This is a question I have been fighting for a long time. I thought it was an individual issue, but I've recently noticed, that it's common for a lot of people I know.

A person feels the need or urge to do something - change job, change profession, start a business, etc. However, never actually DOES something. Instead, the time that could be used to achieve a set goal, is spent on contemplating what could go wrong, rationalizing why not to do something, and wondering why he/she is not or has not done something to achieve set goal.

The result - the motivation TO do something keeps growing, but the motivation to DO something actually diminishes, until the urge to do something is swept aside by the thought, that since one has not done something - then one did not actually want to do it.

Is there a term for this? What are coping mechanisms to bring plans to action?

EDIT: Furthermore: https://www.lifehack.org/844018/action-plan

A person can even compile an action plan to achieve a goal, but never actually set out to do it.

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    $\begingroup$ Very similar to "Wanting to do" without being "able to do"? $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Commented Jan 31, 2022 at 23:02
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    $\begingroup$ I think that answers to this will be purely speculative and opinion based. The reason could be fear of the unknown. What if the grass is not greener? What if I'm not as successful in my alternate workplace? The job may not be perfect but the wages are not that bad here... Or it could be many other things like the fact that they will no longer be working among the friends they gained over the years. Boss maybe crabby but the friends make it ok. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ I changed title to be more specific to the question as the previous title was too general. Using the previous title could ask why someone who as the urge to commit an illegal act does not do it. Feel free to make any adjustments to my edit you feel is needed. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 7:26

1 Answer 1


Motivation comes on a continuum, so one can possess enough to contemplate, but too little for action. One hypothetical name might be avolitional motivation. From Wikipedia:

Volition or will is the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action. It is defined as purposive striving and is one of the primary human psychological functions. Others include affect (feeling or emotion), motivation (goals and expectations), and cognition (thinking).

According to the authors [of A Bias for Action], Ach claims that there is a certain threshold of desire that distinguishes motivation from volition: when desire lies below this threshold, it is motivation, and when it crosses over, it becomes volition.

A possibly related phenomenon is that of antidepressants and suicide risk, where in certain groups the chance of acting out previous suicidal ideation increases after starting antidepressants.

Naturally the more one thinks about something, the more invested one feels -- even if motivation never reaches the criticality needed for volitional action. But then as time passes, perhaps habituation, loss of novelty, and or learned helplessness set in, diminishing the urge.

As far as solutions to the problem of insufficient motivation, there are endless self-help resources out there, targeting all sorts of personalities and lifestyles. The possibilities for lack of motivation toward a particular action are many and often idiosyncratic.

  • $\begingroup$ You mentioned antidepressants and suicide risk, but depression itself can carry a risk of suicide along with motivation issues. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 10:36

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