Dealing with demotivation (part 3)

Over the last couple of posts, we’ve dealt with the demotivators of inadequate goal-setting and external stimulus and the impact of other people and of lack of autonomy. Today’s despicable duo is not knowing and fear.

The demotivating effect of not knowing 

When you’re just not sure what you want or what to do, it can have a paralysing effect. Your lack of certainty demotivates you to such an extent that it leads to a lack of action. You’re not alone: I’ve discussed this with many coaching clients and have experienced it myself too. Here’s a three-point plan we’ve developed together to spur you into action.

Step one: take your eyes off the horizon

Scanning your mental horizon hoping that you’ll see something that you want to head for isn’t going to help: it feels too far away and so you never actually set off.

Step two: look at what’s right in front of you

Now you’ve stopped gazing into the distance, what are the pathways directly in front of you? Which seems like a dead end? Which of those seems like it may lead to something else?  What’s the next step that can move your thinking or your activity forward, even just a little bit? As Victoria Labalme says – ‘Trust the idea that leads to the idea‘.

Step three: take that step

You may not be entirely certain what will happen if you take that next step – will they reply to your email? Will your application be rejected? Will she call back? Take the step anyway. Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to turn the steering wheel of your car when the car is in motion than it is to do so when the car is parked? This is a similar principle: as you move forward with one step, even though you are unsure of the outcome, it will be easier for you to keep on moving.

The demotivating effect of fear

Fear’s tactic to demotivate us also involves causing us to be inactive, even when our rational minds tell us to move forward. If you’re scared of heights, the knowledge that you are securely harnessed and will not plunge to the ground doesn’t make it any easier to step off a high platform and swing towards a cargo net.

So what do you do if fear is demotivating you from something you know you need to do? A client of mine – let’s call her Sally – was terrified of networking events but her work required her to attend them. Sally’s fear became so overwhelming that one morning she couldn’t even get out of her car. She sat in the car park for the entire event, watching the other participants go in and out of the building. In a session, we worked on a plan to tackle her demotivating fear.

Step one: what are your specific fears?

Rather than just say ‘I’m scared of networking events’, we broke this down into individual elements. The list included:

  • I’m worried about walking in on my own.
  • I’m scared I won’t know anyone there.
  • I’m worried that when I speak to people, they won’t want to talk to me.
  • I’m scared that I have nothing to say.
  • I’m scared that I’ll make an idiot of myself by spilling coffee down my shirt or look like Ed Miliband eating a bacon sandwich.
  • I’m worried that everyone else there will have a great time and I’ll look like a Billy-No-Mates.

Step two: what can you do to mitigate those fears?

Some of our fears can be a reality and some are imaginary: it’s possible that you won’t know anyone else at a networking event. You could spill coffee down your shirt. It’s unlikely that the other person will simply turn and walk away when you pluck up the courage to go up and introduce yourself.

By acknowledging the likelihood of our fears coming true, it’s easier to see them for what they are – a possibility or a wild imagining of a creative mind. Sally found that her less realistic fears tended to dissipate when she let them out of her mind into the open. For her fears which were possible, she came up with ways to lessen them: she invited a colleague from another business to come with her to the event. That meant they could walk in together, they could talk to each other in the unlikely event that no-one else talked to them, they could introduce each other to anyone one of them did happen to know and  they could encourage each other to chat with new people.

On a practical level, Sally decided that until she felt more confident at such events, she’d stick to sparkling water and choose not to eat. Acknowledging that one way to get people talking was to ask them questions, she prepared a few open questions which she could use to keep the conversation moving. Sally also realised that it was possible that other people there may not love networking either and decided she’d look out for anyone who looked a bit uncomfortable and go and talk to them.

Today’s pebbles for your consideration:

  • Are you demotivated by not knowing? Will you work through the three steps in order to break that demotivation and get moving again?
  • Is fear demotivating you? Will you tackle it by finding out what specifically you’re scared of and taking action to mitigate those fears? 

If I haven’t covered your demotivators over the past couple of weeks, don’t worry: there are two more on next week’s post.


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching.

If you’d like some help to find your motivation again,
why not email me to see how we can work together?

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4 Responses to Dealing with demotivation (part 3)

  1. Morning Michelle – very helpful. The other thought about fear which has helped me is this:
    It is not the thing itself which is frightening, it is our THOUGHTS about the thing that makes us frightened. eg travelling on the underground, other people seem quite unfazed and travel safely, daily – but my thoughts of closed spaces make me fearful.

  2. Pingback: Dealing with demotivation (part 4) | Turning over pebbles

  3. Pingback: Dealing with demotivation (part 5) | Turning over pebbles

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