How To Not Be Restless and Unmotivated

We’ve all been there.

When you want to knuckle down; you want to come through on some task you feel like you need to do – but it just feels like… ugh. You’re antsy to be doing anything else, and you may even wonder what’s wrong with you.

First, it’s completely normal. You haven’t done anything wrong to get here.

Second, there is a way out.

The Symptoms

When we feel simultaneously restless and unmotivated, it’s an interesting combination…

Restlessness indicates a state of activeness, pursuit, curiosity, and interest.

Lack of motivation, on the other hand, indicates a state of inactiveness, lethargy, boredom, and disengagement.

They’re seeming opposites. So why is it that we can experience both at the same time?

Simultaneous restlessness and non-motivation points to something more than simple hyperactivity or lack of discipline…

The Root Of The Issue

Restlessness has two possible sources: pursuit or escape.

This means that there’s either a voice inside of you that’s pushing you to pursue something important, or there’s a voice inside of you that’s uncomfortable with an element of your current situation. You’ll need to do a deep-dive to determine whether:

  • [escape – positive] You’re avoiding something uncomfortable because it’s a bad fit for you; it’s going to take you in a direction that leads to a place you don’t want to go.
  • [escape – negative] You’re avoiding something uncomfortable, but it’s a good-fit challenge for you; if you can focus and stick it out, it’s going to take you in a direction that leads to a place that you do want to go.
  • [pursuit – positive] There’s something “out there,” beyond what you’re currently doing that’s calling to you. In this scenario, you need to determine whether that thing is worth reprioritizing your current situation, which would mean cutting some other things out of your life in order to make space for this new thing.

As you dig into the source of your antsy-ness, you’ll be able to see more clearly where things fall on your personal interest scale, which will help you make decisions about what to do next.

Lack of motivation, meanwhile, indicates a lack of interest or engagement.

If you find yourself in this state, then there are two possible culprits:

  • You’re doing something important, but an element of motivation is missing. In this case, you need to find a way to make the activity more engaging. The best small, easy way to do this is to find some small joy or some small way to turn the activity into a game for yourself, in order to make the task more pleasant for you.
  • You’re doing something unnecessary or bad-fit, in which case, it’s time to let that thing go.

Tying It Together

If you’re feeling both restless and unmotivated, it’s likely that you may fall into this category:

You’ve put yourself in a bad-fit position. You’ve taken on one or more commitments out of some sense of duty or inevitability or greed or pride. And now you’re in a position that you despise. Meanwhile, there are the things that you should be doing that are calling out to you. Those right-fit things call to your attention, and they won’t relent until you’ve found a way to build them into your life.

It’s also possible that you’ve merely plateaued. We move through chapters in life, and sometimes we forget to look ahead to the next thing – to find a new aim for ourselves. We continue with the same habits and routines, day after day, year after year, and forget to revisit the larger questions. But while some things remain the same, we also need to constantly be reaching to the next place, becoming someone new, ever-evolving.

A third possibility is that you’re in the right place, with the right activities in front of you… but you’re resisting them out of discomfort. The discomfort might be fear that needs to be confronted, or it might simply be an annoying task that you need to gamify or find some other small way to build a little more joy into it.

The Solution

The best solution is always the one that addresses the root problem, rather than the symptoms only.

  1. Figure out your specifics. Is your restlessness attached to an itch (pursuit)? Or is it restless avoidance (escape)?
  2. After you’ve answered #1, it’s time to review your current commitments.
    • If your restlessness is escape-oriented and if your direction is a right-fit, then dig into the fear. What do you need to do to confront the thing that scares you?
    • If your restlessness is escape-oriented and if your direction is a bad-fit, then dig into that struggle. Why are you pursuing this thing that you shouldn’t be? How can you separate yourself responsibly from this commitment? What other direction is calling to you, is a right-fit for you? How can you begin to move toward that?
    • If your restlessness is pursuit-oriented, then do an audit of your current commitments. Do you need to re-prioritize and cut some current things out (or reduce your commitment to them) in order to make room for the new thing? How can you do so in a responsible way?
  3. Once you’ve dug into the source of your feelings, determine a path forward. What are you going to do now that you know what you know?

Looking Ahead

What are you moving toward? What are you pursuing?

Does that invigorate and engage you?

If the answer’s “no,” then let’s fix that! Now is the perfect time to invest in getting clear on what direction is right for you to pursue.

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