Ways to turn your motivation around
It doesn’t matter how driven, ambitious, motivated, passionate, committed. At some point everyone feels less than 100% motivated. It might be some bad news which knocks the wind out of your sails. It might be overdoing it and therefore tiredness. It might be not hitting your goals and feeling deflated. It might be that you are reaching the end of a season in your life or work.
Whatever is the cause, motivation leaks. When we are motivated everything is easy, there is energy and optimism. When our motivation leaks we worry that we might never get motivated again.
For 15 years I was incredibly motivated and loved my role. I was happy putting in long hours, starting early, finishing late. I never got up in the morning wishing I didn’t have to go to work. I loved it.
However, I got to a point where I noticed that I wasn’t doing the small things, the detailed things. I don’t think many, if anyone would have noticed, but I did. I wondered why I wasn’t as motivated.
There were three options I explored (and in this order):
I was TWISTED in a unhelpful mindset,
I was TIRED and needed a rest or
It was TIME to look forward to something new.
Notice that I didn’t say that one of the options was to blame the external environment. I understand that some bosses, teammates and workplaces are difficult and demotivating.
However if we take that option then we are giving away our power to be the author of our own lives. No one can make me feel anyway, I have to give them permission and conspire with them (albeit unconsciously).
To get out of being unmotivated we need a jolt – sometimes that comes from the outside of us, but hopefully we can navigate out of it ourselves.
OPTION 1 – TWISTED
My first option was: I had twisted mindset
Maybe my demotivated state was activated because I was looking at things in a skewed way. There are a couple of options to explore.
Maybe I am taking for granted what I have and am starting to focus on the imperfections. We need to challenge ourselves about the conclusions we are drawing.
Sometimes I play the, “if only…. I wish…..” game. It is one of comparison and idealism. It is good to dream about a better future, however if I find it making me unduly critical of the present then maybe my perspective is twisted.
Maybe our expectations are too high and unrealistic. The people around us are human, and mostly trying their best.
The other option was that my lack of motivation was indicating something more permanent. My lack of motivation indicated that I was coming to the end of a season in my life.
This was a scary prospect, but one I had to truthfully consider. My personal ethics and values wouldn’t allow me to be one of those employees who was there in body, but has clocked off in the mind or effort.
We only change things when the currently reality is causing us ‘pain’ or there is a compelling vision to move towards.
For me the pain was coming from the values that I want to live out: two in particular -
Integrity – I always wanted to do something that I believe in and am passionate about. I don’t want to be saying one thing, and doing another.
The other thing I tend to do is internalise a lot. Bottle up my emotions. I think lots of thoughts in a day but don’t always verbalise them. There are good and bad things about this behaviour.
The unhelpful part is that sometimes things get messed up when they stay in our head. When we bottle emotions and let them stew they often get blown out of proportion and get al twisted in our mind.
Have you ever had that experience where as you are talking to someone about something that seemed really big to you two things happen: things get put into perspective, and you work out a solution as you are talking. Venting can declutter your mind.
Jolt #2 – Vent to someone safe.
Venting is not the same as whining or complaining. Venting is to express your emotions and thoughts in order to find a solution. If you take responsibility for your own level of motivation and not put it onto the boss, workplace or something else then venting can be really productive.
OPTION 2 – TIRED
I had been doing the same role for around 10 years, if my mindset wasn’t twisted I had to ask, was I simply tired and needed a good rest to reenergise for the next season.
In my job things were going well, but I had been through quite a difficult ordeal about 18 months before. I wondered if I was simply tired from that ‘fight’ and needed to regroup. This was a distinct possibility.
I am fairly typical male who sometimes thinks the rules don’t apply to them, that they are indestructible.
The truth is that sometimes we don’t look after our energy levels well. We keep working long hours, without a handle on the emotional toll that our work life can have.
Stress and burnout has different symptoms and causes. Burnout has an emotional cost, stress has a physical cost.
We think, “it’s just business”. Consider for a moment how your emotions are affected when you have a win or a loss at work? It’s never just business. Our emotions are always impacting our satisfaction levels, and therefore motivation levels.
I have written before (see blog “Create a Rhythm of Sustainability”) about creating a sustainable rhythm within our lives. I have added one more component into my life that I am excited about.
In our business we create a 90-day business plan, we get away for a day to reflect and develop our plan.
Recently, after coming into contact with Essentialism by Greg McKeown, I have added a personal 90-day plan. It is one thing to check in with the business, it is another thing to check in with yourself. This has helped me to stay on top of my energy, thinking and planning.
Jolt #3 – Check how have you have been stewarding your emotional and physical resources?
The reality is having a good sleep, taking 3-day weekend, or a 3-week holiday (yes 3 weeks – anything less and your adrenaline doesn’t flush out of your system. If we are adrenaline junkies, ultimately it does bad things to our system) might do the trick.
You come back to work refreshed, reenergised and ready to go. I am amazed at how many people don’t take their holidays at all or when they do only take them a week at a time.
OPTION 3 – TIME
For me integrity is more than just keeping my word, it is also about upholding the highest standards that I have set myself.
As I wrestled with these two values and why I was feeling unmotivated I came across a quote that put things into perspective and gave me a vision of the future to move towards:
“Progress = Happiness! If you are growing, and giving, you will be happy. If you are moving forward in your life, if you are progressing personally, professionally, emotionally, spiritually—you will be happy. It is only in stagnation that we wilt like a flower.”
When I heard that a light went on for me. I understood what was causing me to be demotivated. My demotivation at that period of time in my life wasn’t because my mind was TWISTED, I had spent a lot of time talking to people I trusted to make sure I was looking at things healthily. I was TIRED; I had taken a long holiday and some professional development work.
Even though my job was demanding and stimulating with lots of variety I didn’t have a sense of progress.
There were 3 options open to me:
Take the safe route and become one of the walking dead – there but not there
Take the safe route and lower my expectations of what I wanted for myself
Take the risky route and start to work out what the new season might look like.
There are a lot of people who take the safer routes, they tell themselves all sorts of stories to make their lack of courage palatable. But in the end it is simply fear winning. I know this battle very well.
JOLT # 4 – Ask yourself, “Do I have a sense of progress? What would be the best course of action to give me a sense of progress?”
When we talk about motivation sometimes people get it confused with self-discipline. They are not the same. Motivation is like the booster rocket of the space shuttle, self-discipline is the steering thrusters.
If you are not a particularly disciplined person and find it hard to get started one of the best strategies is to employ the strength and discipline of someone else. External support is a really powerful way to make a shift, the make the changes you want to make. To add power to your desire.
In my coaching practice one of the greatest gifts I give to people is accountability and encouragement. I often find getting lift off and becoming motivated.