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(Normal!) Motivation Slumps: how successful people deal with them.

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

Do you suffer with motivation slumps?

My last article looked at how our thinking processes can sabotage our best attempts at change or peak performance: Why understanding your failures is crucial to success

This article follows on and shows how understanding patterns of motivation can keep us going and stop despair taking hold.

Understanding motivation

It’s worth looking at what often happens with motivation when people decide to exercise self-control and change a habit.

Initially, when all fired up, we’re in a honeymoon period, of feeling very motivated and largely achieving what we wanted.

Then at some point, reality kicks in, things start to feel difficult, we feel the conflict with how we would like to be versus our usual habits.

Depending on the person and the context, the timescale will vary. But at some point we will most likely fail.

And the higher the initial motivation, the worse this plummet will feel!

You’re now in a motivation slump.

Congratulations - you are NORMAL! We will all most likely experience this. Every psychological model of change (or recovery from addiction) talks about, and works around, inevitable lapses.

Changing habits is difficult and can take many hundreds of times of feeling like considerable effort before the new behaviour starts to feel more natural and less consuming of that valuable resource of self-control.

What you can do to get out of a motivation slump?

  1. Remind yourself that

  • NO-ONE has perfect motivation

  • Slips are NORMAL and EXPECTED

2. That all important day that you started is probably quite arbitrary and meaningless. (What's so great about 1st Jan? Why does diet every start on Monday?)

3. APPRECIATE THE GREY AREA between your initial reaction and reality (see previous post). It’s unlikely you’ve 100% failed on what you set out to do.

If you've messed up on 2 days out of 7 then that's a 71% success rate.

4. Take action – do some small thing connected to your goal. Action kick starts motivation; this will help get you back on track.

5. What you have here is a LEARNING OPPORTUNITY. Could you have done anything differently to avoid your lapse?

For example, do you need to reassess your goals – were they realistic for you at this point in time? Many people fail because they either set unrealistically high goals.

Did you try to change too many things at one? Would it be better to scale back initially?

First major slump = a chance to change your mindset

Many people give up at the first major slump, seeing this as a sign they’re destined for complete failure. But what you do at this point is crucial in your success.

If you can pick yourself up after the first major slump, then people generally settle into a pattern which is lower than the initial high and still has peaks and slips. But this is good enough to form new behaviours, without needing to be 100% perfect.

Progress not Perfection!

So it’s not that successful people don’t mess up, they just have a different attitude to slips, or partial failures, and then they get back on the horse.

And developing this attitude in work will act as a buffer against work-related stress and burnout, and aid you working in an optimal, calmer and more productive way.

Published by Dr Jill Williams, January 2023, Rethink Therapy (incl. Uptrained Brain program)

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