DEMOTIVATION: What Causes Decline In Motivation And How To Regain It


Once in a while, we find ourselves in an inexplicable loss of vigor to face the day. Excitement is low. A bit down in the dumps, it’s a struggle to get out of bed. We simply force ourselves to report for work and procrastinate in starting or completing a task. 

This sudden decline in mood is called “demotivation” or loss of motivation, interest, and enthusiasm. It is a common feeling which is experienced by everyone, from time to time. However, it becomes a pressing problem when it consistently interferes with daily activities.

Psychology Today defines motivation as “one of the driving forces behind human behavior” which fuels competition, sparks social connection, and encompasses the desire to continue striving toward meaning, purpose, and a life worth living.

When an individual is motivated or engaged to do something, such as pursuing studies or achieving a goal, they do their best to commit, accomplish, and contribute to its completion and success. 

Notably, recent research shows a huge decline in motivation in the workplace and academics. For instance, only 15% of employees worldwide feel engaged with their work, according to 2021 Motivation Statistics.

In addition, 76% of undergraduates and 56% of graduate and professional students identified the lack of motivation for online learning.

What causes lack or loss of motivation?

The underlying reasons for a demotivated person’s unwillingness to engage in something lie within the two kinds of motivation, namely the Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Motivation. This theory was developed by researchers Edward Deci and Richard Ryan in the 1970s-80s to determine human behavior.

Intrinsic Motivation refers to inward desires, goals, and aspirations. When a person is intrinsically motivated, one experiences personal enjoyment and satisfaction in a particular task. He or she finds value and meaning in what he or she does and accomplishes it no matter the cost.

Whereas, Extrinsic Motivation refers to external rewards, outward engagement, and social appreciation. When an individual is extrinsically motivated, one finds a certain activity or project worthwhile. He or she exerts all his or her best efforts and performs excellently to reap the harvest.

1. Lack of vision, clarity, and direction.

When one lacks clarity of what he or she wants to do in life, there is no motivation to do anything at all. There is nothing to look forward to because he or she finds no value, enjoyment, satisfaction, or meaning in anything.

It may also indicate being unambitious, lackadaisical, or directionless. 

On the other hand, when an organization, classroom, online session, or workplace lacks vision, structure, clarity, and communication, a person might feel uninterested in engaging with it. One finds it a waste of time, energy, and resources to complete a certain task simply because there is no valuable gain or personal growth from it. 

The level of motivation may also dwindle if the environment feels passive, boring, and non-progressive. 

2. Tasks are overloaded and unfairly distributed.

When there is so much going on in life and so many things to accomplish daily, it leads to demotivation and burnout. 

One can feel overburdened and under so much pressure when tasks are impossibly hefty, too difficult, and overwhelming. It also leads to loss of motivation if someone’s workload differs from other people on the team or unfairly distributed.

The Better Help Counseling states, “When someone feels like they have too much to do, they may not actually be able to accomplish anything at all.”

Such scenarios often lead to neglected personal well-being and decreased time with significant relationships. More often than not, mental and physical health suffers.

It is reported by Forbes that “employees who work tons of overtime hours are at a high risk of burnout, causing fatigue, mood swings, irritability, and a decrease in work performance.”

Strikingly, 87% of employees expect the workplace to foster work-life balance, according to a 2021 study.

When the balance between work and personal obligations matter and is prioritized, it helps cultivate healthy boundaries and a productive workforce.  

Whereas, when time outside of work is not valued, such as rest days, vacation leave, holidays, personal, and family responsibilities, work becomes burdensome, escalating chronic stress, demotivation, and burnout.

3. The environment is passive and unsupportive.

If someone perceives the classroom or work environment to be unsupportive and passive, it can lead to halfheartedness, negligence, or absence.

For instance, 2021 research reveals that 39% of employees feel underappreciated at work worldwide.

An unhealthy atmosphere where gossiping, false judgments, and favoritism loom decrease the capacity to perform well. Moreover, if the work is consistently compared with others or there is no recognition and appreciation of the accomplishments, it affects the mood, commitment, and performance of an individual.

It can be demoralizing and frustrating if someone else takes credit for your work, legitimate concerns are neglected, great ideas are not provided with tools, criticism is personal rather than constructive, and employee rights and benefits are devalued.

4. Lack of mental health concern.

On the other hand, individuals who lack motivation might be experiencing serious problems in life. If the surrounding is not open to mental health concerns, it may lead people to detach or discontinue. 

In times of crisis, if performance matters more than its people, it will lead to more negligence, unproductivity, and absences.

The change of environment from onsite to online is another cause interfering with motivation. As COVID-19 has uprooted most of life’s normal schedules, activities, and routines, it has greatly affected people’s mental well-being.

On a good note, it is reportedly proven that “workplaces with high levels of mental well-being are more productive and that addressing well-being at work increases productivity by as much as 12%”. 

Inevitably, if mental health and well-being are part of the core assets in an organization, classroom, or workplace, it values and protects people, and helps boost performance levels. The more people are supported, the more productivity is achieved.

How Can We Regain Motivation?

Demotivation happens to us once in a while. Sometimes, it teaches us to slow down and reassess where we are in our personal and career paths. 

Here are some simple ways to find motivation again.

1. Review personal aspirations, goals, and vision.

Take time to ponder and remember what you want to accomplish personally and professionally. Then, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I at the right place, activity, and training to achieve what I desire to do?
  • Do I have the right tools to help sharpen my knowledge, skills, and talents?
  • Am I giving enough time for my personal and professional aspirations to grow?

Reflect if what you are currently doing is what you love to do and accomplish professionally. Reassess if you are able to do something interesting using your specific skills, talents, and strengths. 

If you think you are not able to do the things you are passionate about personally and professionally, it is time to withdraw, shift focus, and go back to where your heart and vision belong.

“The only way to do good work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs

2. Slow down and set healthy boundaries.

If you are the type who performs multiple tasks and works overtime even on rest days, holidays, and vacations, it’s time to be gentle with yourself.

Take a break and give yourself a “me time”. Pamper yourself with a good rest, staycation, relaxing vacation, a spa treat, museum visit, or a nature walk.

Slow down and spend quality time with your family and significant relationships. As much as possible, do not talk about work and refuse to accept work calls during rest days and holidays. Learn to set healthy boundaries.

Moreover, turn down additional tasks that do not reflect your job description. It is okay to say no. Do not allow sympathies to manipulate your rights and well-being as an employee.

“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.” – Henry Cloud

3. Offer value, rewards, and incentives.

Give yourself credit for the minor and major successes. Reward yourself with a new gadget, a cup of coffee, a book, or a day trip to the beach. Parents can do the same to their students to instill a sense of motivation.

On the other hand, workplace rewards, appreciation, and incentives matter significantly to help foster engagement, increase motivation, and productivity. “What really matters in the workplace is helping employees feel appreciated,” says Dr. Ashley Whillans, Harvard Business School.

When someone’s performance or work is valued, it builds up the self-confidence to keep achieving and striving for excellence. As Dr. Bob Nelson states, “People may take a job for more money, but they often leave it for more recognition.” 

A rewarding workplace may refer to a thank you note, pat on the back, free lunch, regular company outings, birthday cake, an employee appreciation week, a celebration of successes, sponsored training, mental health resources, and bonuses. But oftentimes, a simple “good job” is the best reward. 

“People work for money but go the extra mile for recognition, praise, and rewards.” – Dale Carnegie, a Leadership Training Guru

4. Be surrounded with positive people.

A healthy environment values people, initiates engaging conversations, and builds productive learning for growth. Moreover, positive people’s moods, perspectives, and vibes evoke a positive atmosphere. 

For this reason, surround yourself with affirmative people and engage in conversations that inspire, empower, and help boost your motivation levels.

Move away from the types of conversations that stimulate destructive criticism, shaming, and gossiping. Avoid those who communicate a sense of disgrace and humiliation to another person or use power to put someone in a bad light. 

“Surround yourself with the dreamers, and the doers, the believers, and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” – Edmund Lee, The New York Times

If you think you are struggling with chronic demotivation, seek help to begin afresh. Talk to a professional Therapist or certified Counselor who can clinically assist you in the practical steps of regaining motivation. Moreover, engage in a community of dreamers, doers, thinkers, and who believe in your capacity to overcome, achieve, and excel.

Know that there is nobody like you and that is your capacity. Work on your goals again and strive toward meaning, purpose, and a life worth living.

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