We Need to Chat: Why Do I Feel So Demotivated So Early in the Year?

We Need to Chat: Why Do I Feel So Demotivated So Early in the Year?
Contributor: Juna Xu

We’re well and truly into 2023. Accordingly, we’ve transitioned back into our work schedule, responsibilities are in full force and we’re hustling to stay on top of our physical and mental health, careers (maybe throw in a side hustle, too), social lives and relationships. It’s… a lot, and maintaining motivation can be a challenge. 

During these first few months of the year, there’s a certain level of societal expectation to think exclusively about progress and commitment, with a clear goal of ticking off the host of plans and resolutions we set ourselves in the first week of January. We’re supposed to power through Mondays, stick to our new fitness and diet regime, and walk around with a refreshed take on life. 

But what if this supposed time of heightened joy and inspiration feels anything but? What if you’re drained — without knowing why?

Why am I feeling so unmotivated right now?

Lacking motivation? iStock

If you feel like you’ve hit a dead end only a couple of months into the year, don’t worry. You’re not alone. The New Year’s blues is a real phenomenon that shouldn’t be mired in guilt, Lysn psychologist Nancy Sokarno explained.

“There’s an element of having expectations that the new year will bring about change and then when it starts, everything feels the same,” she said.

“It also comes down to the pressure we put on ourselves and our view of what we’ve achieved in the year that has just passed. It’s likely that at the end of 2022, many people looked back on the year that was and took stock of what they ‘achieved’,” Sokarno continued. “Some people may have even read back on their resolutions that they made early in 2022 and felt disappointed.” 

As a result, it can bring up unwanted thoughts around lack of achievement or not measuring up to prior expectations. 

“It’s normal to feel this way even though it can feel really demotivating. The important thing to remember is that change doesn’t happen overnight.”

The problem with New Year’s resolutions

Sokarno pointed to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, which found only 8 per cent of people actually achieve their New Year’s goals while around 80 per cent fail to keep them. 

To add to this, another study conducted by Strava, a network for tracking physical exercise, found people are most likely to abandon their resolutions by January 19  — a date the company labelled ‘Quitter’s Day’. 

The main reason behind these incredible (read: sad) findings is simply the unrealistic expectations of said New Year’s resolutions. Simply put: goals that are too difficult can be demoralising to confront and cause us to give up because there’s a lack of confidence in the ability to reach them. 

“The trouble with setting really big (unrealistic) goals is that it can feel like we’ve set ourselves up to fail,” Sokarno noted. “If these resolutions are unachievable or if we don’t know how to achieve them, then we’ve probably set the wrong type of goal in the first place.”

However, that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom. There is hope — it’s just about the ‘what’ and ‘how’. 

“If you find that setting New Year’s resolutions feel unrealistic for you, there are many other ways you can approach goal setting,” Sokarno highlighted. 

How to overcome a lack of motivation

How to regain motivation. iStock

Take the pressure off yourself

Human beings find solace in experiences that capture our full attention so, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or disappointed in yourself, you’ll want to eliminate some pressure in your life. 

“If it helps, forget about any of the goals or resolutions you may have set and start off smaller and less stringently with intentions,” Sokarno explained. 

It’s definitely easier said than done but, remember, life changes don’t come to fruition in an instant. Focusing on consistency can help you to stay motivated.

“Think baby steps instead of huge lifelong dreams and it might be an easier way to approach things,” she added.

Prioritise intentions over resolutions 

Resolutions can seem like big, scary dreams that feel far beyond reach, whereas intentions come with greater flexibility and achievability.

“Whether that be daily, weekly or monthly intentions, you can set these up to be adaptable, flexible, practical and achievable, allowing you to celebrate progress along the way,” Sokarno noted. “That way you can constantly feel like you’re working towards your intentions in one way or the other.” 

For example, your intention to move your body can either look like an intense cardio class at the gym or a yoga session in your lounge room. It’s whatever works best for you at that moment in time. 

By approaching intentions over resolutions, the pressure to achieve may be alleviated, helping you feel more motivated to follow through with your intended life plans.

Break down your goals

The best way to approach a big goal is to break it down using the SMART system (Specific, Measured, Achievable, Realistic, Time Frame). 

For example, if your end goal is to get a new job; start with smaller tasks like updating your resume, editing your LinkedIn profile and calling recruiters. Or, if your end goal is to save a certain amount of money, focus on the practical steps that will help you achieve it like giving up UberEats meals for home-cooked food or investing in a budget-friendly coffee machine to eliminate the need to buy a morning cuppa from your local cafe every day. 

Sokarno recommended going one step further and creating a vision board, which will act as a perpetual reminder of why you’re putting in the added effort every day. 

“If you want to get creative with this approach, make a visual chart with your big goal at the top and each cumulative step underneath.” 

Adopt a ‘start right now’ approach

Have you fallen victim to ‘Quitter’s Day’ and already neglected some of your 2023 resolutions? If you answered yes, there’s also a high chance you feel a little down on yourself. 

But take a moment to consider: Why should January — and even February — hold the power of setting the tone for the rest of the year? If the beginning of 2023 hasn’t started off on the right foot for you, it certainly doesn’t mean the remainder of the year will also be filled with disappointment. 

“You can fall off the bandwagon but that doesn’t mean you can’t try again,” Sokarno said. “Rather than just forgetting about your goal and giving up entirely, you can adopt a ‘start right now’ approach and let that tiny spill be a minute blip in the progress, as opposed to a slippery slope.”

“Sure, you might not have followed through on your resolutions but that doesn’t mean you can’t make some goals right now to keep on working towards them.”

Reward yourself 

Our brains react positively to rewards, so don’t be afraid to gift some self-love for your solid efforts. It could be as simple as letting yourself watch another episode of your latest Netflix binge on the days you find the motivation to exercise. 

While we’re all for positive reinforcement, Sokarno warned to be mindful of one small detail: “While giving yourself a reward can help with motivation, ensure it isn’t feeding into other things that may be hindering another intention or goal.”

Simple ways to help stay motivated every day

Morning exercise

Moving your body might be the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling cosy in the morning, however, it can really do wonders. It doesn’t have to be an intense HIIT class, either — yoga, Pilates and a mindful stroll around the block all count towards awakening the mind, body and soul.

“Just 30 minutes of exercise can help release those feel-good endorphins, which in turn, will improve our mood tenfold,” Sokarno said. “This can help set us up in a better frame of mind each day.”


Recently, there’s been a growing body of evidence in the field of social science that has found gratitude has significant benefits for just about every area of our lives. The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California — a leader in research on the science of social and emotional wellbeing — describes gratitude as the “social glue” key to building and nurturing strong relationships, including the one you have with yourself. 

What’s more, practising gratitude doesn’t cost a cent, nor does it take too much effort or time, and yet the benefits are immeasurable. 

“If you’re feeling in a funk, try to set aside some time each day to give thanks for the little things. Better yet, take some pleasure in the simple things like going for a walk or having coffee with a friend. Practicing gratitude helps us to build a better mindset whereby we can acknowledge the goodness in our life, feel more positive emotions and remain more optimistic about life in general.”

Good sleep hygiene

We all know good sleep is just as important as exercise and diet for our overall health, so take it seriously and you might just see an overall improvement in your general health and motivation levels.

“What that [good sleep hygiene] means is doing everything in your power to ensure you get a great night’s sleep. For example, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, updating your bed linen so it’s more comfortable, avoiding screens right before bed and blocking out any light in your bedroom.” 

Take a digital detox

The act of comparison may be pulling you down in a funk — and it could all be traced back to your social media usage. 

“With constant reminders of everyone’s highlight reels (the best bits of their lives), we can get stuck in a comparison trap and feel worse,” Sokarno warned. 

But listen up: life isn’t a competition and nobody is perfect, nor does anyone lead the perfect life. 

So, if you notice scrolling on social media leaves you feeling down about yourself, it might be best to take a digital detox. 

“Digital detoxing can allow you to reconnect with the present moment and become clear about your plans for the future,” she said. 

The importance of asking for help

Whether you’re in a funk now, tomorrow, next week or in a few months, Sokarno urged everyone to make 2023 the year we set more time aside for ourselves and acknowledge that there’s always someone we can lean on for support. 

“Turn to your friends, family, loved ones, support networks or even a professional to help you navigate the trials and tribulations of life. We are all human and it’s normal to have ups and downs, and it’s standard to need help, support and guidance from one another.”

And if you’re uncomfortable talking to those you know, there are counselling services like Lifeline, BeyondBlue and Lysn, who are only a free phone call or video chat away.

You’ve got this

Get your motivation back. iStock

The discourse around motivation and mental health has definitely evolved over recent years but there’s still a long way to go. It’s time we move past blanket terms and be unafraid to express our true state of mind. “Not burned out” doesn’t mean you’re bursting with energy. “I’m good” doesn’t mean life’s peachy. “Not depressed” doesn’t mean you’re not struggling. “I’m fine” normally means the contrary.

If you’re battling a lack of drive and struggling to find joy in life, don’t beat yourself up. Your motivation ebbs and flows depending on a variety of circumstances, which can be identified and resolved — with external help, if needed. 

So, take a deep breath in. Now let it out. You’ve got this.

If you or someone you love is in need of support, services like Beyond Blue and Lifeline (13 11 14) are available 24/7. If you’re in an emergency, please call 000. 

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