The Gavin's Village Blog


Unraveling the Mystery: Understanding the Lack of Motivation in Life

health motivation Jan 25, 2024

What is motivation? Motivation is, “the energizing of behavior in pursuit of a goal” and can be intrinsic, coming from within, or extrinsic, coming from external forces (Simpson, Balsam, 2016). Motivation pushes us to achieve the things we want and need to lead a fulfilling life, such as finding gainful employment and pursuing hobbies that bring us joy.

In the ebb and flow of life, maintaining the energy to stay motivated can be a daunting challenge. Perhaps you have lofty goals, such as being an elite athlete, the top of your class, landing a job at a prestigious company, or driving policy change to make the world a better place. Staying motivated over months or years to achieve big goals can be tough. In addition, there are many challenges to staying motivated - illness, other ways to spend your time, local and global issues, or mental health barriers.

If you’re feeling a lack of motivation to do things, you’re not alone, and there are many reasons that could cause it. Keep reading as we unravel why people face a lack of motivation and see what you can learn to help you get back on track.

Why am I not motivated to do anything?

If you’re struggling with motivation to do anything - even small tasks, or things you used to love - it can feel like there’s no way out. There are multiple driving causes of this feeling, and we’ll explore some of them now:

Lack of goals and direction

For some, a lack of clear goals and direction is the culprit. If you don’t have something to work toward, then it makes sense that motivation might slip away over time. But when you have an end goal, you can work backwards to figure out steps and incremental goals to help you get there.

It’s important to take time to be intentional about your dreams, wants, passions, and then make a plan to make progress toward how you’ll achieve those. Your goal can be specific or broad. If it’s broad, think about specific things that can serve as milestones to signify if you’re making progress.

Fear of failure and perfectionism

For some, fear of failure has a paralyzing effect. The thinking goes - if you never try, you can’t fail, right? However, it’s critical to remember that we are all human, and humans are imperfect. Naturally, there will be things we try and fail at. No one is good at everything!

When trying new things, or working on things you have to do but struggle with (maybe a tough subject in school), remember to embrace imperfection. If you get a bad grade on a test or feedback that a work project needs improvement to meet the standards, use the next opportunity as motivation to improve - not a reason to give up. 

Mental health and psychological disorders 

In addition to societal factors, some lack of motivation stems from mental health or psychological disorders. Motivation has a lot to do with how our brains work, providing brain chemicals like dopamine as a reward for completing specific tasks. Some people may experience depression, a chemical imbalance in the brain that can impact one’s motivation. Others may have anxiety which causes feelings of being overwhelmed.

Why am I not motivated to do school work?

Facing a lack of motivation at school is very common. But interestingly, motivation is a big indicator of student success:  “studies that investigated diverse motivational constructs as predictors of school students’ academic achievement above and beyond students’ cognitive abilities and prior achievement showed that most motivational constructs predicted academic achievement beyond intelligence” (Steinmayr et. al, 2019). 

You may be experiencing burnout from an excessive workload of classes, or classes combined with other obligations, like work, family caretaking or athletic demands. Academic pressure from parents, peers, or school as well as those athletic pressures by coaches, can also be a challenge that causes one to lose motivation. 

If you’re feeling stress from school, it’s important to manage it so that it doesn’t manifest as a lack of motivation. Implement stress management strategies like exercise, social connection, hobbies, and also being realistic about the amount of classes and obligations you can take on at a time. For students facing academic stress, pressure, or burnout, reducing the number of advanced classes or extracurriculars may be helpful in the long run. 

Unengaging learning environments can also cause a lack of motivation. Sometimes, some material you have to learn to meet curriculum standards can be not so fun or interesting as other topics. But if it’s all boring or unengaging, it may be appropriate to switch it up. Make time for hobbies or independent learning, try to find something within the topic that does interest you or aligns with your passions, or adjust your course load if you can at the next academic session.

Why am I not motivated to work out?

Exercise is another activity where people may face a lack of motivation. This may stem from physical health challenges, or physical changes, such as the aging process. Health conditions like chronic illnesses can reduce motivation to hit the gym or go out for a walk or run if it feels like your health may be poor no matter if you work out or not. Another driver is a real or perceived lack of time for exercise. Juggling exercise with school, work, social and family obligations can be tough.

Like many of us, if you’re not currently an athlete and are looking to rebuild motivation to exercise, you can overcome time constraints through efficient planning. Incorporate short and effective workouts. Just 75 minutes a week of vigorous activity has been shown to reduce the risk of mortality of all causes by 19%, though more exercise had further reduction in mortality if you have the time (American Heart Association, 2022). That’s just 11 minutes a day or three 25-minute workouts per week, which is more manageable than spending hours in the gym. You can also try multitasking with exercise. Plan a walk, hike, or fitness class with a friend to get social time in too, or exercise with children through play. Watch a tv show or listen to a podcast or audiobook during a workout. Find something positive about the activity and that will help build up motivation!

External influences on motivation

Intrinsic motivation is key to power through challenges and pursue your own goals, but we’re all shaped by external forces in our lives, such as other people, laws and cultural customs, and institutions like a school, employer, or religious group. Psychological researchers say,  “when extrinsically motivated, people engage in an activity to obtain some instrumentally separable consequence, such as the attainment of a reward, the avoidance of a punishment, or the achievement of some valued outcome” (Di Domenico, Ryan, 2017). 

Having a supportive social circle of friends, family members, coaches, classmates, or colleagues plays a big part in the external positive reinforcement needed to stay motivated. If you’ve got negative influences in your life - people who are jealous or threatened by your success and looking to bring you down or making personal choices that don’t support your values or goals - that can decrease your motivation to succeed. Be realistic about if your crowd is adding value to your life. Expend your energy into people with shared values and goals - you can build each other up! 

Strategies to overcome a lack of motivation

So, how do you overcome a lack of motivation? Here are some things to try:

  1. Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps 

Most larger goals have many steps or mini milestones along the way - you don’t typically wake up and run a marathon the first day you decide it’s your goal. Making incremental progress gives you small victories to celebrate along the way. That’s what keeps you motivated to put in the time and energy to complete the big goal.

  1. Cultivate a positive mindset

To stay motivated, you have to believe that something is possible. Reframe your mindset to something positive about small things to build up to having an overall positive mindset. And practice gratitude as a motivation booster. Consider the good things in your life related to your goal. When you’re grateful for what you have, it makes it easier to be positive. 

  1. Seeking professional help

Sometimes, you have to call in the experts for some additional help to achieve your goal. You can seek professional help from an expert in your specific goal, like a fitness coach or academic tutor who can help you work through a specific challenge. 

If you’re lacking motivation for an extended period of time, it’s worth bringing up with a qualified mental health professional who can address that problem and make sure you’re getting the appropriate support. Remember always, that being reluctant to ask for help when it is truly needed, because you've been conditioned to view it as a weakness or to avoid feelings of shame, could prove to become a life-long imitation.


Motivation drives us to get out of bed, face the day, and do the things we must in order to meet our needs and achieve our goals. We may face a temporary dip or long-term lack of motivation, but fortunately, there are many things we can do to help us recalibrate and work toward our goals.

If you’re looking for an online community surrounding topics like motivation where you can build your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, facilitated by a mental health professional, consider signing up for Gavin’s Village. 



American Heart Association (2022, July 25). New study finds lowest risk of death was among adults who exercised 150-600 minutes/week. American Heart Association Newsroom. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from


Di Domenico, S. I., & Ryan, R. M. (2017). The Emerging Neuroscience of Intrinsic Motivation: A New Frontier in Self-Determination Research. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Simpson, E. H., & Balsam, P. D. (2016). The Behavioral Neuroscience of Motivation: An Overview of Concepts, Measures, and Translational Applications. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences. 

Steinmayr, R., Weidinger, A. F., Schwinger, M., & Spinath, B. (2019). The Importance of Students’ Motivation for Their Academic Achievement – Replicating and Extending Previous Findings. Frontiers in Psychology, 10.

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