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8 Negative Thoughts That Destroy Your Motivation

We all struggle with negativity. Our jobs are not what we would like them to be; or we lose a job. Our relationships go sour; we are deeply in debt and can’t pay all of our bills; we don’t have the time or money to go back to school, so we just can’t get ahead.

There are two ways that we humans deal with these problems and crises. Some of us stand up, put our shoulders back and push ourselves to get past the problems, doing what we can to solve them and moving forward. Some of us, on the other hand, sit down, slump our shoulders, and decide that we will just have to accept what has befallen us and live in our misery.

Both of these responses are the result of thought patterns that we have developed over many years – we are either primarily optimistic or primarily pessimistic. Pessimistic thought patterns keep us “stuck” right where we are, without the motivation to change things. Here are 8 of these negative thoughts that destroy our motivation.

8 Negative Thoughts That Destroy Your Motivation

There are just so many things wrong with my life.

When this is our dominant thought, we spend our thinking time listing all the things that are wrong, ruminating on them over and over again. And we can get into a pretty good “pity party” day after day, week after week. When we do this, we are just stalled. We hate our job but have to pay our bills. Instead of taking some action in the direction of looking for a job change, however, we prefer to just keep complaining and going to that job every day. The thoughts that are in play here are things like, “There probably isn’t anything better out there; I don’t have the skills I need and I don’t have any way to get them; a different job could be even worse than this one.”

At any given time period in our lives, we each could come up with 10-15 things that are not right with our lives. If you find yourself dwelling on these things, you might want to take some time, on a weekend or two, volunteering at a homeless shelter or at a children’s cancer ward. It will certainly give you some perspective. And when you get that perspective and realize that you have so many options, you can move yourself in the direction of some of those options, just one step a time. Get a resume put together – put it out there and see what happens. Sign up for one college course. Just take one step in a positive direction. – It’s rather contagious really.

I don’t want to fail – it will be embarrassing, and people will think less of me

There is not a person alive who has not failed at something. Failures are events in our lives, and they will happen. We fail a course in college; we fail to get the job we want; we try to launch a business and fail; we fail in a relationship. These are events – things that happen. And events don’t make us failures – not unless we let them do that to us. We are not failures if we get up, brush off the dust, figure out what we have learned from the event, and move on. Did you drop out of college because you failed one class? Of course not. What you learned is that maybe the major you chose is not for you; or maybe you learned that hitting the books a bit more might help. But you moved on. It is the same policy you have to adopt in life. If you worry about failing and what others will think of that, you are stuck again.

Getting over fear of failure is a process. You take one small risk at a time as you build your confidence. Maybe you don’t start a new business tomorrow, but you can motivate yourself to take an online course on entrepreneurship. That one step will provide the impetus for the next one.


There’s no point in setting goals – I never achieve them.

Motivation cannot happen without a goal of some kind. Think about it. If you are hungry, you have a goal of eating. And that goal makes you either fix something or go out and get something. No action occurs without a goal. So, you do set goals – they are just not the kind that motivate you in the bigger areas that will improve your life.

Sometimes, thinking about how a goal might improve the lives of others can be a great motivator. What if a better job would bring in more money to support your household? And to get that job, you need to go back to school. Now, the goal is not the job. The goal is to get a better lifestyle for your family or to be a good role model for your kids.

But there is nothing wrong in setting goals for purely selfish reasons either, if they will motivate you to move. What if losing 20 pounds would make you more attractive to that guy down the hall you really would like to know better? Anything that you can think of that will motivate you to make a movement toward a goal is a good thing.

Once you set some smaller goals and achieve them, you are ready for the bigger ones. Success begets success – remember that.

I will never be as good as my (friend, co-worker, supervisor), so there is no point in trying

This is a classic self-esteem issue. We feel the need to compare ourselves with others and always come out on the “short end of the stick.” This probably began much earlier in your life when you competed for things and maybe didn’t get first place or were not selected for the first squad on the team. Sometimes, it is the result of having felt awkward growing up, for any number of reasons.

Maybe you didn’t have the money or the clothes or the popularity that other kids did. Whatever circumstances caused this negative thought pattern are in the past not the present. And when we live in those past thoughts, we are stuck again.

If our expectations for yourself are built around comparing yourself to the lives and achievements of others, then you are living in their worlds not your own. Here’s a bit of food for thought. You are a talented musician. Would you compare yourself to Bill Gates? Of course you wouldn’t. The two of you are nothing alike. Well, you and your co-worker are nothing alike either.

Focus on what you know you do well. Once you do that, you then can begin to set a goal to become better at what you already do well. When you do your own thing and get better through your own action, that’s when the self-esteem grows.


I have some pretty bad things in my past – I need to think about how regretful I should be

We all have things in our past that we either regret or continue to feel guilty about. We have some options, and which ones we choose will determine whether we can get past them and move on to a more positive and productive lifestyle. We can wallow in our regret, but that is just an excuse not to do anything.

We can take action to fix the mistakes if we can; or we can choose to let go of those things we can’t fix and move on. Ruminating on them stalls us and makes us feel less worthy. Wayne Dyer, professor of psychology and new-age author once said, “The only important thing is this: are you a better person today than you were yesterday?” If your answer is “yes,” then you know you can be a better person tomorrow than today.

If that’s true, then how about making a list of the “better” things you are going to do tomorrow? Make the phone call about registering for that class; call that old friend whose feelings you injured last year; decide to do something nice for a random person. All of these things will get you out of that “guilt” mode, and give you positive energy.

I can’t achieve perfection, so there’s no point in trying

Wow. Do you know anyone who is perfect? Can you even find an absolutely perfect house or yard or company or job? No you can’t. Because humans are fallible, nothing we ever do or make will be perfect. And if you are waiting for that perfection, then you are just allowing yourself to avoid doing anything about your situation.

The idea here is to make things not perfect but better than they are right now. We all know people who are perfectionists – they are very unhappy. Think about what you can do right now it make your job, your career, your relationships better than they are right now.

Write those actions down. What will you do tomorrow? Keep that list with you where you can see it. And take pleasure in crossing each one off as you do it sort of your own personal “to-do” list of self-improvement.


Too many people are depending on me – I don’t have time to take on something new right now

And you can say this for the rest of your life if you choose. In this world there are three kinds of people – givers, takers, and those who know the balance between the two. If you are a giver, sometimes called a “pleaser,” then you are living according to the terms of others not your own.

Of course you have obligations to others – we all do. But we have obligations to ourselves as well. And if you are using your sense of obligation to keep you from moving your own self forward, then you will eventually become resentful, bitter, and resigned to staying where you are.

You cannot get motivated because you can’t say “no” to others. But here’s the great thing. If you can say “no” just once, for the first time, it gets easier each time you do it. And pretty soon, you have the time you need to set goals for yourself. It’s a great liberation.


I am really not capable of much more than what I am doing.

You are stuck in your “comfort zone.” And you let others who you believe to be more capable take on the challenges that move them ahead. Your safe plan is avoidance. There were lots of things in your life that were challenging – from learning how to ride a two-wheeler to getting through a tough course or a major life crisis.

You really are capable of greater things – it’s all in how you think about them. Here’s a little test. What would you really like to be doing a year from now if you had no barriers at all? Now, once you have that picture in your head, what could you do next week that might move you toward that? Next month? The month after that?

Get out a piece of paper and develop a timeline. Break that big goal down into little pieces. The big goal might seem to challenging, but what you will do next week doesn’t seem so bad. This is how motivated people operate.


If you have any of these thought patterns, then you are not becoming all that you can be. Tackle one pattern at a time – it’s a process but a worthy one. And years from now, you’ll look back on your life with no regrets!

Photo credit: Trevor King via flickr

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