A Complete Guide: Finding Motivation On The Tough Days

Sometimes we just wake up on the good side of the bed. Sometimes our goals feel so achievable, and our ambitions are so encouraging.

However, as we all know, this is not the case for every day…

The struggle:

Sometimes we wake up, and we just want to crawl back into hibernation, hiding away from all of our tasks and responsibilities. There will be days when we just don’t want to get stuff done. We might get down on ourselves, and feel ashamed for not being as productive as usual, or we may feel guilty for not doing anything at all. We can feel so overwhelmed at these times!

But on days like these, when we feel stressed and a bit hopeless, we should try shifting our perspective! Rather than comparing yourself to how much you’ve been getting done lately, you should just be proud of how far you’ve already come. You don’t need to work your hardest; you don’t need to climb a whole mountain, just start with the tiniest baby steps.

For example, I am a classical musician; when I look at a daunting piece of music- my eyes pop out of my head- and then I take a deep breath and start figuring out ways to break it down, and make the task seem reasonable.

Break it down:

Whether you’re a health and fitness junky, an Ivy League scholar, an artist, or just trying to be a better person, the key to achieving your goals is to break it down. If you confront a very small portion of your task, and feel like you can do that small amount fairly comfortably, then you can kick it up a notch! Or, if you still feel overwhelmed, then break it up even smaller. Go as small as you need to– as basic as possible, if that’s what it takes– to chip away at your big goal.

On these days when we just don’t want to do anything, it’s most likely because we’re standing at the bottom of a really steep hill and we’re looking at the top.


Organize yourself:

Just take a minute to prioritize what needs to be done today, and just save the rest for another day, when you’ll be feeling more up to it. When you’re done doing the very minimum, just look at the other stuff you have to do. Don’t do it, just look over it, skim through it, make sure you have a clear sense of what you’ll eventually be doing, and you’ll most likely realize that it isn’t that much stuff to do. If you do feel like it’s a lot, just look for ways to break it down in your head. Always try to deflate your mental idea of the size of the task.

As a musician, I have this issue when it comes to performances. You know the feeling! It’s that feeling when you think about this huge task, and you start thinking of all the things that could go wrong, you start thinking about what a big deal it is. Just take a deep breath, and remind yourself that it’s not so bad.

For example, I remind myself, before a performance, that ‘the audience is full of very friendly people. None of them are going to laugh at me, and they are filling up the seats to hear me perform, and they will enjoy it. Just look back at how far you’ve come, and be happy just knowing that you worked hard to simply be here today. No matter what happens out there, everything will be okay.’

In addition to calming yourself down and focusing on just a little bit of your work, you should also consider how you’re managing your time.

Time Management:

This could mean writing out on a notepad the hours of the day. Start by writing the basics, the non-negotiable stuff. Write down any time obligations: when you’ll be at work, when you’ll be at a meeting, when you’ll be waking up/going to sleep, etc.

Then, off to the side, jot down what you would like to get done. Write down the task that’s making you feel overwhelmed. Maybe write down an enjoyable task, as a reward to yourself for making an effort to be positive on the day that you just weren’t feelin’ it. For example, I would write down a 15-minute yoga session or 15-minute walk with the dogs, where I could clear my head, and allow myself to relax, and breathe.

Hiker on top of the mountain enjoying sunrise over the tropical valley

If you have 4 hours worth of stuff you need to get done, don’t do it all at once– it won’t be of magnificent quality, and time will go by too slow. Personally, I start to lose focus after 60 minutes of concentrating on a task.

Regarding music, I will block out different training sessions where I play for 45 minutes, in order to achieve a daunting 5 hours of practicing. Instead, I will clean the house for an hour, then practice for another 70 minutes, go for a run in the park, then practice for another 60 minutes, etc.

So, do this with whatever you’d like! Block out training sessions at the gym, or set aside 50-minute chunks for working on an important project for school or work. Whatever your thing is!

Along this process, you may realize that you still need to learn what time of day you focus best, perhaps you still have to get to know yourself a little bit better to plan around your day. This is totally okay! The point in a day like this is just to be proud that you’re doing anything at all. The number one rule in classical music is never to be in a hurry! And it’s the same for life – just slow down!

Don’t be afraid to make sacrifices according to your list of priorities. Life is full of making last minute sacrifices as you get thrown curve balls. It’s what makes the game of life, a fun game.

One day, once you’ve stuck through the struggle, you will be so grateful for your progress, and wish you could say to your past self: “See, it wasn’t that bad!”

Not every day will be easy.

Not every day will even be desirable!

The easy, fun days will come in due time.

But in the meantime– when it’s hard, and a bit sad– just take a deep breath and smile.

Smile! Because you can totally do it!

Smile! Because you have already done it– you’ve come a long way from where you were!

Smile! Not because today is the best or the easiest day, but smile because the struggles of today are what make being human so distinct from earth’s other life forms. Smile because you are so dearly loved and beautiful in your quirks and your flaws. Embrace these little “imperfections” because they add so much life and character to your existence.

Have a beautiful day! Whether it goes the way you planned it or not – there’s always tomorrow.

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