When motivation fails

clear sky behind a row of houses

It’s only 1° outside and I’m struggling with the motivation to run to work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m running to work, there are no two ways about it, but I don’t want to – and I’d like to understand why.

The sky is clear and blue, even at this time of the morning, but for some reason, today, the temperature seems like a good excuse not to run.

Suddenly that solitary 1° is a barrier, not an opportunity. It should be a challenge, a call to action, an invitation to go forth and conquer – but today it just seems like the world’s best reason to catch the train.

Herein lies the challenge of motivation.

Today, forces and circumstances which would normally propel me forward, feel like they’re holding me back.

Nothing externally has changed. I don’t look any different, sound any different or (probably) smell any different from the days in which the 1° would be the best reason to run – but I certainly feel different.

Somethings are just going to be impenetrable to us in any given moment – Why is this happening? Why is that person being difficult? Why don’t I want to run? – and while there is value in picking apart the causes, especially in the long term, the question for the moment is “what are you going to do?”

You can wish that the situation were otherwise, but it’s not. So what are you going to do?

Sometimes, how we feel about a situation will have changed, but the objective realities of the situation have not. The best course of action when we felt good about it, is still the best course of action, even now when we feel rubbish.

The challenge here is to understand when it’s in our best interests to ignore our short term feelings and pursue the long term action, and when it’s not.

One answer here might be to quickly ask “why?” until we hit on the likely cause of our change of feeling. We can then more objectively evaluate if it’s a valid reason or not.

I don’t want to run to work.


It’s too cold.

Why is that a problem?

It’s uncomfortable, and I would rather be warm right now.


Right, you’re going running.

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Many thanks to Meriel Rosenkranz for pointing me in the direction of “why?” which Charles Duhigg writes about in his new book.