Lack of motivation

Glad to find this board. Why I’m here: decrease in motivation and productivity, serious enough to contemplate transition into another field, eventhough I have always loved programming, and don’t really know what else I could be doing.

My story: background as C++ developer, moved into C# (which is my most productive environment). By coincidence slipped into business systems programming where I’ve stayed for about 15 years, eventhough it was not my first choice. Since a year back I was talked into a position as C++/Python developer, where I’m struggling. Python is a great language, but I no longer have the “learn all about it” feeling that I had in the past with C++, Delphi and C#. The people who hired me did so on my old merits, so I think I’m suffering from Imposter Syndrome (a term I saw on here for the first time). I don’t connect with my colleagues like I used to, and feel uncomfortable in the workplace. I also often get thoughts like “what’s the point” when working on a small part of the system. I get a guilty conscience from surfing the web too much, eventhough I often need to do it in order to call forth that moment of hyperfocus.

I work on games programming in C# as a hobby project. I do better when I’m in control of the entire code base. I wish I was more of a team person, but I have realized that it’s not one of my strengths.

I have contacted a psychologist specialized in CBT to start getting help. I have realized I can’t solve this on my own.

A few thoughts to consider (Keeping in mind that this is based on limited information and could be completely off the mark. You know you better than we do.):

While it could be burnout, your description of a decrease in motivation and interest could be depression. It sounds as though you wandered away from your primary passions for employment reasons (not uncommon), and that your current environment just isn’t right for you. Skill and dedication can carry you very well for a while, but the motivation and endurance to stick to an entire career really comes from passion and following your personal drives. When you lose that, you’re not on a journey anymore, you’re coasting to a slow stop. You also need to know yourself and the environment that you work best in, which sounds more like a mostly independent C# environment rather than what you currently have. You may find that you need to change jobs to get your passion back, but it’s definitely a good idea to understand what’s going on in your head before making that kind of decision.

The most important thing is that you’re doing something about it. Find the type of expert support that is right for you (CBT is one of a great many options), and keep at it. Don’t be afraid to try other options if what you’re doing doesn’t seem to be working, and, above all else, don’t isolate yourself. Friends and family are every bit as important to help you in this as a mental health professional.

And, of course, there’s always everyone here, too. :slight_smile:

Thanks for you reply. You’re right, I’m not doing what I’m passionate about. It’s not only for employment reasons though - I think the primary reason is my social anxiety that has made it very hard for me to change environments. My current position I accepted more for the people working there, who are very nice and accommodating - but the field is not exciting, to me. I get one day a week to work on my own projects that has been a chance for me to do something I’m passionate about and reload my batteries, but I find that as the stress adds upp it’s harder and harder to motivate that day. Would I switch to another job, that day per week would be gone totally of course, at least in the beginning, which scares me.

There’s also an inconsistency in my condition as I, when fed up after about 12 years at the same place, decided to start my own company and do consultancy work, throwing myself into the complete unknown with my first assignment (it also involved business systems, although in the public sector). It was a strangely liberating feeling driving to the customer, knocking on the door, and not knowing where it would take me. That feeling only lasted a couple of weeks though, then that assignment became routine as well, and I had to deal with rather nasty office politics.

I don’t think I’d hold up in the consultancy world in the long run - maybe if all assignments were rather short, but to find those I’d need to sell myself and network a lot more than I’m comfortable with. I can come off as confident and social with people when I first meet them, then I usually run out of things to say and come off as rather quiet and odd (I think).

I have suspected both ADD (as I get bored very quickly and need excitement to keep going, and am easily distracted) and Aspergers (as I think I match a lot of the criteria - it’s probably not obvious for someone that’s only known me a short while though).

It’s been a big step for me to seek help for this. I’ve been to a psychologist before, dynamic therapy, but I did not find that it helped me cope with these issues.

We’ve definitely got some issues in common, there.

While you can make a pretty good living doing short-term contracting, it’s a hugely dysfunctional environment, especially if you’re working through most recruiters (Matrix, Robert Half, KForce, etc). At least, that’s been my experience in corporate IT with Microsoft technologies. It also means that even if you find an understanding and supportive environment that suits you, you’ll lose it shortly. This can be unhelpful for people struggling with mental health issues.

ADD is possible, especially if you are really only able to focus on things you love. Worth being tested for, at least. I struggled with motivation and keeping jobs for most of my life, only to finally discover that I was severely ADD. Not following your passions will also make things difficult, too, though. There are enough possible causes that it’s worth getting tested to narrow them down.

If you come off as quiet and odd, another possible alternative to Aspergers is social anxiety, especially if you are naturally an introvert. After decades of practice, I can fake being social pretty well, but I really have very little to say outside of my personal areas of interest, and the ADD contributes to a lack of interest in listening to them talk about things I don’t care about. I don’t usually get any enjoyment out of interacting with people I’m not already very close to. Of course, this only leads to not getting close to any new people, so it’s kind of a self-reinforcing problem.

Unfortunately, the road to improvement can be a very long and frustrating one. There’s an overwhelming number of options and variations out there, and everyone responds differently to them. One of the many variations of therapy, (hit or miss, but useful), medication (also hit or miss, and usually a trade-off of side-effects), and even neurofeedback (great for some things, but not for others). Most likely, you’ll be best off with some combination of those things, but it can take quite a while and a lot of tweaking to discover the right one. Something else to keep in mind: not every option is covered by insurance(or not covered enough), and it’s possible that the best thing for you will require a lot out of pocket.

Don’t give up on it, though. It can get better.

Thanks for your insightful words. Yes, social anxiety is definitely a factor. I’ve always hated having to do presentations, since my school days, but during them I have actually enjoyed it - another paradox. I’m in the same boat as you when it comes to interacting with people - I don’t get any enjoyment from social interactions (most of the time), instead I want to escape from them as quickly as possible.

I find it hard to navigate all different forms of therapy, meds etc. I thought I’d start (over) with this KBT psychologist, but he won’t be able to diagnose me with ADD (and/or Aspergers) or give me any meds, so I’m worried about having to start over with someone new yet again after these sessions. Or am I thinking too narrow? Perhaps he can be a support for the actual process of investigating a road to a possible diagnosis.

I’ve noticed that introverts can actually do quite well socially, when allowed to interact on their own terms rather than having to try to force themselves to match the behavior of extroverts. Give them the right number of the right kind of people, and allow them to gracefully and quietly leave whenever they feel that they are done, and they can actually really enjoy the occasional group interaction.

Over the years, I’ve often felt like trying to get treatment caused more suffering and stress than the condition itself. There seems to be a lot of incorrect and/or outdated information out there, and you can get such drastically different diagnosis and recommendations from every person you go to, it’s really difficult to know what to do. You end up requiring a substantial personal education in psychology and neurology just in order to even learn what the right questions are to ask in order to find the right people and guide them toward even doing the right type of tests. Although, that kind of personal knowledge can be a huge benefit in caring for yourself, and even in just learning to understand and accept your own personal situation. It’s especially important to trust yourself if what they’re saying doesn’t seem right. Don’t be afraid to get second and third opinions if things don’t seem to be matching up with what your actual experience is, or if the treatments don’t seem to be working and they’re not doing enough to try to correct that.

If you find a psychologist/therapist/doctor/whatever that you have a good relationship with, and who genuinely listens to you, they could be an excellent starting point to get direction from, even if they can’t personally help you themselves. Explicitly tell them that you’re taking this from the beginning and would like to try to determine first exactly what you have and what is causing the issues in your life. They can refer you to places to get the testing you need to cover the possibilities that you come up with. In the beginning, it’s good to only rule out possibilities after you’ve checked them. Structural, chemical, psychological, injuries, illness…there’s so many different things that can contribute, and if you go into it starting with a bunch of assumptions, you might skip something important because you just didn’t bother to look there. The extra work in the beginning can spare you a lot of time and misery later.

Good advice, I’ll definitely think about your last paragraph when meeting up with this guy tomorrow.

Yes, a big problem is to muster enough energy to get going on “solving” this, when the issue itself causes a decreasy in energy. I did a similar journey in my 20s when I started getting physical health issues with fatigue and IBS (quite possibly related to the issue at hand). A better diet and more exercise made these things managable, but I have been reluctant to start another dive into the healthcare system, eventhough I now find it might be necessary.

I’ve read a lot on forums on ADD and Aspergers the past years, and one thing that stuck with me is that once you reach a certain age (I’m 41) it gets difficult to “keep up the facade” if you have one or both of those conditions. Might not be true for everyone, but I certainly feel that way. It’s like a form of burnout after trying to fit in for so long (perhaps combined with a dose of mid-life crisis).

Interesting, I didn’t know about that. Seems to be reasonably accurate, since I’m turning 40 this year, myself, and I pretty much hit a wall on dealing with everything last year. I got to a point where I just quit all my medication, found a new therapist, and started over from scratch, assuming that everything I’d been basing my treatment on was wrong. Turned out, a lot of it was. Hopefully, I’m on the right path this time.

I hope you are too! What path is it that you’re taking now?

So I’ve had my first session. I wanted to explain everything at once, and solve everything at once, so I talked quite a lot - usually do that in such a setting, although I can be rather quiet otherwise. Got some homework to do for the next one (read an article, estimate my “core values”). Right after the session it felt pretty good, as it usually does after having a really good talk with someone. I have yet to understand the mechanics of how it is supposed to help long-term (but I’m trying to stay positive about it!).

I saw an ad today for a full-time C# Windows Store development position and felt really tempted to apply for it. The work itself would almost guaranteed be more interesting, but the drawbacks are that I’m not sure it will match my current energy level, and of course my fear of having to start over with a bunch of new people.

After a couple months of readjustment to lack of medication (rough, but not as bad as I expected), I sat down and tried to to clearly describe exactly what the issues were that I had problems with, and what I wanted it to be instead. Ironically, that set off an existential crisis of its own. So I went on a reading and research spree to try to see if anyone who shared similar beliefs to mine had ever found a viable solution to the problem. After about 6 months, I had refined my understanding of how the mind forms beliefs, and I had a clearer understanding of exactly what the question I was trying to answer was, but still no answer itself. I found a guy who specialized in existential therapy, and poured my brain out to him. He didn’t provide answers. What he did do was provide an objective evaluation of my thoughts, and present me with other ideas to consider. He gave me a sounding board to help determine what ideas made sense to continue to explore, and which ones were just my mind’s unhelpful flailing. His best contribution was to help me break things down to stages and smaller subjects to concentrate on as homework so that I didn’t get overwhelmed by trying to do it all at once. A therapist can give you directions to explore, ideas to think about, and things to try, but you are the one who actually has to do the work and find the answers that fit you.

After a year of therapy, reading, and introspection, I was left with a pretty clear idea of who and what I am, what I value, and what issues in my life are contributing to my misery. I also discovered that nobody else has found an answer to my question either. It’s entirely possible that there IS no answer. So, instead of struggling with it, I’m left trying to accept it and focus on the smaller, more immediate things. I still have plenty of things that we identified during therapy that I have to follow through on, and then there’s everything that’s left that isn’t caused by environment or belief. Those remaining physical/chemical issues are being addressed by EEG Neurofeedback. They did some pretty thorough testing and I was surprised to discover that I’m severely ADD as well as depressed and some anxiety disorder. I had no idea, and had spent my entire life being told that I just didn’t try hard enough and was extremely forgetful. I’ve been on various medications with unhelpful side-effects for 20 years, all treating the wrong problem and causing even more.

Currently, I’m getting treatments every other week (job scheduling is a pain), and I only take medication to help me sleep when the insomnia hits really badly. It’s probably going to take another year or so, but whatever improvement it makes should be permanent. The potential is tremendous, but I’m reluctant to build up too much hope after so many years of failure. Time will tell.