Many women find it hard to get motivated in midlife but they don’t know why. There are, of course, lots of different reasons but there are some common themes and at least two surprising reasons for a lack of motivation in midlife – and some easy solutions!
What motivates you?
Are you feeling stuck in a rut? Does one day run into another and your goal has become to get through to bed time?
This feeling of being stuck can come from multiple sources. You should, of course, rule out any health conditions or the possibility of depression. If neither of these applies, you may be faced with a common lack of motivation
Motivation is unique to an individual but the science is universal. Your brain kicks in a spike of dopamine when it anticipates something important is about to happen. This makes you feel good and drives you towards your goal.
Some people are motivated by money, prestige, or success. For others, it’s the completion of a task, the admiration of a friend or colleague, or acceptance of a group. For some of us, much of our motivation comes from our role as caregivers. We thrive on what we do for others.
Common reasons for a lack of motivation in midlife
It’s very difficult to get motivated when you can’t see any possibility of success. Sometimes this happens because there are too many competing priorities. Other times, it’s because the task in front of you is simply too large.
This is definitely one of my demons. If there are too many things on my task list for the day, I find it hard to get excited about any of the options. Instead I’ll scroll on Facebook, read articles, listen to TED Talks and pretty much anything else except my list of to-dos.
The best way to tackle feeling overwhelmed is to break the problem into small pieces and just start doing them. As you begin to make progress, you’re motivation will kick in.
You’re a people pleaser
Raise you hand if this applies to you.
Yup, that’s what I figured. There are quite a few people pleasers here!
Many of us, especially women, spend our lives focused on everyone else but ourselves. When we try to step back and prioritize our needs, we realize that we have no idea what we want!
This particular problem can stay with you for a lifetime and can snowball over the years. There is no time like the present to set aside an hour, or even half an hour, each day to figure out what you want out of life. Pick things that have nothing to do with being a mother, wife, or daughter.
Find your passion then make a plan to pursue it. No excuses.
You’re waiting for inspiration
I love Pinterest and it’s bevy of gorgeous photos, ideas, and inspirational quotes. But Pinterest can’t make you take action. Don’t waste your days searching for inspiration. Take action. Inspiration will follow.
Two surprising reasons for a lack of motivation in midlife
There are two often overlooked reasons why motivation changes in midlife.
The first is that our reinforcers naturally decline as our children get older.
If you are a parent, your life becomes about caring and nurturing your children and meeting their needs. Your days are spent ensuring they are clothed, fed, and safe. You drive them to sports and activities and help them with their homework. When they do something well, you share their joy. If they suffer, you share their pain.
You are driven by the needs of your children. Their happiness and well being is your reinforcer.
When you’re no longer needed, at least not as much, your reinforcer is removed and you can’t get motivated.
The second reason is that by the time you reach midlife, there are no more natural milestones to mark your achievements and serve as a point of celebration. Veteran National Public Radio reporter, Barbara Bradley Hagerty, sums it up well…
“When you’re young, life has a lot of milestones and achievements,” Hagerty said. “You graduate from high school, from college, fall in love, get married, start a family, a career. But midlife can be like one run-on sentence. There aren’t many milestones. No commas, no periods, no semicolons.”
So create those milestones and memories. Inject your own punctuation.Barbara Bradley Hagerty
The combination of these two often overlooked factors is a double whammy in midlife. They highlight the need, the reason, to step back and re-evaluate how you spend your time and prioritize your energies. You must find ways to set goals for yourself and establish markers to celebrate.
What can you do to increase your motivation?
Here are some simple steps you can take to tackle your lack of motivation in midlife.
Find your passion
There are entire books written on this topic. Countless psychiatrists, psychologist, athletes, businesswomen, and people like you and I have published tomes on topic. They all have one theme in common. You have to dig deep, engage in some self reflection to identify your passion. Then pursue it.
Realize that a passion is different from a hobby. A hobby is something you do to pass time, to have fun. A passion is something that is a part of who you are. If you remove a hobby, the person remains whole. Take away a passion and you’ve cut out a portion of a person.
This may sound silly. How does exercise increase motivation? But it works! Get moving, get your blood pumping and your brain stimulated. It increases creativity and helps you sleep better. The better your body functions, the better you’ll feel physically and emotionally.
Get out in nature
Countless studies have reinforced the value of getting out in nature, even for brief periods of time. Find a local walking path, beach, or park. If none of these are available, sit in your yard. Watch a sunset, or a sunrise. Enjoy this time without distraction and make it a regular part of your life.
Stop telling yourself you’re too old
You’re not. No matter your age, there is something you can do to enjoy your life. You’ll need to find the motivation to find your passion.
Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Florida on her fifth attempt – when she was 64 years old. No other person of any age has accomplished this feat. According to Nyad, “Let’s face it, we’re all on a one way street….”. You should “Never, ever give up.”
Listen to Dianna Nyad’s inspirational TED Talk here.
Get enough sleep
Many women suffer from a lack of sleep in midlife. If you are one of them, this may be squashing your motivation. Poor sleep impacts your health, your ability to think and be creative and may even contribute to weight gain.
For simple tips to sleep better, read 7 Tips to Sleep Better in Midlife
Just get started
One of the most effective ways to break out of a stand still is to take the first step. Then the second. The act of doing nothing is exhausting and amplifies your lack of motivation.
The simple action of moving towards a goal whether you feel motivated or not, will push you forward. When you brain sees that something important is about the happen, it will kick in with that needed dose of dopamine and you’ll find your motivation.