How to Keep Working On Your Goals, Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

Tim Ebl

Tips to help you move forward without relying on motivation and excitement

Photo by Musa Ortaç from Pexels

Where will you be in a year? Do you have dreams of a different life? Most of us have goals. We hope we can make choices that will lead us to victory.

You might be planning your escape from the rat race with freelancing or writing. Maybe you want to get in shape and improve your health. Or you might be working on new skills like music, art.

Are you going to crush it and be where you want to be in 12 months?

Not if you only work when you feel like it. Your feelings will sabotage you and leave you stuck right where you are now. You won’t move forward. Your dreams will stay imaginary.

Your Self Talk Trap

Here are some examples of self-talk that will get you nowhere. “I should work out this morning, but I just don’t feel like it.” “I can’t write this article now. I don’t feel like it.” “ I don’t feel like practicing the guitar today.”

“It’s a trap!” — Admiral Ackbar

Doing only what you feel like doing today is a trap. It will make you feel a lot worse later when you realize you wasted all that time. Don’t fall for the idea of only working when you “feel like it.”

Motivation slips away from us, and we tend to stop trying. That’s why excitement, motivation, and feelings are terrible productivity tools.

Tomorrow, you’ll wish you started today. You need to find a way to make it happen.

Choose a Path — Feelings or Focus

Imagine two guys, Jim and Todd. Both of them have the same big goal. They want to be successful nonfiction article writers with thousands of followers and a few bucks in their pockets.

They start writing and publishing stories on a medium-sized platform.

Instead of writing every day, Todd only writes when he feels like it. If he sits down in front of that laptop and words don’t start pouring out, he gives up. He doesn’t feel like trying anymore and goes on TikTok. So much for this morning. Oh, well. He’ll do better tomorrow.

Todd manages to squeeze out four short articles a month. He writes 24 stories and counts himself lucky.

No one even knows Todd exists at this point because he only published 24 stories. That’s a newbie number of stories. Todd didn’t move the needle.

Todd’s work still sucks, too. He didn’t get much practice. He’s still a baby writer, a beginner. After an entire year, He’s only a hatchling.

Meanwhile, Jim doesn’t let his feelings run the show. He writes consistently, even though a lot of the time he doesn’t feel like it.

Jim back-burners those feelings and starts. Every day. Even if it’s garbage words, he practices writing garbage words.

He creates four stories a week and gets them out into the world. That’s over 200 stories in a year. Jim has a few thousand followers now, too.

Two hundred stories are 200 chances to practice headlines. Two hundred chances to find his writing voice. Two hundred opportunities to write a viral article.

Two hundred times that he can work on improving. Now Jim isn’t a baby writer anymore. Look out, world! He’s a toddler!

Punch Your “I Don’t Feel Like It” In the Face

When that voice in your head says, “I don’t feel like it,” give it a right hook so hard that it gives up and lets you get busy.

Don’t feel like it? So what.

When you don’t feel like it is the perfect time to take action. Grab your feelings and put them on a shelf beside your fear where they can’t stop you. Then turn and get moving.

One of my friends wants to do yoga. She knows it will help her get rid of back pain that’s ruining her life. Whenever she gets on the mat and stretches out those muscles, she feels like a new woman.

But she won’t start. “I just don’t feel like it,” she said.

WTF do feelings have to do with it?

She could look at her feelings and then do a yoga class. The two things have nothing to do with each other. It’s us that chose not to take action. Our self-talk leads us down the wrong path, one where we sit there.

Feelings can’t stop you from taking action unless you let them.

WTF Do Feelings Have to Do With It?

Screw your feelings and get to work!

Will you get life satisfaction if you listen to your feelings and never follow through to make your dreams a reality? Is telling yourself, “I don’t feel like it,” helpful to you in any way?


Will you feel good about yourself if you listen to your feelings and skip the workouts until you’re a weak, sad shadow of your former fit self? Unlikely.

“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” — Zig Ziglar

If you want to be a writer but only write when you feel like it, you won’t be much of a writer. If you want to play an instrument but only practice when you feel like it, you’ll never be much of a musician.

Your “feelings” are sabotaging you.

People who get things done don’t stop first and check their feelings for advice. They aren’t ruled by the lazy whims of their subconscious minds. Otherwise, cave dwellers would never have left the cave.

There’s a good chance the human race wouldn’t have even survived. It would have been too hard. Survival is a lot of work. Who would feel like doing all that stuff like hunting or gathering?

No one ever felt like it.

When Will You Feel Like It?

The answer is never.

You will always want to avoid work. It will be too early, too cold, too hot, too late. You’re hungry or bored or stressed. Your back is sore. You have a cold. You need to run some errands and cook supper.

There is always some excuse and reason why you don’t feel like it. There’s a football game to watch, and that’s what you feel like doing.

Punch your “I don’t feel like it” in the face.

Sometimes the news makes us feel like doing nothing. World events are upsetting. You want to doomscroll all day while worrying in an extremely productive manner.

The world is crumbling. You don’t feel like working at a time like this!

Time to buck up and face facts. If you don’t decide to take action, then nothing happens. It’s up to you.

Start With One Step

Tim Denning tells us to start with one step when you aren't feeling it.

“Train yourself to take a small step when you don’t feel like it. Write one sentence. Hammer that first nail. Run that first lap. Sing that first line.” — Tim Denning

That’s the secret to getting moving. Just take one step.

Are you a writer? Get a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever turns your crank, get in front of that keyboard, and write one sentence.

Wannabe musicians. Pull that guitar out of its case and put the strap around your neck.

If your house is a mess and you don’t feel like cleaning, do it anyway. Get off the couch and wash one dish.

If you’re skipping workouts because you haven’t felt like it, why not just start anyway. Put on your workout gear and pick up that dumbbell, then do one rep.

Make That First Step Easier

Smooth the way, and it will be less work to start. If it isn’t as hard, you will have more luck making yourself move.

Don’t keep your guitar in the garage if you want to play. It will be too much work to get it. Keep it in the living room where it’s within reach.

Don’t get a gym membership on the other side of town if you want to get ripped. How often are you going to travel that far to get there?

It needs to be convenient and easy. Or you won’t go, and you know it.

When I want to get up early in the morning to write, I know that staying up late will sabotage me. It will be just too much to jump out of bed at 6:00 AM if I only got a couple of hours of sleep. So I make sure I hit the sack by 11:00.

I have my desk set up with all my tools ready to go. I have a notebook full of writing prompts and headline ideas open by my laptop. I leave a pen on top of it. Everything is set.

It’s so easy to sit down and type that I have no excuse. So I start with one word and keep going.

No matter what you want to do in life, you can find ways to make it easier to start. Don’t do everything the hardest, dumbest way. It’s a waste of energy and willpower.

Your Feelings Aren’t The Boss of You

Show yourself that you can start even if you don’t feel like it, and you’ll set yourself free. Your feelings don’t have to run the show.

Stop thinking and saying those words. If someone askes you to do something, and you reply with “I don’t feel like it,” then remember that boxer getting a fist in the kisser.

Imagine your feelings all up in your face, trying to stop you. Then punch them like John Wick doing gun-fu. Stop those feelings from trying to run the show.

Don’t let yourself fall for the “I don’t feel like it” line. Whenever you hear yourself using it, please stop and think. Decide to change the language you use with yourself.

Do you want to make progress or sit around? Think about the consequences. What will you lose if you don’t do the thing?

What’s It Going To Be? Feelings or Worthwhile Activity?

I’ve been listening to people whine about how they don’t feel like it all my life. I’ve never understood what feelings had to do with it.

In a former career, I was in charge of large construction crews. These were tough looking guys with tattoos that worked out and had bulging muscles. They looked like they could take on the world.

Tattoos and big muscles don’t make you tough. What made these guys mean was the actions they took. They went to the gym and worked out when they didn’t feel like it. That’s how they got those huge biceps.

What gives you grit is the ability to stand up to yourself and do the job no matter what. It doesn’t matter what it is. You won’t feel like it.

  • No one feels like starting to meditate for 20 minutes a day instead of looking on Instagram.
  • No one feels like writing at 6:00 AM instead of sleeping in.
  • No one wants to put in a hard workout on leg day instead of eating McDonald’s fries.
  • No one wants to practice every day on the guitar when they still suck at it instead of playing Animal Crossing for hours.

Build Some Mental Toughness And Make Life Easier

If you can buck the trend and start taking action when you don’t feel like it, it’ll be like gaining a superpower.

Day by day, you will start to realize that you can get things done no matter what. Everyone around you will be amazed as you seem to breeze through life, making shit happen.

Figure out how to work when you don’t feel like it, and you will unlock your true potential. Your output will double or even triple.

With all that extra practice you get in, your quality will also increase by leaps and bounds. You’ll be on a new playing field. It could be the key to your future success.

At everything.

The End Of The Line

Take a step forward. Follow Tim Denning’s advice and write that first sentence, or hammer that first nail.

Tomorrow, you’ll wish you started today.

You owe it to yourself. If you only do what you feel like doing, you will look back on a life of wasted opportunities. Instead, why not build yourself a legacy?

Don’t use this excuse anymore. Decide today that “I don’t feel like it” Isn’t in your vocabulary. Now get up and take that step!

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I'm an author, yoga enthusiast, and meditation instructor. I spend a lot of time outdoors with activities like running, hiking and camping. My writing is all about the humorous side of life and personal growth, habits ,mindfulness, and outdoor adventures.


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