How do I get motivated?

Doron Greenspan ‏@DoronGreenspan: Best way to get motivated?


It’s very painful when you feel unmotivated. It’s like the world is a merry go round and everyone is having fun and you’re just lying down on the ground, unable to get on the ride. When I am unmotivated I can’t get out of bed. There was one period in the past three years where I look back on it and I can’t even imagine what I was thinking during the day. I did absolutely nothing. Zero. And as a result my entire life turned upside down after just one month of doing nothing. But it turned around for the better. And thank god I did nothing during that month. I needed to gather the strength.

You are really asking me two questions:

A) “Why am I feeling unmotivated?”

B) “How can I get more motivated?”

Forget motivation. There’s a reason you are feeling unmotivated. You might not like your job anymore. Or your spouse. Or your home. Or your entire life. Take a step back. You aren’t healthy. Something is not connecting.

In October, 2008 I was managing some money for a hedge fund. They were getting me started and wanted to see how I would do. In September, a horrible month for the markets, I was up. But in October I was down and I was very depressed about it. I’d refuse to look at the quote screen. I’d lie down on my hammock outside and fall asleep. I remember one time it started raining and I woke up. But I knew the market was crashing and I was long stocks (I even bought Lehman Brothers at one point) so I decided to just keep sleeping. When I finally woke I was soaking wet. Then I got sick and I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was unmotivated.

I had a down month and the guy who gave me the money called me. He said, “I’ve been calling you ten times a day. Where have you been?” I told him I had no excuse.

He said, “ok, I have to pull the money from you. It’s not because you were down on the month. Who cares. It’s because you never called me back. If you want to be good in this business, you have to be able to return phone calls and learn to communicate.” He was right. 4 years earlier I had helped him seed his own fund and now he was much bigger and had just been doing me a favor and I had let him down.

At the same time I was trying to start another company. A crowdsourcing ad agency called JungleSmash. You can see the results of it at since I no longer have the domain name It was going well. But I lost motivation for it. The guys from Freakonomics were helping me with it and I disappointed them. Meanwhile, I couldn’t focus on writing. I was moving houses AND this is precisely when my marriage was disintegrating. Ultimately, by the end of October I was mostly in random hotel rooms trying to figure out if I was ever going to see my kids again. I was depressed. Nothing could motivate me.

What got me off the floor? Not trying to get motivated. But first trying to get healthy.

I believe this: we have four bodies: physical (the obvious one), emotional, mental, spiritual. They are all connected. There is virtual blood that flows between them. There is a virtual heart in the middle. The blood is pumping through every second. Any blockage in any body and you have a “heart attack”, i.e. you get depressed, unmotivated, unhappy, unwilling to relax, you feel anxious, you feel like purposeless.

It’s important to get back on track with each. In one post I recommend very lofty goals to get each of the bodies in shape. But I take it back. Start with small goals. For physical, maybe instead of: “working out, sleeping more, eating well” just do “don’t drink soda for one day” or “sleep 8 hours instead of six”.

For emotional, instead of “get rid of all the crappy people in your life” try “next time you are angry, put yourself in their shoes for ten seconds”.

For mental, instead of “writing ten business ideas a day” how about “write one idea”.

For spiritual, instead of any kind of meditation or prayer, how about just “find one thing you are grateful about today.” Today I’m really grateful I get to answer this question of yours.

When you do these things, it feels like you are doing a lot of activity. But what actually happens is that all of your bodies get a little bit quieter. Over time the anxieties and all the thoughts that spring back and forth like a ball in a pinball machine, starts to get more and more silent and less active. This is what happens when you clean these bodies.

It is out of this quietness that true motivation and ambition comes. It turns your body into the transmitter for something else. Wait for the transmission. Wait for the message. You won’t need motivation then. Motivation will take you over and everyone around you will feel the energy spilling forth.