Lack of motivation can arise from a number of external and internal factors. For one thing, burnout and languishing are real, and it’s important to consider the role of mental health may play in reduced motivation.
As far as external factors go, Dann notes there are “often good reasons for us not being motivated to do something,” and external pressures have a way of keeping us in a holding pattern. Those pressures can look like a number of things—from financial obligations, to busy schedules, to a stressful work environment.
But aside from the more obvious external factors that could be quelling your motivation, it’s important to pay attention to the internal components, as well. Because the truth is, according to Dann, we can make shifts in our external environments, but we also have to identify how we’re subconsciously holding ourselves back.
“Sometimes the things standing in the way of motivation are feelings, and usually those feelings are organized around fear, anxiety—you know, fear of exposure, or fear of being imperfect, or failing,” she explains. Whether it’s self-imposed productivity standards, shame, or fear, she says, “we can get to the emotional narrative or belief patterns that are part of what’s standing in the way of the motivation.”
And these patterns often run deep. According to psychology expert Margaret Paul, Ph.D., people tend to struggle with follow through because they’re trying to exert power over themselves with rigid rules and internal criticism. “You are trying to force control over yourself in a way that likely won’t be too productive. This may set off an internal power struggle between the authoritative part of you that wants control, and the part of you that resists being controlled,” she writes.