How To Deal With Lack of Motivation
A lack of motivation can seriously get in the way of academic life. From missed lectures to half-heartedly written papers that result in lower grades, feeling unmotivated can put a serious spanner in the works for students who enrolled in their courses with the best intentions. As tempting as it may be, following general advice on how to deal with a lack of motivation is never the best course of action.
Behind every lack of motivation is a root cause, be that anxiety around academic performance or depression leaving you feeling disinterested in everything from writing essays to socialising to sticking to your exercise routine. Once you get to the underlying issue behind your lack of motivation, you can start to take steps towards regaining your enthusiasm, energy and passion. Firstly, it is crucial to understand how demotivation manifests.
Why Students Start To Lose Motivation
For many, university life is the first taste of independence, which means that there is no longer the incentive to meet the expectations of parents or other authority figures. While you will be expected to play by some rules at university, the threat of being punished for underperformance isn’t as severe as it was while living at home.
Meeting your parents’ expectations isn’t a sustainable source of motivation while at university. In fact, no form of external motivation will ever stand the test of time. Every student needs to find an intrinsic source of motivation that comes from within.
Similarly, if you find that your motivation comes from people-pleasing motives, you will quickly find that your motivational tank runs empty eventually. People-pleasers often suffer from a lack of motivation. Even if you feel a boost from helping others, your well-being being a secondary priority is setting you up for a life of apathy and exhaustion.
Falling into the social media comparison trap is also a surefire way to ensure motivation is consumed. Following lifestyle influencers can seem like a great way to keep your motivation in check. However, scrolling through those artificial and curated posts can quickly gnaw away at the incentive to work to the best of your ability when you start to feel lazy and incapable of reaching those heavily fabricated ideals. Finding motivation through comparison can quickly lead to burnout.
How To Deal With Lack of Motivation
Firstly, it is important to understand that it is okay if the motivators you used to rely on aren’t as effective anymore. Everyone who experiences personal growth goes through this process eventually. It is a clear sign that it is time to put things in perspective and ask yourself a few questions so that you can get to the underlying cause of your demotivation.
Is Your Current Routine Leading to Burnout?
If you are burning the candle at both ends and leaving yourself with too little downtime, burnout and feelings of overwhelm are inevitable. While it may feel counterintuitive to take a breather and slow down when feeling a lack of motivation, it is always worth remembering you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Some of the most common symptoms of burnout include feeling constantly fatigued, defeated, detached and isolated. Students with burnout may also have a more cynical outlook, experience self-doubt, and be more prone to procrastination.
If your lack of motivation stems from burnout, identify your stressors and track your stress levels by journaling before considering reaching out for additional support or bolstering your self-care routine.
Is a Perfectionism Hindering Your Motivation?
Procrastination and perfectionism go hand in hand. For example, if you are trying to muster the enthusiasm and motivation to write an important essay, but you fear getting a low grade or making mistakes, you are far more likely to delay opening your laptop as a way to postpone the negative emotions that will manifest when you start writing.
Perfectionism often stems from the underlying belief of being incapable or insecure. To get around this, ask yourself whether setting smaller goals will help you to overcome those feelings of insecurity and not being good enough to carry out the task to a satisfactory standard. Remember, you can’t edit a blank page!
Other perfectionist procrastinators benefit from organising tasks to reduce the number of decisions that need to be made throughout any given day. For the best results, mentally finish your days before they start – ascertain what the most important task of the day is before going to sleep the previous night.
Is Self-Doubt Consuming Your Energy?
Many students suffer from imposter syndrome when they first arrive at university and see how confident every other student in their seminars, lectures and student halls seems on the surface. It is worth bearing in mind that some of the greatest and most creative minds in human history struggled with imposter syndrome.
Self-doubt often gets in the way of students feeling like completed tasks have been carried out correctly. The emotional turmoil that comes as a consequence can be of overwhelming detriment. If you can relate, that may be a sign that you need to work on your self-confidence and self-esteem. Confidence is even more important than intelligence when it comes to academic success; the good news is that no one is born with self-confidence, and everyone can fake it until they make it.
Using positive affirmations to garner self-confidence may feel disingenuous and uncomfortable at first. Yet, by taking control of that little voice in your head, you will also be able to control your thoughts, emotions, and actions. It is important that you use positive affirmations you believe; start with reminding yourself of your most positive attributes, characteristics and qualities; start from there, and you will be surprised how fast you see a difference in your perspective.
Is Depression the Underlying Cause of Your Demotivation?
The early stages of depression can manifest in many ways. However, a common tell-tale sign is a lack of motivation, along with tiredness, sleep issues, appetite changes, having a hard time concentrating, feeling worthless, and physical aches and pains.
The number of students experiencing depression increased significantly following the pandemic, and there was a further marked increase in light of the recent economic crisis. New research from the Mental Health Foundation highlighted in 2022 how food insecurity led to a quarter of students experiencing financial pressure and also showing signs of depression.
While self-help, including exercising, eating well, practising mindfulness, and getting enough sleep, can certainly help to put you in a better state of mind, it is also crucial that you know when to reach out for additional support from student welfare services, your support system and other health care professionals.
Is Anxiety Getting in the Way of Your Goals?
Anxiety can often masquerade as demotivation. For example, are you unmotivated to go out and socialise or head to a seminar that requires group participation? Or is it your anxiety instilling fear of those situations by forcing you to premeditate all the ways they can go wrong?
While it is important to respect your boundaries and say no when needs be, it is just as crucial to ensure you are not letting your anxiety get in the way of what you need and want to do. Avoidance will only exacerbate anxiety while facing your fears will give your mind positive feedback on the situations you have feared.
Online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which is available to access for free for all UWS students, is an effective way to challenge anxious thoughts and put yourself in a better frame of mind for everything that student life has to throw at you.
Is Your Frame of Mind Leaving Motivation Out of the Picture?
Whatever the cause of demotivation, one of the best ways how to deal with lack of motivation is to be completely honest with yourself – starting by addressing your frame of mind.
There is a major difference between being unmotivated and not wanting to act out of obligation. Of course, there are always aspects of daily life that aren’t as enjoyable as others.
Few people enjoy the prospect of doing the dishes or the laundry. Yet, these tasks are means to a desirable end. Knowing everything is taken care of can lead to a positive state of mind. To boost your motivation with more mundane tasks, add some spice to your to-do list by incorporating an activity that will make you feel rejuvenated once you have completed the menial and laborious tasks.
On the other hand, if something decreases your motivation and in no way serves you, don’t feel bad about saying no and pour your energy into what you are passionate about instead.
Always keep your goals in mind and be specific about them. This will enable you to give yourself clear directions on how you should go about your day. Remember, vague ideas will always disappear over time. For example, if you only tell yourself that you will be more productive and don’t outline the ways in which you will go about this new change, it is more than likely that you will slip back into your routine.