De-motivation is a problem that bases its harmful character on a very simple fact : we tend to underestimate it.

Many times, when we analyze the advantages or disadvantages of starting to work on a project, on the side of possible problems we only include what has to do with the difficulties that come to us from the environment. For example, a labour market in which there is a lot of competition, an educational path in which you have to go through very demanding filters, or an environment in which it is difficult to receive funding. However, it is obvious that we can become self-sabotaging.

In order to be able to remedy this type of situation, it is essential to be clear about what demotivation is and what we can do to combat it.

What is demotivation?

To answer this question, let’s start by briefly defining what motivation is.

Any activity that we carry out, whether consciously or unconsciously, occurs because we have a series of dispositions that lead us to initiate behaviours aimed at reaching a short, medium or long term objective. Motivation is precisely that set of dispositions that act as a motor for our actions . In other words, a series of conditions (formulated in the way “if p, then I perform q”) that bring us closer to a goal when a favourable situation occurs.

So what is demotivation? This is the psychological phenomenon in which there is a discrepancy between the objective we theoretically aspire to achieve, on the one hand, and our real dispositional state , on the other. That is to say, it is what happens when there are serious problems when trying to invest in an initiative enough efforts to achieve something, or when we do not even get to start that task and fall into procrastination.

Thus, demotivation not only harms us because it is associated with problems in meeting certain expectations; moreover, where it appears we cannot even enjoy the calm or rest that comes from not doing those activities that we wanted to do in theory. Even if we do not do what is necessary to reach the goal, the mental framework according to which we should be doing this does not disappear.

In short, the worst of two worlds come together in the lack of motivation: the discomfort that someone might experience who, in spite of making an effort, has not achieved what he wanted, and the discomfort that comes from feeling guilty.

Types of demotivation

De-motivation can take various forms , and can also present itself with different degrees of intensity. The most problematic or serious cases are those in which this lack of motivation extends to all areas and facets of life: at work, in personal relationships, etc. In these situations, it is common for the problem to be rooted in one of two fundamental causes.

On the one hand, it may be due to an environment that is not very enriching, where there is little reason to do anything, in general. For example, an environment in which there is not much freedom, even for economic reasons, and which is not associated with significant opportunities for economic or social advancement, often leads to demotivation in many, if not all, areas of life.

In other cases, there may be a depressive type of disorder that manifests itself, among other things, through a feeling of de-motivation that is actually a cluster of symptoms . In the case of diagnosed depression, this lack of initiative or extreme lack of motivation is known as abulia, and often appears together with other phenomena that also make it difficult to find great sources of motivation; for example, anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure (without pleasure, it is complicated to move towards a specific objective).

However, apart from general demotivation, there are also types of demotivation linked to specific contexts. Let us see which are the most common.

1. School demotivation

The school is an institution where problems due to lack of motivation of students are frequent. The causes are usually related, among other things, to the fact that from the first day on, class attendance is perceived as an obligation, which generates resistance, and to the lack of individual attention in very large classes, given that it is complicated to adapt the teaching to the interests of each student .
However, it is possible to intervene in many cases and boost students’ motivation by modifying certain learning dynamics.

2. Work demotivation

In these cases, demotivation affects negatively both the worker who experiences this phenomenon first hand, and the organization for which he or she works. Interventions in the work environment, in the workflow or in the work format can help to solve this, although in some cases the problem is simply that the fundamental activity carried out in the post is not significant for the person.

3. Social demotivation

This type of de-motivation appears in cases in which the person finds it necessary to interact with certain social circles , without this being a pleasant or stimulating experience beyond obtaining a very concrete benefit that is alien to the nature of the social relationship.

The causes of demotivation

There are as many causes of demotivation as there are life experiences a person is capable of experiencing. It is the task of psychologists to recognize what the problem is in each case although frequent causes are an excess of perfectionism, the perception of a great entrance barrier to that activity, the absence of significant challenges and sensation of progress, etc.

On the other hand, it must be taken into account that demotivation is a contextual phenomenon: it is not situated “inside” the person (beyond pathological cases), but has to do with his or her relationship with the world. For this reason, it is sometimes necessary to reorganize priorities, let go of some goals and aim at others, instead of doing everything possible to reach objectives that have sometimes been imposed by the company, family, friends, the media, etc.