Get yourself out of the rut

How often have you heard, “I’ve lost my motivation,” and “I’m in a rut?” Certainly, what motivates me is different than what motivates you. But lack of motivation doesn’t have to be a permanent shortcoming. Rather, it is something temporary that can dominate everything we think, limiting what we do.

In his blog, Rich Hanson, Ph.D., a noted neuropsychologist, states that “the brain is like Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive.” Apparently, we’re wired to spot the negative — some of us more so than others. This negativity underlies our thought patterns.

So, what can you do differently to improve your motivation?

Modify your habits

Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychology professor, explains that we live a good portion of our lives mindlessly. Behaviors that served us well at some point now run on automatic. The problem is, when we take on something new, old habits may no longer help us, even work against us.

Are old habits holding you back? Weakening your motivation? Causing you to be stale? Change your approach. Think of behaviors that will help and then transform those new behaviors into better habits. Turning off your mind’s autopilot setting opens you to new ideas.

Manage around energy, not deadlines

Lack of motivation occurs when we feel drained. What if you began to focus on:

  • Feeling better by looking after your body, such as exercising, getting proper rest and fuel.
  • Calming an emotional meltdown. This is not counting to 10. It is radically changing your negative reaction to a positive response.
  • Focusing your thoughts and being aware of your attention patterns. Do one thing at a time and do it really well.
  • Connecting your goals to a purpose. Why am I doing this? Will it help me meet my objectives?

Simplify your goals

I often use the phrase, “I am not asking you to kill Superman.” In other words, don’t look at a project as one monumental task that requires going a long way to feel any sense of accomplishment. Break down a project or problem into smaller steps. Choose to look favorably on each completed step, each overcome obstacle.

Stop being negative

If you blame everything on yourself and allow negative mantras to run, such as: “Nothing ever works,” there is no chance it will get better. Your thoughts will become self-fulfilling prophecies. Stop saying, “I can’t.”


Don’t take yourself so seriously. Laugh at yourself. Choose to enjoy everyday life.

At Cowden, we give an annual Kraut award — literally a jar of Sauerkraut — to the employee who commits the biggest blunder. And, we cheer the winner on! In addition to lightening the mood, it shows us the insignificance of things and distances us from the immobilizing fear of failure.


Savor your success and notice the good as you progress. Taking time to sit back and applaud our efforts builds memories that give rise to competence and resilience. If we obsess about what went wrong, new challenges will be that much harder to embrace.


Elliot N. Dinkin is the President and CEO of Cowden Associates Inc. Elliot’s strategic approach assists clients in the development of a total compensation benefit package that controls costs, adds efficiencies and enables the employer to attract, retain, motivate and keep employees engaged while meeting company objectives. Through his guidance, employers become more competitive by creating total compensation packages verses viewing benefits in silos.