How do you stay motivated when you don’t feel like doing something?

There’s the ‘carrot and stick’ philosophy which works for children. How do you “motivate” your 10 year old to clean up his room? Either punish him for not doing it, or hold out a reward for him when he does do it, the message being ‘you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.’


You can try this – play good cop/bad cop. If I write this report, I’ll reward myself with X. If I don’t write this report, I’ll … well, quite often your environment will offer its own reward—you’ll disappoint someone, get fired, feel lousy, get yelled, or lose your good credit rating.

How do you stay motivated when you don’t feel like doing something? The answer is in the question – FEEL.

We are motivated by feelings, much more so than by coercion or rewards. After all, if you’re at work, you’ll get your “reward”, your paycheck, but it’s a long way off, and we take it for granted. It’s not an immediate reward.

Next time you’re feeling unmotivated, peel away the layers of your feelings. Are you too tired? Is there resentment? Do you feel there’s no purpose to what you’re doing? Are you balking against authority, something you always do? Are you sick of your job?


Our emotions are here to guide us. Studying them at the fundamental level is emotional intelligence. Take an emotional intelligence course on the Internet( ), and learn the vocabulary you need and the concepts. Then work with an EQ Coach ( ). 67% of the qualities needed for success are emotional intelligence qualities, and they can be learned.

It’s a misconception that emotional intelligence means focusing on emotions. On the contrary, it means managing emotions. Emotions guide us, but they can interfere with productivity. Anger, fear and other negative feelings can impede your progress. So, too, if you demand that everything you feel in the work day be pleasant.

Most people who are successful have passion for their work (which will over-ride smaller more temporary feelings), and Intentionality. Intentionality means being able to focus on something until you’ve accomplished it, avoiding distractions, and being accountable for your motives. Your feelings. If you’re faced with a task and full of resentment toward the person who demanded it, you may sabotage the project and yourself.

Motivation is not a ‘thinking’ word; it has to do with feelings. The first step is to get to know them well. Then learn to manage them, and be able to put them aside when it’s necessary to do what needs to be done. Therapy is focusing on you and your feelings; it’s a nice place to visit, but you can’t live there. Functioning at top proficiency means managing your feelings, not letting them manage you, and not having them be the focus of your life.


It’s not that you don’t care how you feel, it’s that feelings are temporary. Care more about how you’ll feel in the long-run. When we have good self-esteem, when we feel good about ourselves, its because its been earned by doing what needed doing, by being Intentional—saying what we mean and meaning what we say. This includes some temporarily exasperating things like getting up on Monday morning when you feel like sleeping in, filing pleadings when you aren’t in the mood, talking with clients when you don’t feel like it, and changing the baby’s diaper when he needs it done, not when you want to. Living this way, you have momentum.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach, offers positive psychology coaching and Internet courses in emotional intelligence, strengths, and motivation. Visit her on the web at and for FREE motivational ezine and FREE Strengths course.