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Feeling Unmotivated? 10 causes to explore 

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Feeling Unmotivated? 10 causes to explore 

It seems there is no place where we wouldn’t hear about motivation and how to get it. 

Books, podcasts, and expert advice overflow with tips on how to feel motivated and stay on track. Yet, you find yourself curled up on the couch, reading this very advice, perhaps thinking, “Those are great, gotta try ’em.” But the next day, you can’t even remember what you read. 

It feels like everything’s laid out for us, ready to be taken and used. But what’s the disconnect?

Almost 75% of people worldwide feel unmotivated. We might call it feeling tired, being “lazy,” or simply procrastinating. We might say, “It’s fine, everyone has it,” then fall back into old patterns, and nothing changes. 

But wait… what about that nagging feeling in your gut? Do you truly know why you are losing motivation?

This article might help you understand the root cause of not feeling unmotivated. Keep reading, and you might discover why Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan doesn’t always do the trick.

What is motivation?

Sometimes, life may not appear to be a bed of roses. A tough work project or a family issue can drain your motivation for a while. Some people just take time to recharge and, after a while, find their groove again. 

But for some of us, staying motivated feels like climbing uphill in flip-flops. We might be shining with creative ideas or have big goals we want to chase, but that fire just isn’t there. We’re stuck as if our minds are glued in place, unable to make a move.

So, what does being motivated mean?

Simply put, motivation is when your desire to do something is more significant than any hesitation.

It isn’t always about a grand feeling. Sometimes, it’s just a quiet nudge. It’s like the little voice whispering, “I should do this,” gets a bit louder than the one saying, “Nope, not today.”

This urge can come from all sorts of places—a spark of interest, a nagging feeling of incompleteness, even a healthy dose of “I don’t like feeling this way anymore.” Whatever the reason, it’s that little push that gets us moving.

For example, imagine you’ve started learning a new language but haven’t been practicing lately. Maybe the dream of finally chatting with a local on your trip will make you open your dusty textbooks. 

Conversely, cleaning your room might only be on your radar once your guests arrive.

But what happens when we talk about amotivation?

What does loss of motivation mean?

When you feel unmotivated to do anything, your brains refuse to cooperate, and even simple tasks feel like wading through mud. You’re content with your current state and see no reason to put in extra effort. 

For example, let’s revisit the language learning scenario. If you lack motivation, you might not be excited to learn the local language. You will start making excuses like, “They’ll understand me anyway,” or “I can hire a translator.” Problem solved! 

But what about upcoming guests? You might claim to be busy and tired, using it as an excuse to avoid tidying up, leaving them to navigate around your scattered belongings.

As mentioned earlier, it’s important to recognize that everyone experiences a lack of motivation differently. Some may experience it more frequently than others, and the severity can vary from person to person. 

But what happens in our brains when we feel unmotivated?

Behind the scenes of “Why am I unmotivated?”

Firstly, let’s get an idea of how motivation works.

The feeling of motivation arises from a reward-focused system in the brain. Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that signals anticipation and pleasure, plays a key role (neurotransmitters are like mail carriers, delivering messages between neurons (houses) in your brain)

When we sense the possibility of something enjoyable or beneficial, dopamine levels spike, driving our desire and focus toward achieving that reward. This might be something basic as a tasty snack or as complex as a promotion at work.

The prefrontal cortex (the brain’s control center) helps us calculate whether a reward is worth the effort, while areas like the amygdala (a small part of your brain that acts like an alarm system for threats and helps you process emotions) add emotional weight to our decision-making.

Okay, understood. And what happens when you are feeling stuck and unmotivated?

Low dopamine levels can leave us feeling flat and uninterested. This might also indicate that the prefrontal cortex overrides the reward system, determining that the potential reward isn’t worth the effort. 

In some cases, a lack of motivation could stem from an imbalance of other neurotransmitters like serotonin or norepinephrine, which are involved in mood and energy regulation.

It’s normal to feel no drive to do anything from time to time. It’s natural to feel less energized when we’re tired, stressed, or overwhelmed. That’s okay. 

However, if this becomes a constant state, consider talking to a specialist. They can help you understand why you’re feeling this way and guide you toward improving your mental health.

Understanding the complex factors that shape our motivation, we can better identify and manage reasons that might hold our well-being back. Now, let’s examine them!

Why do I feel so unmotivated? 10 common reasons 

Okay, we’re making progress! Now, you have a better understanding of motivation, how it functions, and the different types. This knowledge will be essential as we try to answer the question, ‘Why am I so unmotivated?’ and gain insight into your overall well-being.

Hannah Schlueter, MA, LAC, comments Contributors to (of lack of) motivation are complex and can feel confusing. Societal pressures and unrealistic expectations around productivity can increase feelings of shame and guilt when struggling with lack of motivation, enhancing the challenges at play. Regardless of the reasons for being unmotivated, there are resources and skills available to you to help. Small goals, self-care, and professional help are just some of the many options to help increase motivation over time.

Please note that everyone’s experience with motivation is unique. The reasons behind feeling no motivation can vary significantly from person to person.

Here are some of the most common reasons why you might be feeling unmotivated:

1. Lack of clear goals

Let’s face it, staying motivated 24/7 is impossible. You may just say, “I have no energy or motivation to do anything.” In fact, you are not alone. 97% of people don’t have clear life goals. 

Setting clear and achievable objectives is important for staying motivated. Without them, motivation falters. 

For instance, you want to learn touch typing. But why do you need that? What will you achieve with it? If you don’t have clear answers, that’s not a well-defined goal and definitely won’t motivate you because you have no idea what it will give you. 

It’s hard to see if you’re making progress, keeping your concentration, or feeling that sweet sense of achievement. 

Suddenly, you might be feeling lost in life, unsure which way to go. And that’s where you have no motivation to do anything.

What to do ▶️

Setting goals might help you find a more precise direction.

You could try using the SMART method to make them more focused and achievable—it’s a simple way to get organized. You could also try writing down your plans. 

A psychology professor at the Dominican University of California, Dr. Matthews, found that writing down your goals significantly boosts your success rate. “My studies show a 43% increase in goal achievement when you put them in writing,” she explains.

Take some time to write down 1-3 goals you want to set for yourself, making sure they are realistic and measurable.  

2. Handling too many goals at once

“Okay, I have big goals: buying a car, getting my own flat, learning digital marketing, writing a non-fiction book, and enrolling in business administration courses by the end of the year!” 

Nice, that’s ambitious, but be careful. Trying to do everything at once is a recipe for burnout. Spreading yourself too thin will drain your energy and leave you unmotivated to do anything. 

Recent studies have shown that multitasking triggers our stress response, making us feel more anxious and overwhelmed. One moment, it seems we do more, but we’re actually slower and less efficient. It often leads to the logical question, “Why can’t I focus?

Our brains aren’t built for multitasking complex tasks. We switch rapidly between them, lose concentration, make more mistakes, and thus lose motivation.

This lack of focus can be particularly difficult for people with ADHD, sometimes leading to ADHD paralysis.

What to do ▶️

Break down your goals. Try to define the main one and divide it into small and manageable mini-tasks. You can even picture a ladder with a goal for each step – let your imagination help you visualize.

And remember to be flexible. Plans and circumstances can change, and that’s okay. Don’t see it as a failure if you need to adjust your goals or timelines. It’s a sign you’re learning and adapting.

3. Procrastination

Yep, that old and cozy habit of putting things off until the last minute. You may say, “Today, I don’t feel like doing anything.” We all battle procrastination, which can be a major stress source. 

It’s frustrating because it delays our goals and makes them feel even heavier. The longer we wait, the worse it gets, and that guilt and anxiety can really drain our motivation.

For example, if you need to have a difficult conversation with someone, avoiding it will only make the situation feel more stressful. Similarly, constantly delaying those household chores can overwhelm you and cause overstimulation

Even important personal goals, like starting an exercise plan, can fall victim to procrastination, making the prospect seem out of reach and leaving no answer to “Why do I feel empty?

What to do ▶️

“Why am I so distracted and unmotivated?”Well, distractions are the main reason we procrastinate. Yes, I know how tempting it is to check out the latest Netflix cancellation news or the weather on Pluto, but those rabbit holes can steal your focus. 

Catch yourself when you get sidetracked and gently guide your attention back to the task at hand because “one more minute” can turn into another lost hour. Work on limiting your distractions when engaging in a task or setting a timer to help boost your concentration. 

Remember, you don’t need to beat yourself up when you get distracted – simply identify what’s important and regain control.

feeling unmotivated

4. Mental health challenges

Feeling unmotivated can also be a result of mental health conditions. The most common of them can be: 

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD): ADHD changes the way the brain processes dopamine, impacting the way it finds motivation to complete tasks.  Certain things can also feel overwhelmingly dull, and you might feel unmotivated to do anything.

If you think you may have symptoms of ADHD, take our free assessment to learn more.

  • Depression: One of the symptoms is anhedonia – a loss of interest or pleasure in things you enjoy. Feeling depressed and unmotivated can make it challenging to find a goal and get things done. And then you may ask yourself, “Am I lazy or depressed?
  • Bipolar Disorder: Motivation levels can vary with the different phases of bipolar disorder. You may feel super motivated during manic episodes.. Also, motivation can be very low during depressive periods.
  • Anxiety Disorders: General anxiety, social anxiety, panic disorder, and others can create an overwhelming capsule of worry and fear. This mental load consumes resources, making concentrating and feeling motivated about goals difficult.
  • Schizophrenia: Some people with schizophrenia can also experience a lack of motivation. Every task may seem like a huge burden to carry.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): It can be emotionally and mentally draining to manage intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors. This might leave less energy for other things, making you feel stuck and unmotivated.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): PTSD can cause a scope of symptoms, like emotional numbing, flashbacks, or constant alertness. This can make it hard to feel motivated, especially when you are mainly focused on managing the trauma.

What to do ▶️

If you are concerned about your mental health, please know you’re not alone. Reaching out to a mental health professional can be a positive step. They can offer guidance and support, helping you develop strategies to improve your well-being.

5. Physical health issues

“Why am I so lazy and unmotivated?” It could be your health. Not getting enough sleep, skipping workouts, or eating poorly can make you tired, cranky, and unable to focus. 

For example, not having breakfast might make you feel sluggish all morning, and tossing and turning all night could leave you irritable. The following day, you might not have the motivation to get out of bed and ask yourself, “Why do I wake up tired?” and be unproductive the next day. 

These challenges make it tough to stay motivated and pursue your goals.

What to do ▶️

No, don’t try to start everything at once. You’ll burn out quickly, as we discussed before. For example, start by doing 10 minutes of exercise for a while. Then, after some time, remove one unhealthy product from your diet. 

Next, try sleeping a bit earlier and reducing screen time before bed. Step by step, you’ll find it easier to make positive changes without feeling overwhelmed

6. Comparing yourself to others

Recent research confirms that constantly comparing yourself to others damages your psychological well-being. 

There can be many cases in life. You may see someone holding a senior illustrator position while you’re still in training. Or someone else has visited 20 countries while you’ve barely left home. 

Focusing on others’ achievements drains your energy and causes a loss of motivation. There will always be someone seemingly “better” or “smarter” than you. 

For example, think about how comparison is portrayed in the movie “The Social Network.” While Mark Zuckerberg achieved fantastic success, constantly comparing himself to others, particularly the Winklevoss twins, led him to dissatisfaction and low motivation.

What to do ▶️

Try to focus on yourself more than on others. Someone else’s level 20 cannot be fairly compared to your level 8. We all have different paths, goals, and experiences.

Also, practice gratitude. That will help you to break negative cycles and boost confidence. Remember that you should only compare yourself to the person you were yesterday.

why am I so unmotivated?

7. Burnout

Burnout can be another reason you feel off today. It often happens when we push ourselves too hard or too fast. We might need to catch up or prove something to ourselves.

For instance, imagine your photography Instagram account has been inactive for a while. You’d love to see it grow, and the temptation to post constantly and hustle for engagement is strong. But when you notice it’s not moving as fast as you’d hoped, it can be discouraging.

The same goes for finally diving into selling vintage items. It’s a dream you’ve had for years, and the excitement can make you want to do everything at once. 

You might invest extra hours sourcing and listing items, hoping for rapid sales momentum. However, when success doesn’t materialize overnight, you might be frustrated and not motivated to do anything.

Burnout often manifests as exhaustion, loss of motivation, and a sense of being overwhelmed – symptoms that can overlap with ADHD burnout.

What to do ▶️

Try using some breathing techniques and practice mindfulness

Meditation can also be beneficial. It will calm your mind and body, building resilience and patience.

8. Lack of confidence

We all hit rough patches in life when we question ourselves. This doubt can make us feel restless, unmotivated, and unsure. 

Have you ever felt nervous about speaking up? It’s a shared experience. You might feel short of breath, and your mind goes blank. 

Your heart races, and your palms sweat. It can feel like everyone’s eyes are on you, judging you, searching for any sign of weakness.

Definitely, there won’t be a trace of motivation after this experience.

What to do ▶️

Just like learning any new skill, confidence takes practice. Stretch yourself with small challenges to build “confidence muscle.” For example, if public speaking makes you nervous, start by raising your hand in a meeting.

9. Unsupportive environment

Unfriendly surroundings don’t just make achieving goals harder; they change you. Your self-worth suffers if your family doubts your potential or your boss dismisses your contributions. 

Over time, your determination weakens, and everything feels pointless. Negativity seeps in, and you lose motivation, making it hard to believe in yourself and your dreams.

What to do ▶️

A hostile environment shouldn’t control how we feel. I know it’s easier said than done, but there are things we can try. Minimizing time spent with negative people helps. 

Finding even one supportive person, a mentor or friend, can make a difference. 

10. Negative bias of life

Sometimes, it feels like the whole world is stacked against you. It’s not the outside world holding you back. It’s the voice in your head. It whispers that nothing will change, that trying is pointless, and that you don’t deserve good things. 

That voice is heavy, making it hard to find the energy to start. It’s like you’re constantly trying to pay off debt that only gets bigger, fix a car that keeps breaking down, and find a moment of happiness that vanishes too quickly. That can lower the level of motivation to zero.

What to do ▶️

That inner critic often lies or exaggerates. When a negative thought comes up, question it. Is it really true? If your inner voice says you’ll fail, remind yourself of times you’ve succeeded. Gather a “wins folder” of positive achievements, comments, etc.

Wrapping up

Were any of the possible causes familiar to you? If so, take a moment to reflect and write down any thoughts you have. 

And if you find  “no motivation mood” getting in the way often, know that it’s okay to seek support from a mental health professional

Hannah Schlueter, MA, LAC photo

Reviewed by Hannah Schlueter, MA, LAC

Hannah is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She sees kids, teens, and adults...