Lack of Motivation? Here are Seven Causes and Seven Cures

This is a featured post from the INLP Center. Lack of motivation may be in the top three problems life coaches encounter with their clients. It’s so common! Does lack of motivation – or no motivation – prevent you from doing what you want? Most lack of motivation comes from subconscious mental strategies, many of which are intended to motivate […]

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This is a featured post from the INLP Center.

Lack of motivation may be in the top three problems life coaches encounter with their clients. It’s so common! Does lack of motivation – or no motivation – prevent you from doing what you want?

Most lack of motivation comes from subconscious mental strategies, many of which are intended to motivate you. These are ineffective strategies learned long ago when you had no idea what was going on.

Maybe your parents tried to “motivate” you by yelling at you and criticizing you. Now, you do the same thing in your own mind. It probably didn’t work out well back then and still doesn’t work. Yet, that’s what you learned to do. You need a new self-motivation method and to let go of the old one.

This is an important point: You do have a current inner motivation strategy. You’re trying! Right? There are two problems with your current strategy that result in lack of motivation:

Problem #1: You are not aware of it or don’t recognize what’s going on in your mind as an attempt to motivate yourself.

Problem #2: It’s a bad motivation strategy. It backfires, leaving you less motivated than ever.

If you’re in agreement so far, you’ll find the following seven causes and cures for lack of motivation enlightening. They’re based on Neuro-Linguistic Programming, of course. Which one applies most to you?

Seven Causes and Cures for Lack of Motivation


No one likes to be ordered around. Interestingly, you may attempt to self-motivate drill sergeant style. Essentially, you yell at yourself:

Get off your butt!
If you don’t get moving, you’re going to pay!
You’re so frickin’ lazy!
You must do this NOW!

When you order yourself around, something predictable happens: you rebel against your own orders and refuse to get moving.

Many of us have a parent’s voice in our head speaking to us rudely, trying to get us to cooperate with their agenda. This only fills you with resentment and makes you want to do less than ever. Self-dictatorship (yes, the voice in your head is yours, not your actual parents’) is set up to fail.

The cure for this lack of motivation style is to speak to yourself as you would a good friend. Invite yourself to do things you really want to do. Be pleasant with yourself.

Sadly, some people have a hard time imagining this possibility. Even so, it is possible to develop a relationship with yourself based on self-respect, not self-punishment.


Feeling overwhelmed is another big contributor to lack of motivation. Interestingly, it doesn’t take much for some of us to get overwhelmed and feel helplessly frustrated. Staring at a sink full of dirty dishes is often enough to do the trick.

Overwhelm happens for two reasons:

1. You haven’t learned the habit of breaking tasks down into manageable chunks.

2. At some point early in life, you became accustomed to a feeling of helplessness and are now struggling with that psychological attachment.

If you’ve been reading this site long, you understand that attachments are all-too-familiar feelings of negativity that we subconsciously return to again and again. Helplessness is a common theme for so many people and getting overwhelmed in the face of things to do is an outlet for the repressed helplessness.

Self-motivation is the opposite of helplessness, so those who are very used to feeling helpless need to train themselves to tolerate their personal power.

The cure for overwhelm is: 1) Consciously break tasks down into small enough chunks. Picture each small chunk in your mind clearly. 2) Trace your feelings of helplessness back to their origins until you see the pattern of helplessness throughout your life. At some point, and perhaps with the help of an outside perspective, you will be able to decide it is time to let it go.


How does chronic people pleasing create a lack of motivation within you? It’s a simple concept. Before you can be motivated, you must know what you want. If you are overly focused on pleasing others, you will end up with NO IDEA what you want or even who you are, when it comes down to it.

This is where self-motivation turns into motivation according to the expectations of others. Amazingly, your perception of other’s expectations may be WAY off.

The cure for this brand of lack of motivation is to learn to be aware of your individual needs and balance them with the needs of other people. This solution is a journey of self-discovery.

It may be hard to justify focusing more on yourself, especially if you’ve been brainwashed to believe it’s wrong.

Being aware of your own needs and desires is NOT wrong, however. In fact, knowing who you are helps others connect with you. If you neglect your needs in favor of servitude, you will end up resenting people, which is a disservice to them and a form is disrespect.

It’s all about balance.


Most of us need to complete tasks that we do not enjoy. Cleaning the bedroom, doing the dishes, balancing the checkbook and exercising are common drudgeries that a lot of people tend to avoid because it just isn’t fun.

When you think about a task that you need to complete, how do you think about it? Do you imagine yourself doing the task and go, “Ugh! I hate it. I’ll do it later.” Not gonna work.

People who tend to get unpleasant tasks done quickly use their imagination differently. Rather than picturing themselves doing the task, they picture the task done.

Instead of thinking about doing dishes, imagine a clean kitchen. Instead of seeing yourself suffering on a treadmill, picture yourself feeling great after you have exercised.

Picturing the positive results and good feelings of having completed something gives you something to move toward that you want.


For some, motivation only comes at the last possible moment, when delaying further would result in disastrous consequences.

There you are, lying in bed. You’ve hit snooze for the 7th time. Suddenly, you realize that if you don’t get up RIGHT NOW, you’ll be late for work again, possibly lose your job and end up living under a bridge. You spring from your bed with a rush of anxiety.

It works. In fact, some people actually perform better under extreme pressure. The problem is, it takes an incredible toll on your mind and body.

At the heart of this form of motivation is inner passivity. You lolligag around until outside circumstances dictate that you absolutely must act or else.

The cure for this form of passivity is to internalize your motivation. Internal motivation is based on self-respect and personal responsibility. When you respect yourself (and others) enough to act when you need to act, then you give up the childish feeling that the world is controlling you.

Then, you are free to realize that you are in charge and no longer need to wait for the outside world to pressure you into action.


At the heart of motivation woes is an attachment to self-deprivation.

If you were 100% motivated, you’d accomplish more and experience a ton of fulfillment in life. So many of us, however are not comfortable with fulfillment. Because you haven’t experienced a lot of happiness in life, you don’t trust it. More familiar is a chronic feeling of lack, emptiness and discouragement.

Clients often tell me, “I’m not happy, but this is what I know. I get scared when I think of living a different life.”

This is the nature of psychological attachments. We cling to what’s familiar and even make the negativity strangely pleasurable. Becoming super motivated, in this case, only leads to unfamiliar territory and is intimidating.

This is why we created the AHA Solution. Letting go of negative attachments is the deepest cure possible. Imagine if there were no conflict within you that prevented you from moving consistently and confidently toward your goals. Imagine seeing obstacles in life for what they are – negotiable – and not as black holes that suck you in and dispose of your plans.

Living without attachments is the freedom you seek and the AHA Solution can get you there, one step and a time.


At last, a pleasant lack of motivation! Contentment with life may deter you from climbing another mountain. If so, congratulations. Enjoy the peace that you have earned and stop thinking you have more to prove.

Beware of false contentment, however. False contentment is a self-deception that coaxes you into believing everything is just fine when things are NOT fine. Lots of lazy, unmotivated people are overly content.

So, if you’re past middle age and have worked hard to create a stable life, by all means, revel in contentment.

If you are 27 years old, live with your parents and are happy to play video games all day while mom does your laundry, I hope you find a way to lose that false contentment and make something of yourself. In this case, a healthy dose of discontent would be a gift.

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