Uninspired vs. Unmotivated

So, there’s really only ever one reason to actually Do the Work You Should Be Doing.  It’s, duh, because it’s something you should be doing. And of course there are somewhere between seventy-three and eleventy-seventeen billion reasons not to.  Like, you know, “Darn, this chair is too comfy!” or “Yes, but the remote is all the way over theeeere.”

I frequently find myself sitting on the couch thinking “I really should be doing That Thing” and then I immediately get up and get to work!

And by “immediately get up and get to work”, I mean “continue to sit there and feel guilty about how I’m not working.”

Generally all the Reasons Not To Do The Work fall into two big categories.  Either I feel Uninspired and make excuses, or I feel Unmotivated and make excuses.

Turns out, uninspired is fine.  Most work gets done by people who feel uninspired when they’re doing it. You know, the whole 10% inspiration/90% perspiration thing.  (That’s actually a lie, by the way.  Turns out, empirically-speaking, that inspiration is no more than 3%.)

Continuing to work when you’re Not Feeling Inspired is what we call “being a professional”. You were inspired at one point.  That’s a good sign.  Trust your gut and stick with it, and there’s a very good chance that Inspiration will reappear at some point to give you the jolt you need to carry you through a little farther.  At least until you Feel Uninspired again.

Unmotivated is a different flavor that they don’t serve at Baskin-Robbins but is probably available at Ben & Jerry’s.  Unmotivated frequently comes from a Lost Place, where it’s tough to see how the Work connects to Anything That Matters.  Unmotivated means you’ve lost sight of how what you’re doing right now (or rather That Thing You Should Be Doing Right Now) moves you further towards The <Noun> You Want to Be.

Calling it Unmotivation is sneaky because it makes it sound like it’s merely a lack of something, when in fact Unmotivation is a powerful force of Resistance that must be overcome.  And the way to stomp Unmotivation in its weak ankles is to back away from The Work and dream a little bit about what having accomplished The Work is going to do for you.  Stand in front of a mirror and remind yourself why you started it in the first place.  Sit down and interview yourself as if you’ve already completed The Work.  You know, like:

You: “So, you’re looking pretty amazing today.”

You: “Thanks.  I pretty much look amazing every day.  Also, I am clever.”

You: “I’ve noticed.  Let’s talk about The Work.  How do you feel after winning All the Awards?”

You: “Well, you know, for me, it’s never been about All the Awards.  I’m glad to have them, of course, but really I just wanted to do The Work because <spoilers redacted>”

And so on and so forth.  Dreaming about the end was likely what got you started in the first place. Take a moment to remind yourself about what’s waiting on the other side of Unmotivation, and then while he’s standing over you breathing out of his mouth thinking he’s stumped you for another day, FIST HIS EYEHOLE.

And then get to work.

In summary:

  • Uninspired? Do the work anyway.
  •  Unmotivated? Take a breather, dream a bit. Then do the work anyway.



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