Why Am I Feeling Unmotivated? School, Work, And More!

By: Marie Miguel

Updated February 20, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: April Brewer , DBH, LPC

Source: pixabay.com

No one is expected to be on the edge of their seats with excitement at all times. Whether in relationships, school, work, or even our leisure activities, there are times individuals simply lack the motivation or energy to go that extra mile, or even the mile. If this is a new feeling, it might be a good idea to reflect on what has changed in your situation lately. If the feelings have persisted over a long period of time, the lack of motivation could be a sign of depression. Sometimes, we may feel unmotivated because we have never learned how we are motivated, what types of stimuli are necessary for us to act.

When the Applause End

Take new college students for example. They have gone through 12 years of education where nearly everything they did was graded and returned to them, sometimes with a sticker. A progress report went home on regular intervals and there may have been a reward or a consequence, depending upon the grades contained within. These were extrinsic, or external rewards used to motivate. In college, it is not like that. There is rarely daily homework. Tests and essays are graded and returned, but there is rarely anything more than the grade itself; certainly, not a smiley face. The biggest change is that grades do not come out on a periodic basis, and parents do not receive a report.

If this student, who was a good student in high school with grades in the As and Bs finds he or she is flunking out of college, it might be that this student responds on an extrinsic level to motivation. Some say these are damaging to a student's ability to self-motivate. These findings are critical to new college students because extrinsic motivation is very rare in college, the most a college student can hope for in larger institutions is for the professor to recall his or her name.

Applauding Yourself

Source: flickr.com

If the sample student is doing very well, then chances are he or she is intrinsically motivated, meaning he or she is motivated by internal factors. Students such as this do well because it makes them feel good about themselves. They thrive on competing with their own best efforts. These students rarely procrastinate because their reward is personal satisfaction, and they like rewarding themselves. They like the idea of sleeping well the night before a test because they know they are prepared. They do not typically understand their peers who are in a constant state of turmoil over late or missed deadlines, or poor grades due to lack of effort.

For the individual who responds best to extrinsic motivation, it is sometimes necessary to create external rewards for a job well done. For example, use a personal bartering system.

  • For every two hours studying, take a 10-minute social media break.
  • For every assignment turned in on time, allow one hour of game time.
  • For every letter-grade increase, buy a long-coveted item.

Source: familyfuncanada.com

In order for this to work, of course these "rewards" have to be something that have been removed, and can be given back in exchange for the improved grades or academic behavior.

In the workforce, this may be even more difficult. Of course, there is a paycheck that comes at the end of a pay period, but if an employee is salaried, the paycheck remains the same no matter how motivated the individual is. When someone lacks motivation on the job, it can reduce not only his or her own productivity, but can affect others as well. There may be no external forces at play until time for the annual evaluation. By that time, the damage has been done, and the individual's chance for salary increase, bonus, or promotion has been thwarted.


To be at our personal best, we must know what our personal best is, and what it takes to get us there. Some people may go through life not knowing what their motivational style is. We cannot expect to always have someone else rewarding us for a job well done, that means a change in how we think about our success. For fun and insight, take Oprah's motivational style quiz. You might be surprised about what you learn.

Source: pixabay.com

No matter what your motivational style, if you have found yourself recently lacking motivation, there could be an underlying problem. Do not allow your lack of motivation lead to bigger problems with school, work, relationships, or other activities. Get help now, from BetterHelp.

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