My Struggle with Motivation and how I learned to get things done anyway.

I have depression and as such motivation is not something that shows up abundantly in my life. I do not have amazing willpower and very often I lack self-control when it comes to doing what needs to be done. Procrastination is the name of the game.

The irony is that I work as a life coach. One would think that life coaches are all about motivating people and getting people up and moving. I see my work very differently. I understand the challenges that people living with depression face. Not everyone has the same levels of motivation and that is okay. Anyone can still have the opportunity to live a life of joy, one just needs to figure out what really matters and what tools you need to use to get yourself to choose the joyous experience.

I have recently been asked to give a talk to a group of salespeople specifically to try to motivate them in our declining economy and encourage them to remain motivated and get out there and sell.

I declined, as much as I could do with the money, how could I try to motivate people, when I personally was not driven by high levels of motivation. I was honest with the sales director who approached me and I explained to him that I whilst I could deliver a powerful motivational talk for his team, (after all when one does public speaking you learn to get your message across) I would not be speaking from a place of integrity. I offered to do the work, and drive the same key results, but I would use my own techniques and tools. We landed the project. Job done, my integrity intact.

You might be wondering what exactly is this motivation that everyone likes talking about.

Basically, motivation is the desire a person has to do something. Motivation shows up on a scale from completely unmotivated to do something to the opposite extreme where you would move heaven and earth to fulfill that burning desire within you. When that desire is strong we say that one is highly motivated. But, when you are not motivated then you will find any excuse not to do what is required, or to avoid the task at hand.

For me, my lack of motivation shows up in many ways. For instance, sleeping in; skipping exercise, delaying replying to that email, not doing the dishes on the weekend.

In his book, The Art of War, Steven Pressfield writes: “At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.” We have all experienced this. When that little voice finally gets you going and moving because you just can’t avoid it anymore. That deadline which is now so close that you just have to do something even though it is too late because you do not want to face the consequences of not doing it at all.

Motivation can be both internal and external.

External motivation would be pursuing things like the fancy car, the expensive watch or the summer body. You are motivated to achieve a result.

Internal, or intrinsic motivation, is a little different. Here we become motivated by the act of doing something more than the end result of the of the task. For example, I love paddling my sea-kayak, I enjoy being on the water. I am not driven by trying to get fit or lose weight, I enjoy the actual process more than the results or benefits that are a product of paddling.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I personally struggle with motivation, particularly around routine work or routine tasks. As such I have developed some useful tools to enable me to be productive and get things done, regardless of my low levels of motivation.

Number 1

I have a very clear and defined outcome that I work towards.

If something is not moving me closer towards my desired outcome, then I either outsource it or get rid of it completely.

This stops me from distracting myself by doing trivial, non-productive tasks. Every day we spend a lot of time fiddling around with things that actually do not demand our attention. Stop that.

This ensures that I am focussed on completing the task at hand and allows me to use any extra time to do as I please once the “work” is done.

Number 2

I act irrespective of how I feel. As Nike says: “Just Do It.”

Mel Robbins has a brilliant Ted Talk on her system that she discovered. 5–4–3–2–1 go. That is it.

You are able to act regardless of how you feel. We do this all the time anyway. We eventually get out of bed in the morning, we do end up replying to those emails, we do eventually get the job done.

You do not have to wait until you feel like doing something before you do it. If that was the case, most of the things that you do during the day would probably never get done. Who really enjoys taking out the garbage, or sitting in traffic?

To overcome this wonderful procrastination technique (not feeling like doing it) we have created routines in our house. My wife, Tania, plans everything that has to be done in her day, in her daily planner. Yes, even our morning coffee together is in the planner with set time allocated to it. I do things a little differently. I have a set routine that takes me from one task to the next. So I start with our morning coffee, then go straight into my daily meditation, followed by getting dressed and so on right until bedtime. Two different solutions that both have extremely positive and beneficial results in our lives. Tania is phenomenal at planning and documenting, I find creating a diary entry hard work. We both play to our strengths.

Number 3

Partner Up or Pull in a Team.

If you struggling to get fit, find a training partner to train with. Then commit to showing up and doing the work. It becomes easier when someone else is going through the same pain, in fact, you might find that you actually start to enjoy it.

Can’t get through all those emails? Find someone in the office who is in a similar position and partner up with them. Set aside an hour and only work on those emails. After an hour go across to their desk and check in with them to see how they have done.

The key is to find someone who will be your accountability partner. For me, Tania is my accountability partner. Every morning when we have our coffee we check in with each other and discuss our plans for the day listing out the big things that we will achieve during the course of the day. At the end of the day, we then check in again and see how we each did.

The trick here is not to feel forced into anything or to be bullied into getting things done. Rather we create the space that allows us to own the accountability of that which was done or not done. You will be pleasantly surprised at how much you actually get done when you commit to doing it.

These three tools have made a big impact on my life.

Before my breakdown life was not much fun.

Now, almost a year later, I am experiencing a breakthrough. I am redesigning the way I approach life and the way I do things.

If I find myself doing something that is not enjoyable then I take a good look at why I am doing it. Is this task moving me closer to my definite chief aim? Will this task make me feel better about myself or more fulfilled with my life? Is this task really important and something that must be done?

These three simple tools have helped me crush procrastination despite having really low levels of motivation.

You see, I have decided that this life is worth living, in fact, it is worth loving, so I am now doing things that give my life meaning.

I choose to be disciplined because I have low motivation. I am disciplined about doing the things that I ENJOY doing as well as being disciplined towards doing the things that bring me closer to my ideal life and goals.

Most importantly for me is to have fun. I have walked a journey of my own design and I did not enjoy large parts of it. This time though I have a renewed focus. I have learned to be gentle with myself. I still make mistakes, I still find myself procrastinating, and sometimes I catch myself being lazy or distracted. When this happens I simply become aware of this and check to see what the trigger was that set me on this path, I choose to get back on track and I forgive myself. I note what the trigger was and in doing so I know that I might spot it earlier next time and maybe I may even be prepared when it shows up.

The greatest joy for me along this journey has been sharing my story with my clients and helping them achieve the same joy and momentum in their lives. When I see my clients shift into a deeper awareness of themselves and getting their feedback on the amazing benefits they manifesting in their own lives, I become even more disciplined and committed to becoming the best version of myself.

Who knows, the act of sharing this with others and coaching them along their own journey might just be the very thing that ends up motivating me.


About Dylan Murray

just an ordinary chap on a mission to enjoy life, and live to my full potential. I am a father of three and a friend to many. I live and work in a little piece of paradise we like to call The Kowie. I have a keen sense of adventure and I enjoy the outdoors. I share my life and adventures with Tania, who is my Soul Mate, Lover, Companion and fellow Adventurer. Together we are creating our legacy and loving this journey called life.
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4 Responses to My Struggle with Motivation and how I learned to get things done anyway.

  1. I love this! I also struggle with motivation. When people think depression they often think of severe cases like crying, self-harm, and more, but they forget that depression also comes in lack of motivation, lack of a certain willingness to live life in an active manner. I love that you shared your own struggles with this!
    I especially LOVE this quote you shared, ““At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.” And I definitely have been trying to incorporate “JUST DO IT” into my life. Thinking about starting doesn’t help. You can’t wait for momentum without starting. Starting is the momentum. I should repeat this as a daily mantra to myself.


  2. Amanda Cade says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your advice and your story. It’s inspiring to read how you’re moving forward and reaching out to support others in their personal journeys. Great post!


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