How to Get Things Done When You Lost Your Mojo

About right now, the drive to be your best can be hard to muster

“It is hard to stay motivated when we are not in the driver’s seat.”

This January, I was feeling good. I couldn’t wait to write new stories. Six months later, I am in a slump. Between Covid-19 variants, Western wildfires, droughts and inundations, I’m not fired up about starting anything.

Motivation is the energy that gets us to act, and I’m not the only one finding it hard to come by. Some of us might have full-on burnout after a year-plus of loss, grief and pandemic challenges. Others could feel more like I do:  nothing is terribly wrong, but we cannot quite find our spark. As you look for your motivation, it helps to think of it falling into two categories.

First, there’s “Controlled Motivation”, feeling you are being ruled by outside forces, inner carrots and sticks, like guilt or people-pleasing. It is hard to stay motivated when we are not in the driver’s seat.

The second kind, “Autonomous Motivation”, is what we are seeking. This is when we feel like we are self-directed, whether we have a natural affinity for the task at hand, or we are doing something because we understand why it is worthwhile.

Pairing small, immediate rewards to a task

Looking forward to a reward is not the best for long-term motivation. Pairing small, immediate rewards to a task improves both motivation and fun. I gave it a try. I took a deep dive into my values. When you connect the things that are important to you to the things you need to do, you feel more in control of your actions. I asked myself: What do I love about my work? Which of my core values does it meet?

Writing about your values is always a good start. I wrote a few words that resonated with my values. One that kept coming up for me was “Connection”. Social connections are critical to rekindling motivation: without social connections, motivation just starts to wither. People around us influence us more than we might like to believe. Harness that influence by seeking out a dose of competition when you need motivation.

Have Some Self-Compassion

Treating yourself with compassion always work much more effectively than beating yourself up. Self-compassion helps you stay focus on your goals, reduces fear of failure and improves your self-confidence.

Start by asking yourself what it is that you really need. Is it refocussing? Is it looking out for assistance and support? Sometimes, simply acknowledging we are going through a hard time, and that this is a normal part of life, is all it takes. Self-compassion does not mean we are going soft or losing our drive. The key thing about self-compassion and motivation is that it allows you to learn from your failures.

You Are Not The Only One

I have got plenty of failures to learn from so, I gave self-compassion a try. I asked myself: What is it that I need most? The first answer that came to my mind was: more exercise and more sleep. Then, I realized what I really needed to do was: to pay attention to the world surrounding me.

I looked around, only to realize that I was not alone trying and failing and trying again. I imagined people commuting to work, people pulling up their masks, people in hospitals and homes, people losing their businesses, their jobs and houses starting a new day, whether they felt like it or not.

And I did start writing again.


J. Michael Dennis is a freelance journalist and writer who covers trends, entrepreneurship, ingenuity, creativity and empowerment in a chaotic new world of rapid changing times. You can find him on Twitter at @jmdlive