Have we been sold a myth about motivation at work? Somehow in all the knowledge we’ve gained, there’s this permeating thought that in order to do something we must feel motivated. Or that if we’re avoiding something, it’s that we lack motivation. Well I’m calling bull?!
Motivation is quite simply
‘a force or influence that causes someone to do something’.
Our entire day is made up of doing something. Consider someone who wants to lose weight, but yet they are still sitting on the sofa eating ice cream. The fact is, they are more motivated to sit and eat ice cream than they are to go for a run.
The question then becomes, why am I more motivated to do the things that aren’t helping me?
When we have too many things to do and think about, we will tend to avoid doing anything that appears remotely challenging. This isn’t lacking in motivation at work, it’s just focusing on the wrong things. For instance, you might be putting off starting a great new project. You’re excited to get going on it, you feel like you’re motivated, yet for some reason, you aren’t taking the action you need to. Could it be that the prospect of what is ahead is overwhelming you?
You’ve heard the expression ‘to eat the elephant one bite at a time’. That’s exactly what you need to do. When my clients look at a task as a giant lump, their brains can’t cope because it seems too much. However, when I help them break them down into manageable tasks, schedule them, and start to knock them off their list, it’s not nearly as bad as they are worrying about.
For instance take the big project we talked about above. You’ve broken it down, and still your motivation at work is not high enough to do what you need to. Could there be a little voice in your head telling you that ‘you’re going to fail’? Or ‘what do you know about this anyway’? Or some other off-putting bit of internal chatter. This is because whatever it is you are going to do, is outside your comfort zone, and there’s a part of your brain that gets a bit panicky about that. It’s just trying to keep you safe from harm, but in these situations, those attempts to keep you safe are actually hurting you more.
One of the ways you can manage this is to acknowledge that yes, what you are doing is new, and may be a challenge. Think about what you’ll get from doing something new, what you’ll learn, how you’ll feel. Then take the time to think about new things you’ve successfully achieved before. Essentially you are giving your brain the evidence it needs to say, ‘you know what, you’ve got this!’
Let’s face it, we have a lot going on in our lives. Work is busy, home is busy, trying to keep up with friends and family is busy. Plus there’s so many external factors that can feel draining (tip: switch off the news!). It’s hard to know where to focus our attention, and before we know it, we’re ignoring the things we know we ‘should’ be doing. It can feel like there’s no brain capacity left.
Maybe it’s time to literally, give yourself a break. When was the last time you really switched off? Take a bit of time off to recharge the batteries, and come back to it when you feel a bit fresher. There’s no better time than right now!
And if taking time off isn’t possible right now, do something to help yourself recharge. A good walk, a run, time in nature. Or my favourite…a cold water swim!
Not identifying your why?
We are very purpose driven beings, and when we don’t take the time to think about the deeper reasons for doing things, it can be the magic ingredient that’s missing. Perhaps you’re feeling unhappy in your work, you get the Sunday night fear, you come home frustrated in the evening. The feelings of stress and unhappiness are building, yet you’re not doing anything to make a change. Maybe you just haven’t given yourself a good enough reason to yet.
I often coach people when they’ve reached crisis point. Of course, I can help, but it’s much easier if we can start to notice that we need to make a change sooner. Knowing your why can really help. Questions to consider:
- Why is doing [x] important to me?
- For each reason, ask yourself why again until you get something that gives you an emotional pull.
- What will I get from doing it?
- What will happen if I don’t do it? Why is that an issue?
- What am I gaining from doing nothing?
- Who else will benefit from me taking action?
- What else would be useful for me to consider right now?
Not being clear on what you want
When we can’t see what it is we want, then it’s very difficult to work out how to get there. We may start to beat ourselves up for not taking action, when in reality, how can you? That fuzzy picture needs some clarity.
Close your eyes and picture yourself at the finish line – what can you see, hear, feel? What is it you’ve accomplished?
If you’re struggling to see – then what information are you missing Who can you ask for help? What will help you get the clarity you need?
Need some more tips to improve your motivation at work?
Here’s some simple strategies to get you moving!
How about you:
- Do a brain dump of everything swimming around in your head. Just writing things down can really help.
- Prioritise in terms of urgency and importance.
- Look at your top 3 and identify what action can I take that’s within my control?
- Make it smaller! The bigger the action, the harder it is to do it.
- What are my first 3 steps – 3 is a good number to create momentum, without getting bogged down in overwhelm.
- Focus on how you will feel when you’ve done it – what stress will you have eliminated, time freed up, or what will you have achieved?
- Take action – every action you take will help you feel more on top of things, and more motivated to keep going and tackle other things you’ve been avoiding
- Reward yourself for the big and small steps you take (e.g. when I finish this blog, I will take a quick walk!)
- If all else fails, push yourself to take the first step. It’s always the most challenging. Once you get started, you can often find your motivation at work increases.