How do I regain the motivation I once had?

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rickith
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09 Feb 2013, 7:21 pm

How do I regain the focus, motivation and ability to get things done that I once had?

I remember being able to really commit myself to things when I was younger. At around age 13 when I started programming I could work on projects for weeks. In school I was to able to actually study for tests and do my homework up to a point where I actually scored pretty good grades. Back then I could really focus and work on things, stay motivated and finish things.

For the first year in high school I could still do this without any problems, but somewhere around half way through my second year of high school I lost it. I could no longer get myself to really study. I'd make plans to do my homework and study for tests, made sure I'd spread it out over serveral days so I didn't need to learn everything in one day, but in the end I'd just sit there with my books in front of me just sort of staring at them, but not able to really absorb the information.

This in turn meant my grades dropped significantly which lead to trouble, but I managed to keep the grades just above the "critical" level. This went on for a while, but after my third year I couldn't keep up anymore and I opted to drop one education level (we have three main education levels in high school here in the Netherlands, I spent my first three years in the highest level). At this time these motivation issues also found their way to my spare time. I managed to graduate high school on the lower level two years later with ease because things were easier, but the focus and motivation issues remained.

By this time I was like 18 and next up was four years of college. While college was definitely loads more interesting than high school in terms of subject matter and such, I was still not able to really study. I bought like a dozen books I was supposed to read for classes but I barely even touched them. I managed to get by by paying attention in class and tapping into my knowledge of computers and programming that I had picked up in my spare time over the years. Four years later I graduated, but I feel like I've wasted my time there. And I don't mean that I didn't learn anything or that it was worthless or anything, I mean that there's so many things I could've picked up on and studied, but I didn't because I wasn't able to get myself to do it. It feels like I missed a lot of oppurtunities.

And here I am now, 23 and working fulltime as a software developer. And while my job does give me a lot of stress, I am able to do what I'm supposed to without too much trouble.

It's like I can only really get myself to do things if I'm "forced" to by others or if there is a significant consequence for not doing something (i.e. getting fired for not doing my job, or doing something because someone else depends on it). However, if it's something regarding me, I turn into a huge slacker and it becomes really hard to even start working on something. Like this project I've been working on for many years (a browser based game written in PHP), I want to finish it, but it is so damn hard to start working on it and to keep working on it. It's frustrating because I know how I worked on it in the past and how relatively easy it was back then.

And it's not just big things, it's little things too, like dealing with letters. I put them on my desk as I get them with the intention of dealing with them (i.e. paying the bill, just reading it, storing it) but even something as simple as that can be hard to do so the stack gets bigger. Every once in a while I'll somehow flick a switch in my head and deal with the letters, but it's so annoying knowing that there's things I should do that would only take a minute and yet I can not get myself to do it.

Recently, I got offered the oppurtunity to go follow some courses to get extra certificates and such by my employer, but I am reluctant to do so though, because I am afraid that it'll be like college again. That I'd get an oppurtunity to grow and learn cool new things and that I am not able to really seize the oppurtunity. Only this time it'd feel extra bad about it because my employer would be paying for it. So I'm not really sure what to do with that =/

Anyway, that turned out like quite the wall of text. I guess what I'm looking for is any advice or stories of people with similar problems.


TL;DR: I lost the ability to focus, stay motivated and get things done during my high school years and I want that ability back, any tips?



franknfurter
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09 Feb 2013, 7:26 pm

rickith wrote:
How do I regain the focus, motivation and ability to get things done that I once had?

I remember being able to really commit myself to things when I was younger. At around age 13 when I started programming I could work on projects for weeks. In school I was to able to actually study for tests and do my homework up to a point where I actually scored pretty good grades. Back then I could really focus and work on things, stay motivated and finish things.

For the first year in high school I could still do this without any problems, but somewhere around half way through my second year of high school I lost it. I could no longer get myself to really study. I'd make plans to do my homework and study for tests, made sure I'd spread it out over serveral days so I didn't need to learn everything in one day, but in the end I'd just sit there with my books in front of me just sort of staring at them, but not able to really absorb the information.

This in turn meant my grades dropped significantly which lead to trouble, but I managed to keep the grades just above the "critical" level. This went on for a while, but after my third year I couldn't keep up anymore and I opted to drop one education level (we have three main education levels in high school here in the Netherlands, I spent my first three years in the highest level). At this time these motivation issues also found their way to my spare time. I managed to graduate high school on the lower level two years later with ease because things were easier, but the focus and motivation issues remained.

By this time I was like 18 and next up was four years of college. While college was definitely loads more interesting than high school in terms of subject matter and such, I was still not able to really study. I bought like a dozen books I was supposed to read for classes but I barely even touched them. I managed to get by by paying attention in class and tapping into my knowledge of computers and programming that I had picked up in my spare time over the years. Four years later I graduated, but I feel like I've wasted my time there. And I don't mean that I didn't learn anything or that it was worthless or anything, I mean that there's so many things I could've picked up on and studied, but I didn't because I wasn't able to get myself to do it. It feels like I missed a lot of oppurtunities.

And here I am now, 23 and working fulltime as a software developer. And while my job does give me a lot of stress, I am able to do what I'm supposed to without too much trouble.

It's like I can only really get myself to do things if I'm "forced" to by others or if there is a significant consequence for not doing something (i.e. getting fired for not doing my job, or doing something because someone else depends on it). However, if it's something regarding me, I turn into a huge slacker and it becomes really hard to even start working on something. Like this project I've been working on for many years (a browser based game written in PHP), I want to finish it, but it is so damn hard to start working on it and to keep working on it. It's frustrating because I know how I worked on it in the past and how relatively easy it was back then.

And it's not just big things, it's little things too, like dealing with letters. I put them on my desk as I get them with the intention of dealing with them (i.e. paying the bill, just reading it, storing it) but even something as simple as that can be hard to do so the stack gets bigger. Every once in a while I'll somehow flick a switch in my head and deal with the letters, but it's so annoying knowing that there's things I should do that would only take a minute and yet I can not get myself to do it.

Recently, I got offered the oppurtunity to go follow some courses to get extra certificates and such by my employer, but I am reluctant to do so though, because I am afraid that it'll be like college again. That I'd get an oppurtunity to grow and learn cool new things and that I am not able to really seize the oppurtunity. Only this time it'd feel extra bad about it because my employer would be paying for it. So I'm not really sure what to do with that =/

Anyway, that turned out like quite the wall of text. I guess what I'm looking for is any advice or stories of people with similar problems.


TL;DR: I lost the ability to focus, stay motivated and get things done during my high school years and I want that ability back, any tips?



well, it did happen to me, but my loss of motivation was due to bad anxiety, and depression, so im not sure i can help much, but i suppose i can relate to the frustation of not having the motivation.

do you enjoy what you do.?
do you feel depressed?



Surfman
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09 Feb 2013, 7:33 pm

You want your youthful enthusiasm back, huh?
maybe become more youthful

discard your recent knowledge
exercise and get fit

enlighten your spirit of stress and corrupting influences
meditate on becoming young, dumb and full of cum



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09 Feb 2013, 7:38 pm

I know exactly what you mean. I had this phase for the last 5-6 months and I'm still not completely out of it. For me, the problem was that I was almost always in a light to moderate sensory overload. The lectures were too loud, and the words on the sheets just stopped making sense. Even if I had wanted to work, it just wasn't possible. And at home I could not bring up the energy to start anything: no motiviation, no interest, no concentration.

I think there might also be an underlying slight, chronic depression. Maybe something troubles you - it might be so subtle and subconscious that you're not even aware of it. That certainly was the case for me.

Think about why you have no motivation. Are you generally sad and without energy? Is there too much sensory input? Are you pessimistic about your future and therefore see no sense in it all?


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rickith
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09 Feb 2013, 7:42 pm

Thanks for the replies so far, I'll reply tomorrow. Time to sleep now first, tired.



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09 Feb 2013, 8:00 pm

I've had the same problem for the last 4 months. Just barely starting to come out of it... I hope. I've been able to get things done at work but not as much as i used to. i am also a programmer. my job consists of small projects large projects and troubleshooting. it is easier for me to get motivated with the larger projects since i get absorbed in them. the smaller projects and documentation are harder. i have to force myself to do those. also it has been extremely difficult to get out of bed in the morning. i wake up but stay in bed for 30 minutes. i have a personal programming project that I want to finish but can't motivate myself to do much of anything at home. About 2 years ago I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. the anxiety has improved but is still there. most of the depression is gone but lack of motivation lingers. i started exercising 3 times a week 2 weeks ago. It SEEMS to be helping some but I still have problems getting out of bed. I am going to keep up a regular exercise routine to see if my motivation improves more. I will post again if it does. However with low motivation it took a couple of months thinking about exercising before I did it. Maybe you can try to add regular exercise to see if that helps?



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09 Feb 2013, 8:03 pm

Random42 wrote:
I've had the same problem for the last 4 months. Just barely starting to come out of it... I hope. I've been able to get things done at work but not as much as i used to. i am also a programmer. my job consists of small projects large projects and troubleshooting. it is easier for me to get motivated with the larger projects since i get absorbed in them. the smaller projects and documentation are harder. i have to force myself to do those. also it has been extremely difficult to get out of bed in the morning. i wake up but stay in bed for 30 minutes. i have a personal programming project that I want to finish but can't motivate myself to do much of anything at home. About 2 years ago I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. the anxiety has improved but is still there. most of the depression is gone but lack of motivation lingers. i started exercising 3 times a week 2 weeks ago. It SEEMS to be helping some but I still have problems getting out of bed. I am going to keep up a regular exercise routine to see if my motivation improves more. I will post again if it does. However with low motivation it took a couple of months thinking about exercising before I did it. Maybe you can try to add regular exercise to see if that helps?


I'm a programmer too by the way. (Not a surprise in an Aspie forum, I guess.) And I agree that documentation is the worst. I just want to start coding and not write stupid specifications or user stories. :x


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09 Feb 2013, 8:28 pm

I don't know.......I'm wondering the same thing....having the same problem. :(



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09 Feb 2013, 9:13 pm

I am not a programmer in any way. However, I went through what you did in high school. Come to trade school after college, I was in the same boat. I personally, do not like tests and the cards go down if I get flustered. I have had to get my confidence back that I can master tests and be confident of my abilities. In high school, I was confident about passing tests. It slowly went away in college and in trade school. It took me some time to regain it and that may be the case with you.



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09 Feb 2013, 9:59 pm

I have the same problem, too. In my case it seems to have something to do OCD and/or anxiety. I've been having it for years. Even now. I feel I have to do whatever I do absolutely perfectly and that puts too much pressure on me. I get overwhelmed and can't even get started. It started when I was 17 years old. I haven't come out of it since. It affected my life pretty badly to the point of not being able to get a job I would like. It's quite debilitating. In every aspect of my life I only do essential things such as eating, showering etc. Letters accumulate, too. I seldom do any cleaning. My rooms are full of junk and barely have any room for me to step on. To other people it looks like laziness. I am interested in so many things, but I can't even start doing any of them. Everything somehow feels so overwhelming.

Sorry for not being able to provide any solution to your problem. I'm struggling with it myself. But as some others suggested, you may have depression. Even subconsciously you might be troubled by something. The cliche advice is to go see a psychologist or psychiatrist to find out what's happening in your mind. Having AS/autism may also indirectly contributing to it. I believe that's the case with me.



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10 Feb 2013, 2:33 am

It's the product of having a full-time job and a lot of stress in it. It's how most middle-class, independent adults live. We have little to nothing motivation after work or on weekends, we've gotten used to stress as the motivator. This is where the nagging wife plays the role of motivator to unclog the sink.


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10 Feb 2013, 5:06 am

Maybe you could make studying a way of relieving stress. I'm doing an online course at the moment and find studying can be quite relaxing.



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10 Feb 2013, 7:24 am

Dear rickith,

I'm sorry to hear about you lacking motivation. I know what you are talking about. In order to understand why you have no motivation you need to know how the world works:

All people are on a spectrum of how much they care about their surroundings. The more you care about your surroundings the less energy do you have to care about yourself.

So called "normal" people are somewhere in-between, they care mostly about themselves, but also some of their surroundings.

Asperger people's natural state is to care (almost) only about their surroundings. Other's problems and concerns are important, but not one's own problems (unfair right?!).

Sociopaths don't care about their surroundings at all. They interact a lot with people, but only to their own benefit. They don't truly care about other people - they are willing to exploit them. Other's problems are irrelevant to them, only their own problems matter.


Nature is basically UNFAIR (it is a neurotypical world, not an autistic world):

- The more you care about your surroudings, the more you get punished. (being good is punished)
- The less you care about your surroundings, the more you are rewarded. (being bad is rewarded)

So sociopaths are rewarded the most, asperger people are punished the most.


You get motivation when you act like a sociopath. In order to do that you have to not care about your surroundings. In order to re-gain motivation you have to tell yourself to "Not give a F**K**G damn about anything".

The neurotypical world we live in is very unfair. In my opinion everything ought to be reversed, i.e. it should be rewarded to think mostly about your surroundings. But that is not the case.


If you want to re-establish justice in this world you'll have to not give a damn about anything. (It also becomes much easier to communicate with people when you do this, and you gain a lot of condidence). I wish the world worked the other way arround. This is also the reason why girls in the end prefer "bad boys" (because they actually do not give a damn about anything).



Last edited by qawer on 10 Feb 2013, 8:23 am, edited 1 time in total.

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10 Feb 2013, 7:46 am

Of course real sociopaths have their own problems. For instance drug abuse, and being on the edge with the law...that's not what I am recommending you...

Since you are far far away from being a real sociopath it will never be possible for you to get all the way over there...you should only act more sociopathic to re-gain motivation not to become an actual sociopath.



So how do you know if you are in the proper state of "not giving a damn F**K about anything"?

You know you are in that state when you don't care about the fact that life is truly UNFAIR. It is OK to think it is unfair, but no unfairness in life should prevent you from getting the happy, joyfull, carefree life you most of all deserve as an aspie.

So in order to establish justice (thinking a lot about other people should be rewarded) you have to not care about life's unfairness. So to obatin fairness, you have to not care about fairness....the wrong way around right? But that's how it is. The more you want fairness in life, the less you should care about the unfairness in life.



rickith
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10 Feb 2013, 10:10 am

Franknfurter:
I suppose I'm not really happy, but I have no idea if I'm feeling depressed. I feel like, neutral or something and I don't really remember feeling much different.

As for what I enjoy, I enjoy getting absorbed into a programming project, but that is one of the things I'm having trouble with. Other than that it's tv/video games but I'm not entirely sure if I really like to do that, it seems more of a way to ignore the rest of the world for a little bit.

I do suffer from anxiety so I guess that may have something to do with it.

Sanctus:
Well I do feel low on energy but I think that's just 'cause I work fulltime. As for sensory input, I don't think there's too much of it. Ofcourse there's times when there is but it's not like it's constant. I am pessimistic about my future in the sense that I feel like "is this it?". Work five days a week, get two to recharge and then work again, only to be interupted by a few weeks of free time every year. And repeat that for the next forthy-some years.

As for why I lack motivation, I don't really know why that is. For the browser game I guess it might be size of the project, but that hasn't always been a problem and doesn't account for things like dealing with letters and other small tasks. I do notice that the vaguer the task the harder it is to do it.

Random42:
I've been trying to do some exercise (a few sets of 25 push ups and sit ups per day), but it's hard to stick with it. I've also been toying with the idea of picking up swimming but so far I haven't been able to get myself to do that.

Hunterton:
I suppose a fear of failing may have been the case in high school, but I am not so sure about college. I mean, even with as little studying as I did I still got good grades and even graduated cum laude. I am quite a perfectonist though so maybe it's cause I try to keep myself to such high standards that I'm afraid of not meeting those standards or something.

Jk1:
I guess perfectionism may have something do with it. I am a perfectionist which makes me good at my job but it can also be tiring. Seeing a therapist of sorts is something I've been thinking about, but the problem is that I'll need my parents to help set that up. They've already had to deal with my depressed/suicidal brother (he's sort of okay now) which has been really stressful for them so I am a little reluctant to make them worry about me aswell =/

qawer:
I guess you are right that caring less about others and more about yourself will make you more confident, but how does one achieve that? I don't feel like I could really care less about the people and things around me in my daily life. Being more confident would obviously be beneficial either way, but would that really have much of an effect on motivation?


Thanks for the replies so far people, it has given me a lot to think about.