need to remind yourself of why you get up and do what you do each day and what you’re ultimately working towards.
If that final goal is far away, it can be easy to lose motivation along the way. However, if you keep reminding yourself of your goal, you won’t lose sight of it and you will stay optimistic about getting up and getting moving every day.
Final Thoughts on Getting Out of a Rut
Without a doubt, it is frustrating to feel like you’re in a rut. But doing things to change up your routine or adding new challenges to your life can give you inspiration and a sense of purpose.
Take a few of these ideas and put them to use and see what types of changes occur in your life. I bet you will start to feel better as you explore new things and start your way down a new path.
However, remember that there’s a difference between temporary feelings of depression and feeling completely consumed with hopelessness. If these ideas for getting out of your rut don’t seem like they could be helpful at all, reach out to a mental health professional.
Finally, if you want to level up your productivity and time management skills, then watch this free video about the 9 productivity habits you can build at work.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.