Lack of drive: causes and overcoming

Lack of drive: causes and overcoming

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All people know phases in which they "can not pull themselves together". The planned bike tour will not work, because it is difficult for us to get to the toilet. Although we just got up, we are without drive and instead of jogging through the park, we are just getting from bed to sofa.

We feel without energy, our need for sleep paralyzes every action - we lose the initiative. Our environment regards us as lethargic. Many assume that we have no will to implement projects.

As we set out to do everyday tasks, we barely manage to do anything: the fridge remains empty, the unpaid bills pile up, the living room, which we have long wanted to tidy up, is sinking into the trash, which seems like plain laziness to outsiders. But there is a difference: lazy people don't mind their condition. You feel comfortable when the daily shopping is waiting because the bed is more comfortable.

The inactive, however, suffer from their condition; they want to do more than they do. They have a guilty conscience because they don't realize the things they are doing. Your condition is a symptom of mental or physical problems.


Temporary lack of drive can have banal causes, and we should look for them before we suspect serious mental health problems or serious illnesses.

Two main causes are stress and lack of exercise, often in combination. If we have to meet too many needs, do a workload that overwhelms us, while at the same time the partner feels neglected, we feel like we are in the hamster wheel and what we do is never enough, this means: stress.

Our nerves are overstressed, we are tense inside, we don't really come to rest. Even if we suppress this from consciousness, the body reports itself. The lack of drive points the way to what we need.

The excessive need to sleep says: rest, think about what is important to you, relax, think about how you can better structure your work, your life and your relationships.

Lack of movement switches our body functions on a back burner. If we don't push the body a bit, the muscles of our skeleton will suffer. We lose our physical strength and endurance. Climbing, running or lifting stairs is difficult. We feel powerless because even small movements mean effort.

Relaxation exercises such as yoga or autogenic training, nature walks and light sports help against stress. Targeted strength training helps against lack of exercise. It is not about building muscle mountains, but using the neglected muscles.

For everyone who mainly sits at work, strength training replaces activities that were a matter of course a few decades ago. Anyone who milked the cows, brought in the hay, chopped wood or repaired the roof put in a lot of muscle without even thinking about it. Those who work on the computer today do not train their abdominal, chest, leg or pelvic muscles.

Just one hour of strength training a week puts a strain on the slack muscles. After the first few hours of training everything hurts, but soon the body feeling improves and the listlessness disappears. Exercised muscles "want" to work.

Small exercises also work “wonders” if we do them regularly. A few minutes of dumbbell training in the morning breaks through the sluggishness. Cycling trains many muscles, the back as well as the arms, the buttocks as well as the legs and the abdomen. Avoiding the car more often in the city hardly costs time. We wake up on the bike because we have to concentrate on our surroundings, we get more oxygen and we move.

Hiking and jogging can also be integrated into everyday life. The external stimuli stimulate unused synapses and we also promote our intellectual work.

Finally, swimming demands almost all muscles, but we feel exhausted afterwards, so we should do it outside of our regular working hours.

However, we should look closely at why we are not moving enough. Is it really just our job on the computer or convenience? Or is there general frustration behind it?

Mental problems

Lack of exercise and lack of drive are often due to general frustration with one's own life. Why should we implement goals when we feel that we cannot achieve them anyway? Why should we make an effort in a job that we consider senseless? What should we do, literally, if we don't know where to look or if we don't see a path that offers us a perspective.

Then we are without drive because we lack goals that could drive us. Every therapist knows people who lethargically let everything rush past them and considered this to be the normal state and who were barely recognizable after successful treatment.

After they ended a stressful relationship, got out of a hated job, moved to a better apartment, they found passions that they no longer knew they had.

Mental health problems are often accompanied by other problems that paralyze the drive. Frustrated people take up the bottle and find happiness for the time being, which compensate for the lack of love relationships, the extasy pill replaces the body's own drugs after a mountain hike.

We also lose power when there is a lack of vitamin B12, iron or iodine. The cause can be physical complaints such as high blood loss during menstruation or problems with the thyroid gland.

However, harmful behavior as a result of general frustration, depressive phases or stress also promote such a deficiency: If you replace meals with fish, eggs or nuts with the liquor bottle, you will almost certainly suffer from a lack of iron and vitamins after a certain period of time.

Addictions, all forms of schizophrenia and clinical depression are psychological problems that are associated with listlessness. Simple exercises such as cycling or walking do not help here, but detoxification programs and psychotherapy are popular.

There are medicines or home remedies for iron deficiency.

Burnout syndrome also affects the psyche, but is a psychosomatic disorder and can therefore also be seen in physical suffering. Often misunderstood, a burnout does not generally result from overwork, but from senselessness. Artists who paint their pictures for nights without sleep, writers who have to force themselves to sleep and immerse themselves in their novels even in dreams, hardly complain about burnout - this also applies to political activists who are on vacation like sitting on red-hot coals because they are cannot participate in demonstrations.

But those who are bullied at work, who take on jobs without any meaning, between what they live and how they want to see a wall, are candidates for a burnout. The lack of drive is more of a helper here than damage: it rings the alarm bells to change something in life.

Physical causes

Gender in percent
Men 3,369
Women 4,309

The situation is very different with physical causes of lack of drive. Cancer in its various forms is heralded by loss of energy. For example, a lung tumor often shows up when those affected quickly get out of breath while jogging, and it is difficult to coordinate everyday work with a brain tumor.

Prevent and overcome

With all serious physical illnesses, the illness itself has to be treated. With a general lack of drive without a hidden tumor or infection lurking, a more conscious lifestyle helps.

Calm, fresh air and exercise go hand in hand with a balanced diet. Above all, that means enough iron, vitamin B12 and iodine. Daylight helps against the feeling of lethargy.

Is lack of sleep the cause? The body needs at least six hours of sleep to regenerate. Constant fatigue and listlessness are almost equally important. So make sure you get enough sleep.

Enough fluid is also essential. When we hardly move, we often drink too little. While we fight tiredness with coffee and cigarettes, the body actually demands a glass of water.

It sounds banal, but the problem often goes away if we do something meaningful: call an old friend we haven't seen in a long time, go hiking in the forest, plan a weekend trip, or visit a city where we always wanted to go.

Lack of exercise and frustration often go hand in hand. When we tackle meaningful goals, we move automatically, feel better and experience something alone - and experiencing is the opposite of lethargy. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


  • Aruna M. Siewert: Natural Psychopharmaceuticals: Holistic Medicine for the Soul, Graves and Unzer, 2015
  • Michael Petersen: Psychological Problems - Approaches to Bioresonance, XinXii, 2015
  • Viola oertel; Silke Matura: Exercise and Sport Against Burnout, Depression and Anxiety, Springer, 2017
  • Pamela DeRosse et al .: "Deconstructing Avolition: Initiation vs persistence of reward-directed effort", in: Psychiatry Research, Volume 273, 2019, sciencedirect.com
  • Frank Schneider; Martin Harter; Susanne Schorr: S3 Guideline / National Care Guideline Unipolar Depression, Springer, 2017

Video: Why Have I Lost My Spark and Feel Demotivated? #UnplugWithSadhguru (December 2022).