Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why Am I So Unmotivated?

This is a question that bamboozles many of us at certain junctures of life. What is a perfectly reasonable question still finds us stumped for an answer. Why, when life was so good, have things changed for the worse?

There are three reasons attributed for a lack of drive; there are, therefore, three needs:

1. We Need To Feel In Control

A clear level of autonomy is an important facet of adult life. Beyond the acknowledgement, for a Christian, that God is in control—and we don’t necessarily need to be—there is a very human, and God-understandable, need to have control over one’s domain.

We have an innate sense of responsibility and accountability; we want, no need, to be charged by God to do the things we do—we have the need of a certain autonomy; that is, the need to have a say over the way we do things.

If we don’t have a certain level of control over the things we are responsible for it’s intrinsically de-motivating. Responsibility and control are meant to go together.

2. We Need To Gain Mastery At Something

We are inherent learners; in a forward-or-backwards, never-stand-still world, we either grow or we wither and die.

We were born to master something, anything in a given period. If we think back over our lives this has been one fundamental feature of each period—the urge to master something.

Once we have mastered a thing, and particularly when there is subsequently no purpose in the practice of that thing, we are ready for a new challenge. Beforehand, though, we can feel unmotivated until the pressure for change gets to such a level that we feel forced to find something new to master.

3. We Need An Abiding Purpose

Purpose is fundamental to our meaning for life. None of us can survive for long, and not suffer a crisis of identity, without purpose.

Purpose and mastery of the thing we’re passionate about fit hand in glove, and many people spend their significant discretionary effort towards such a purpose; and usually without monetary or material reward.

Purpose is a very spiritual quality driving every one of us.

Explaining Motivation Problems

If any of these factors feature gaps—or, worse, as a collective, two or all three of them—we will have motivation problems, the source of which will drive us either to distraction or to make the changes necessary to feel more motivated.

During such de-motivated periods it’s not uncommon to have bouts of anxiety or depression. We’re being taken into a change for pain’s sake—many times we’ll not change until the pain of change becomes less than the pain of staying as we are.

Motivation problems may spell the end of something important, but they can also signal the beginning of something new and equally important.


To be motivated is inspiring; equally, to be unmotivated is perplexingly frustrating. We live to establish a certain level of control, to work on gaining mastery in our passionate pursuits and, therefore, to have an abiding purpose.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Acknowledgement: Dan Pink.

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