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Self Help Advice Column on Motivation

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Dear KRS,
I think Iím suffering
from burnout. Iíve been working on my own as a consultant for six years, highly motivated for most of that time and reasonably successful. In recent months, I seem unable to find the motivation to complete my assignments. I can barely bring myself to write my reports until the deadline is almost upon me.

I lack interest in the subjects and do everything I can to procrastinate getting down to work. Iím trying to find a job within an organization so that I will be "required" to work - and hopefully have more motivation. But Iím not sure thatís really the answer. I should mention that I take anti-depressants, and these keep my mood stable, but theyíre not apparently a solution to this problem. Is this burnout? How does one deal with burnout?
Burned Out Entrepreneur

Dear Burned Out,
You have a pretty good overview of your situation. Yes, it would seem that you are a victim of burnout. Things that were interesting to you suddenly do nothing. If this is the case, you can very likely take control, turn things around and stop being the victim. The first cure for burnout is a break. Take a vacation for as long and far away as possible. No laptops, no business calls, no business literature. Hopefully you have, or can create, financial resources to do this. If you are like most entrepreneurs, you have likely taken very few vacations so this may be just what the doctor ordered. It often is just that simple.

You might also explore what happened at the onset of your burnout, besides too much work Ė a death in the family, relationship problems or anything else? If yes, work towards resolving the issue (in addition to taking a vacation). I donít see a job with forced structure and deadlines the solution since you have enjoyed your consulting work in the past.

Finally, if you havenít already, you might discuss your medication with your doctor. Sometimes just a slight adjustment can get you back on track. Hang in there. You are obviously a talented, sensitive person that the world needs.


Dear KRS,

Can you help a 48yr old hospital staff RN that averages 50 hr. work weeks? I've been an RN for 5 yrs. My husband divorced me 2 yrs ago after 26 yrs of marriage. I'm 5' 2'' and weigh 180 lbs. I have trouble sleeping and Iím always tired. I want to exercise and keep trying to start, but I just can't keep motivated. Same with dieting. 

I'm a good nurse, I care a lot about my patients and I kill myself trying to do whatís expected of me by the hospital (paper work, # of Patients, etc.) and giving proper care to my patients. I need some relief!

Nurse Who Canít Heal Herself

Dear Nurse,

If you donít take time to care for yourself soon, you may indeed ďkillĒ yourself taking care of others. When you say youíre trying to do what is ďexpectedĒ of you, ask yourself, ďIs this whatís expected of others in my position and if so, are they fulfilling their duties effortlessly?Ē 

In other words, perhaps you are taking on more than you need to because you ďthinkĒ more is expected of you. This is just a guess, but it may be worth examining, especially if you are a ďpeople pleaser.Ē If you feel that more is required of you than others, talk with your superior and express this. Nothing beats clear communication. 

Then set aside a specific time for you to exercise 5-6 days a week. Iíd like you to start with only 5-10 minutes a day. Get into the habit of it and do not miss, no matter what. You can add 5 minutes every few weeks, if you like, but do not be too ambitious in the amount of time you commit. Less is more at first, and consistency is everything. 

Your sleep should improve when you are exercising regularly. Your self-esteem will pick up once you realize you are a worthwhile person and that there is no need to punish yourself for a failed marriage. 

Stock up on healthful foods once a week Ė how about Sundays? Stick with the plan and keep a calendar of your success (days you stuck to your plan). The motivation will grow with your momentum.



Dear KRS,

Why do people get different results no matter how hard they studied, for example:

I have studied for a math test or computer or English test very hard and more than anyone else in the class. Many students are in the class; I am 22 years old; others are 16, 18, 27, 30, all of them studied less than me in all these subjects. No one spent the time and effort that I spent to get a good grade, but all of them got better grades than me.

After one year for instance all of them were able to answer the computer test perfectly without studying for it, but after one year I forgot everything about what I studied and I did worse than the first time and worse than all of them again.

Why do other students have better understanding abilities for some subjects than me, or they are more able to comprehend faster than I am able to, no matter how much time I spend with some subjects. Other students are more able to give results much better than me.

What is the secret of this situation and how can I improve myself? This situation is not once in a lifetime, but I am facing the same situation for years. Please provide me all what you know about this problem.

Slow Learner

Hi Learner,

First, congratulations on wanting to better yourself! Most people don't take the time or don't care enough about improving themselves to work on a problem area. Believe me - in seeking such improvement you are above the norm and possess a valued trait in becoming a success.

Yes, people vary in their ability to retain information and speed in learning. For this you might take a short (evening or summer) class in memory, for example. Just as importantly, I would begin giving yourself positive messages, such as "I retain information and am good enough. You probably have been having a lot of negative self-talk, so we want to reverse that and start building your self-esteem so you BELIEVE you can learn and retain. When there is fear and dread around learning, there is less retention, so relax and believe you can retain all you want.

I notice you said other students do better in "some subjects. My guess is you do just fine in those subjects for which you have an interest. I'm the same way, as are most people. Pursue subjects and a career for which you have an interest. There's a book called "Do what you Love & The Money Will Follow" (which I've never read, but the title says a lot). I say, "Study what you love and the learning will follow."



Dear KRS
I am coming
out of an almost three year slump -- breast cancer, death of dad, being laid off job, etc. During this time I did little but "veg out," consequently gaining a ton of weight (about 40 pounds to be exact). I find myself now wanting to exercise and look great. I am walking 2 to 4 miles every day, doing spot stuff with free weights and I am about to start jumping rope and alternating that with jumping in place on a mini trampoline.

I guess my question is this: Will the weight come off quickly just by virtue of the fact that I am moving once again (getting a life and a metabolism)? I am already a vegetarian, I am planning to give up all soft drinks in favor of seltzer (and yes, I am also doing 66 ounces of water a day). Also, I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but I do love pretzels... What do I need to cut out or increase? I want miracle results fast. 
Three Year Slump 

Dear Three Year Slump,
I would say your miracle has already begun. Life tends to go in cycles of ups and downs. Buddhists call it expansion and contraction - the natural ebb and flow of life. 

Becoming an illuminated adult means learning how to accept both the ebb and the flow equally, clinging to neither. You are in an exciting transition period, which I suggest you enjoy versus trying to push yourself too much. You are doing a good job of moving from mourning to joy. Think of the past three months not as a slump or "veg out" time but as a valuable time of healing. Had you thought in these terms at the time you might not have punished or self-medicated yourself with food. Remember this for the next time. 

Yes, the weight will come off on its own with the workout you described. I would skip the jumping activity - the gravitational pull can be a bit rough on women's bodies. Shift your focus from the 40 pounds to the joy of being alive and realizing the miracle in progress.


Dear KRS,
I have been experiencing
great difficulties in my life lately. It mostly has to do with school. I just keep slacking. Itís like I have all this school work to do but I will wait until the last minute to do it. How can I boost my motivation?
- Student Needing Motivation

Dear Student,
I would first ask yourself, ďWhat is really bothering me?Ē Write down everything you can think of that is causing you stress and then study the list.  Then spend a little time thinking of solutions to each one of them. You are wiser than you think and will come up with some good answers.

Slacking off at school often points to other things, such as self esteem issues about fitting in with the other kids or problems at home. When you find these red flags, whatever they may be, try to work through them. For example, talk with those people who may be bothering you, whether itís teachers, parents or other students. Calmly share your feelings and ask for honest feedback and help. Whatever the specific issues, please realize that you are good enough just the way you are, inside and out.

You may notice that once you feel better about yourself that the motivation to actively participate in your life will automatically improve.

I would also set some motivational guidelines for yourself. In regard to school work or any other duties to which you are obligated, designate a specific time that these things will happen and stick to it. For example, get as much studying done during free time in your school day (if you have any). Knowing that you will have more after-school free time will help motivate you to make use of free time during the school day.

Treat yourself with little rewards in the beginning to help establish the pattern. You will be surprised at how fast the motivation and the new study habit will grow once you give it a little push. Hang in there. You can do it.


Dear KRS,
How do I get myself motivated? I have a hundred goals for myself, but I get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. This just causes me to feel worse about myself, and then I'm even less likely to get anything done. How do I break this cycle?
Too Many Goals

Dear Too Many Goals,
You paint a frustrating but common scenario. Unmet goals are an unfortunate breeding ground for hopelessness and overwhelm. Some people actually unconsciously create this self-sabotaging scenario for a number of different reasons (some of which are more deep-rooted than others). Whatever the reason, changing the activity (of setting too many goals, in your case), can often change the internal self-sabotaging pattern. So how do you "change the activity?"

As a first step you need to restrict your goal-making. Sounds easy, but is actually quite difficult. Remind yourself that this is a kind and forgiving thing to do for yourself. Give yourself permission (in fact, an ORDER) to make just one SMALL, attainable goal. When the urge appears to "take on the world" with more goals, resist. Accomplish your first goal and enjoy the feeling of success; of being your own hero. Then set another smallish goal and do the same. And again - until you've redeemed your self-esteem and redefined yourself as a success instead of a failure. Slowly increase the difficulty and quantity of your goals, backing off when you see yourself falling into your old habits. Eventually you will have a built-in "goal barometer."

Incidentally, keep in mind that your "goals" are the least of what you are accomplishing. You are restructuring your internal responses, i.e. changing who you are! Big stuff.


Dear KRS,
I need some motivation to get me to exercise in the morning.  I diligently set the alarm early but 9 times out of 10 punch the "snooze" button and the next thing I know I'm racing to get to work on time.  Don't suggest I do it later in the day because that's impossible.
Snoozing & Not Losing

Dear Snoozing & Not Losing,
You snooze, you lose - but, unfortunately not inches.  The biggest challenge of exercise consistency is not physical - it's mental.  Staying motivated.  We have to become our own exer-psychologists to be sure the job gets done day in and day out.   What works one month may need alterations the next month.  Be aware of this and evolve your program accordingly.  Mental Motivator:  Put a sign on your alarm clock that says "You Snooze, You Lose."  Or how about "Take ONE Step."  That means all you have to do is get dressed and get started on your routine.  Promise yourself you can go back to bed if it's really that bad.  (No one ever does, but don't tell that to your rebel sub-self).  You might also paste a picture of your "goal" self (no models please) on the sign for a little added incentive.


Dear KRS,
I know what I SHOULD eat and the exercises I SHOULD do for a healthier life, but my problem is getting motivated.  Any ideas?
Unmotivated About Diet & Exercise

Dear Unmotivated,
Build the gyms and they will NOT come...
In fact 70% of us know what we SHOULD be doing for our health, but statistics say we are still not doing it - which is exactly why I call my business "Get Motivated" and wrote a book about it.  The reasons for being unmotivated can be quite varied and deep, but it often comes down to a few key tactics.

One of my "Eleven Proven Steps to Motivation" is very simply, "Not fun, not done."  If you really don't like doing something or eating something, keep experimenting until you find things that suit you better and will still get the job done.   A mentality of deprivation delivers program failure every time.  Enjoy the process of taking care of yourself.  Think of it as a luxury not a chore.   Change the "I SHOULD do this" thinking to "I WANT to do this" thinking.  It's possible, I promise.

Be aware, however, that there may always be at least one sub-self inside you who doesn't want to "get motivated." Instead of pushing that voice aside or deriding it, talk with it and promise it rewards.  The stronger alliance you build with your sub-selves, the smoother every part of your life will go.


Dear KRS,
I can't find a workout partner and I don't have enough motivation to work out alone.   Every time I start a workout, I go for one or two weeks then I always find an excuse not to go for a day or two and never pick back up.  I'm not quite sure how to get myself motivated enough to stick to a workout.
Need Motivation

Dear Need Motivation,
Everyone needs to learn who she/he is when it comes to exercise (and most everything else in life where you want to succeed).  Once you know "who" you are, the rest is quite simple.  For example, you seem to be socially-oriented and would therefore probably enjoy exercise most in a social atmosphere.  Join a gym or take classes, whether it's tap dancing or karate.  Be diligent about attendance until you've established the habit (30-60 days at least).  Keep a calendar during this period and keep track of your attendance (at least 3 times a week).  Then incorporate social exercise that is fun, such as tennis.  This makes your regular workouts more motivating, since they now also serve the purpose of keeping you in shape to do your "fun" workout.


Dear KRS,
year I make bold New Year's Resolutions with every good intent. I have always followed the line of thought to set your goals a little higher than you think you can reach so you will surprise yourself and do more. My only surprise each year is that I usually don't even make it to February without letting my goals slide. I don't want to fail again. Help!
New Year Resolution Failure

Dear New Year,
Many things make a resolution successful and one of them is, contrary to popular opinion, to set your goals for LESS than what you think you should. Set them so that you know you can keep them with non-Herculean effort. The surprise will be, come February lst, that you are still doing them. Then, approximately once a month, you can gently "raise the bar" a bit on your goals IF you feel like you can handle a bit more. If not, you are still a winner since you are still doing more than you were before. Such mental tactics can make or break a fitness program, a career, a life - and are worth taking the time to cultivate. [My book Healthy, Wealthy & Wise has 11 Proven Steps to Motivation that are quite effective]


Dear KRS,
I'm a 35 year old male who at one time was quite physically fit but now have been caught up with my career choice (that I do enjoy). I'm too tired to exercise in the evenings but somewhat unmotivated to get up in the mornings, although that would be my time of choice. I can tell that my health is somewhat on the decline because it takes me longer to heal and get over sickness than it used to. How can I get motivated in the AM and bring my weight down? Currently I'm about 205 @ 6' 1" and getting a "gut".
Expanding Waistline

Dear Expanding,
I have addressed this issue before (read "Morning Motivation" by clicking the MOTIVATION bar in "Ask KRS") but I get so many letters about it, let's talk about it a little differently.

Start by thinking of exercise as a luxury, as your TREAT at the beginning (or end) of the day. It may not always be "Ha, Ha" fun while you are doing it, but remember the good feeling you have afterwards, both psychologically and physiologically. This feeling is what makes the rest of your day "make sense." It is what gives Quality to the rest of your day and life.

Then decide which days you are going to COMMIT to getting up a little bit earlier. Be easy on yourself at first. How about starting with two weekdays such as Tuesdays and Thursdays along with midday Saturday and/or Sunday? Also, start by getting up only 15 minutes earlier the first week, then 20 minutes the second week, 30 the third and so forth. (Yes, your first workouts will be quite short, but remember we are in "Getting Up Early Training" more than "Exercise Training" in this beginning stage. Then when the alarm rings early on those two days, you feel it's a fair and doable deal. Keep a calendar for 30-90 days and cross off the days you exercise to keep yourself honest and motivated. After that, it becomes a positive habit that is no longer an effort.


Dear KRS,
mentioned in other responses something about a "subself" that needs rewards or attention. This is exactly what I try to tell my husband is going on with me. It is like this rebel inside that has to have the cookie and won't be happy until it gets the cookie (or doesn't feel like exercising, wants to sleep that extra 15 minutes, etc.) What else can you share about this "subself" and how to deal with its strength and ability to sabotage the best intentions?
Curious About Subselves

Dear Curious Subself,
Each of us has many sub-personalities or "subselves" which comprise that one person sitting there reading this. I often call these subselves "the committee" and they are formed by genetics, experiences and environment. You can identify your subselves and label them if you wish or bypass labels and talk to them directly. How skillfully we communicate with each of them measures how balanced the committee is as a whole and consequently how successful we are in our relationships endeavors and - life.

Imagine, for example, one of your unacknowledged subselves is a rebellious teenager who holds a lot of anger and dislikes discipline. How does any teen act if unacknowledged or ignored? It's not a pretty picture. The repercussion is that when your "parent subself" or "wiser subself" decides to cut back on fats or start an exercise program or practice the piano or even pay the rent on time, your rebellious teen will eventually (if not immediately) make her voice heard through behavior that is self-sabotaging. And one day you realize that your worthy goal has dissolved into the void and you can't remember how or why it happened. After licking your self-esteem wounds, you try once again only to "fail" again. This goes on with most people for their entire lives, never learning on a deeper level how to stop the cycle. Instead, they try new programs with new promises, failing to address the root cause.

Once the rebellious teen is invited in to the "round table" discussion with the rest of your committee of subselves and has the opportunity to be heard and offer input, she becomes a valuable contributor versus a liability. This discussion is done through self-dialoguing where each subself inside you gets to talk out loud, expressing her hurts, her needs and, ultimately, her compromise toward the attainment of the goals for the good of the committee. For example, your goal maker/parent/higher one (or whatever subself label you find appropriate) says, "What do you (committee) think about eating NO more cookies?" The teen subself says, "I think you're DREAMING - that's what I think." Goal Maker, "What about one cookie a day or every other day?" Teen, "Well, now you're talking! That sounds workable and, if you continue to treat me fairly like this, I will have no reason to sabotage your efforts." This self-dialoguing works like magic. Give it a try and you will attain more than your weight goals. You will also attain insight into your true nature and self-respect in the process.




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