5 Reasons Why Motivation Is Difficult to Sustain

When it comes to having the desire to achieve something big, we all have the best intentions. We day dream about it, we talk about it to our friends and family, and we even read books about it or research it online. But good intentions don’t equal action.

How many times have you heard friends, family members or coworkers say, “Someday, I’m going to reach this goal?” Or “Eventually, I’m going to make that thing happen?” Always said, never done. Even for people who do ending up embarking on some long journey toward achieving something, not very many of them make it.

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? When motivation kicks in naturally, you feel like you could do anything. It’s that feeling we’ve all felt before that cause so many of us to wait around for “the right moment” to finally feel like doing something important.

Motivation, however, isn’t something that just “shows up” quite randomly, even though it sure feels that way sometimes. Motivation is something that you generate from within yourself. And with momentum, comes even more motivation. The kinds you can sustain for a lifetime.

Here’s what’s probably holding you back. (Plus how to get on track with staying motivated.)

1. No plan. Without navigation directions, you can’t get to your destination. Without architectural instructions, you can’t build a house. Without a recipe, you can’t bake the most delicious cake of your entire life. You can try, but chances are you’re going to struggle quite a lot and either fail completely or end up quitting out of frustration. The same applies to long-term goal achievement.

The fix: You need a detailed outline, ideally written down, of both short-term and long-term goals—with action steps to reach them. Rewards should be worked in there too. If your big reward isn’t going to be reached until months or years down the road, you’ll lose motivation fast. You need short-term rewards to keep fueling and recharging your motivation.

2. Distraction. It’s not just you. We’re living in a society that has reached an all-time high in terms of distraction. Whether it’s the endless amount of smartphone notifications you get every day, or this month’s new lineup of shows and movies on Netflix—all these distractions are fighting for your attention, often winning and keeping you in an impulsive rut.

The fix: Eliminate every distraction that keeps sucking you in. Yes, I mean get rid of it! Cancel your Netflix subscription, delete those gaming apps from your phone, declutter your home, outsource those time-consuming tasks and do everything you can to free yourself from distraction. Out of sight, out of mind.

3. Drawbacks. Everyone knows what it feels like when the reality of challenge and imperfection starts to hit you. When it does hit, it can really feel like all the messy, grueling and unpleasant stuff you’ll undoubtedly have to face doesn’t seem worth the benefits of reaching your goal. So you procrastinate, you eventually talk yourself out of it, you convince yourself you’re not good enough to get through it and you tell yourself you never really wanted it that bad anyway.

The fix: Shift your fixed mindset to a growth mindset. A growth mindset involves looking at mistakes and even failure as opportunities to learn and get better. A growth mindset thrives on challenge and embraces it. Most people who achieve big things in their lives aren’t just lucky; they have growth mindsets.

4. Negative motivation. Here’s a tricky one. How many times have you tried to motivate yourself to do something by focusing on avoiding pain or suffering? An example would be to lose 30 pounds so you don’t put yourself at risk of developing heart disease or cancer. Another would be to finally start looking for a new job to escape the terrible boss you have at your current job. While this type of negative motivation may work for a while in the short term, it’s a recipe for failure in the long term.

The fix: Use positive motivation by looking at what you want to gain rather than what you want to avoid. If you lose 30 pounds, you can look forward to feeling fitter and healthier. If you start looking for a job now, the faster you’ll get to meet new people you might really enjoy working with.

5. Extrinsic motivation. If you’re extrinsically motivated, you depend on the outside world to reap the rewards of your efforts. This might include compliments from other people, money, material items, weight loss shown by the scale or anything else that doesn’t come from within you. That’s not always bad, but like negative motivation, it doesn’t really work if you want to sustain motivation for a long period of time.

The fix: Identify what you find personally rewarding about your goal, regardless of the external rewards. This, as you might’ve guessed, is called intrinsic motivation. If you can find personal satisfaction, enjoyment or even excitement in some part of the challenge or the journey itself, then you can stay motivated for years and years to come.

Motivation is one of my favorite topics to read about and experiment with in my own life. If you liked these tips, come on over and sign up for my 28 daily must-do rules for getting stuff done and becoming a better person!

Photo Credit: Keirsten Marie


Jetana A
Jetana A7 months ago

Unless you are obsessive, goals can be reached a step at a time, with Netflix for relaxation. I'm not giving up my subscription!

Carl R
Carl R7 months ago


Freya H
Freya H7 months ago

In these times we need to maintain our motivation for activism, and keep it energized. RESIST AND PERSIST!

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne R1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago


Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago


Jennifer Freismuth
Jennifer F2 years ago

If you spend all of your time writing down and planning and thinking and reading articles like this, you have no more time left to do anything! Live your life by your day to day goals and stop with the long terms into the long future goals because tomorrow is NOT promised!

Dorlinda Chong
Dorlinda Chong2 years ago

Ah, intrinsic motivation and no distractions. I can't eliminate my e-mail account, but I can delete a lot more of it.

Anteater Ants
Anteater Ants2 years ago

good point, Ron