Every leader– no matter how confident or successful they appear– experiences what I call “motivational lulls”. These dry spells in enthusiasm are characterized by apathy, frustration, and discouragement. We become disheartened by results when they don’t live up to our projections. We grow bored by the necessary routines and rhythms for leading our teams, companies, or even churches. The things about our work that once energized us now leave us depleted. When a trusted friend asks us what’s new since we last connected, our first response is to vent about the latest fire we had to put out or a lack of initiative from certain staff members than it is to celebrate progress or dream about the future.
Yeah, we’ve all been there. Instead of impassioned, we feel a bit stuck, and not sure how to snap out of the funk. And often, we’re unsure what brought on the motivational lull. Is our lack of excitement simply an indicator that it’s time to plan our next vacation or a sign of a much more significant issue that needs addressing? Do we need to change our rhythms, our attitude, or our jobs???
In my own experience, motivational lulls rarely fix themselves. Instead, over time they can lead to resentment, dissatisfaction, mission drift and even burnout. At different times over the years, I’ve had to set aside time to intentionally pray, reflect, and seek out the wisdom of others to discern both the cause and cure for my motivational lulls. I’ve found that proactively figuring out the why behind my lack of enthusiasm has not only empowered me to get unstuck but to become a healthier leader, minister and, most importantly, follower of Jesus.
Here are 7 key questions to ask yourself the next time you are in a motivational lull:
1. What’s the last thing God told me to do?
What’s the last thing the Holy Spirit prompted you to do? If you can’t remember or it’s been a while, it’s time to seek God’s will and listen for His direction. And if you can remember and haven’t yet committed to the task or assignment, get to it! Make the call. Have the conversation. Set the boundary. Sow the seed. Seek out the support. The absolute best way to get unstuck is to understand the assignment and get to it.
2. Do I know why I am doing what I’m doing?
The best motivation comes from living from a deep sense of purpose that influences how we work, how we play, how we rest, how we lead. Are you clear on your objectives? Do you know why what you are doing is crucial to the Great Commission? Do you have a picture of the impact it makes? Even leaders get mission drift from time-to-time. Revisit your big whys and make sure the majority of your time is spent on fulfilling purpose and not simply completing tasks.
3. Who am I surrounding myself with?
Are the people you are spending time with encouraging you as a leader? Or are they people who complain, grumble, and plant seeds of doubt in your mind? And what kind of person are you to those around you? Do you speak the language of hope and wisdom? Do others feel more or less motivated to live out their calling after spending time with you? Take a fresh look at the people you are spending time with and the types of conversations you are having. If they aren’t motivating you to love, faith, and peace, change the conversation and seek to create honest while still hopeful discussions about following Jesus and navigating the highs and lows of leadership and life.
4. Am I taking care of myself?
I’m pretty passionate about this one because I’ve seen so many leaders neglect their own mental, physical and emotional health in the name of ministry and/or leadership. I’ve been guilty myself at different times. C.S Lewis once wrote, “It’s not the load that weighs you down. It’s the way you carry it.” If you are feeling weighed down by the responsibilities of leadership, examine the rhythms of your life to see if they are providing you with the personal strength you need to carry it without striving, straining or injuring yourself (or others). Certainly, we need God’s grace to fulfill calling and glorify Him with our lives, but we also need to make wise and disciplined choices when it comes to our own health. Are you getting enough good quality sleep? Are you exercising regularly? How’s your nutrition? How are your Sabbaths? Perhaps behind your motivational lull is a cry to create healthy habits in your day-to-living.
5. Is fear limiting my actions?
The longer I follow Jesus, the more aware I am of the pervasive power fear has held over my life. I once saw myself as someone who didn’t really wrestle with that much worry and trepidation. Now, with age and experience, I am a bit wiser and more cognizant of the various fears that seek to immobilize my faith. I regularly ask God to reveal my timidity to me, exposing the ways in which they pull the strings in my heart. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of uncertainty. Fear of scarcity. When these fears go unchecked, it not only impacts my view of God and myself, it limits the risks I take, the opportunities I jump at, the boldness in which I approach my responsibilities as a minister and as a leader. I have a feeling the same is true for you. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where fear might be limiting your ability to dream with God and co-labor with Christ to see His Kingdom come.
6. Is there a conflict I am avoiding?
Is there a difficult conversation you have been putting off? Are there certain negative behaviors you’ve allowed on team rather than rock the boat? Is there a change that needs to be made, but you’ve avoided it because of the time it requires or the demands it will put on your leadership growth? One of the greatest momentum killers is unresolved conflict. Don’t let avoidance sabotage progress. Schedule the meeting. Come up with a plan. Don’t put off doing the right thing because it’s the hard thing.
7. How am I growing?
How are you investing in your personal growth? Where are you challenging yourself at the moment? If you are simply maintaining your leadership, instead of intentionally developing it, your motivation will inevitably take a hit. Identify a couple key areas you’d like to grow in and create an action plan for your growth. It could mean reading up on a subject, taking a course, finding a mentor or coach, or seeking peer support and collaboration.
If you are interested in growing in your leadership and/or your public speaking, learn more about my coaching offerings here. I’d love to work with you!