September 1, 2021

Blocked Motivation

Did you suddenly lose your will to do something you set off to do? Like writing your résumé, a job application or an essay? And the most important question: does it feel like you’re doing it because someone else told you to, even though it was your decision in the first place, and somehow that makes you uncomfortable and you just stop doing anything? Well, you’re not alone. I’ve been there myself and I’ve seen enough people crumble to the same thing that seems so silly. 

Let’s take a few minutes to think about this. We’ll take a little detour but it will make sense in the end. 

  1. What’s going on?

You know you need to do something, but your brain refuses to cooperate and drifts off and when you get your brain to focus, every second of it feels tiring and just not right. It’s not because you don’t want to do the work, but you don’t want to do it because it feels like you’re following orders, like it’s something you’re supposed to do. That part is important. It’s perfectly natural as well and makes total sense. I would go so far to say it is an essential reaction of our human nature. At least for our personality type, I assume ; )

  1. Operant/instrumental Conditioning

You probably heard of operant or sometimes called instrumental conditioning before. Without diving too much into detail, animals & humans learn or rather adapt their behaviour based on positive and negative reinforcements. You can teach a mouse or a dog to refrain from doing things and also teach them to do X action after Y trigger. However, that only works partly for humans. 

We need emotional and instinctive reactions to learn to not touch the hot stove twice, but to rise to the top of the animal kingdom, we needed Reasoning. In fact, Reasoning is our most important tool for survival. For example, to get food, we needed to learn to put seeds into the earth at the right time and nurture them the right way until a fruit grew out of it and process them in a way that makes them edible. So let’s acknowledge that Reasoning is one of the most important abilities we have and we need it for survival.

When we go back to our initial situation, we realize it makes sense to question what others are telling us and not just follow emotional triggers. And to protect our ability to reason, we need Autonomy. Besides, we’re probably the kinda people who learned to develop a strong sense of autonomy early on as children. It needs to feel like it was our decision and not anyone else deciding for us. There is also often some social pressure involved when it comes to writing job applications, which can feel scary. 

  1. Ways to work through it

In the end, most of the time the task is nothing we can just run away from, so what can we do? 

The best thing for me is to get some distance and just take some time for myself to just really reconnect with myself. Remember why I set off to do the thing in the first place and let myself and clear the confusion in my mind. Taking some time to basically meditate can help a lot sometimes. It’s a good thing to sit down sometimes and listen to what your brain has to tell you. 

Also, don’t worry about perfection! It’s easy to get stuck in a loop when you’re worrying about your work being perfect all the time. You’ll be forever unsatisfied, no matter what. Often “Alright” is already more than good enough, you gotta be proud of your work, even the small steps. 

If nothing helps you get out of this mental trap, remember, you’re really just a ball of Consciousness generating a reality and thoughts about it. See it as a good thing, because everyone else is also just a ball of thoughts, they got their own stuff to worry about, so let’s take some time to work on what we want to do… 


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