A letter to yourself: Do not compare your struggles or journey to anyone else’s. Do not get discouraged by the success of others. It is time to make your own path and never give up on your goals.
Think of motivation as the first step on your journey to success. It makes sense that it is difficult to get motivated and stay motivated, the first step is always the hardest right? Motivation is a concept used to describe the factors within an individual and their environment which provoke, maintain, and guide behaviour towards a goal. But, it is not always that easy to find your drive, I am sure we can all relate to sitting in front of our laptops writing nothing of value, and eventually, we just go and watch Netflix!
Right, so let’s get motivated then! You can either find motivation from intrinsic (internal) factors or extrinsic (external) factors. Intrinsic factors are things like a positive mindset and attitude, and enjoyment or passion for the work. Extrinsic factors are the outside rewards such as money, a higher position, or avoiding consequences of not doing the work. Most of the time when we are feeling really demotivated it is because our energy is focused on all the extrinsic factors and we have lost our drive, our intrinsic motivation, to complete the work because we actually want to. The best position to be in is to have a balance of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (with a little more intrinsic).
Before we can look at how to find our motivation again we need to figure out why we lost it in the first place. Take a moment to reflect on why you are not working, not at the surface level of “this is boring” or “it is taking too long” but look deeper at your sense of purpose.
There are some common reasons for losing motivation such as:
1. A lack of confidence – this is feeling like you have no idea what you are doing or have no idea why your boss would trust you with this assignment.
2. A lack of focus – being unable to concentrate and pay attention to the work at hand because your mind is all over the place.
3. A lack of direction – you have lost your passion and reason for being in the career that you are in, you may need a reminder of your goals for your career.
4. A fear of failure – this may be related to your confidence or your work environment but feeling like you could fail and lose everything is a roadblock.
5. A lack of autonomy – not being able to make your own decisions about your work assignments or role in a company/group can make you feel controlled, create resentment, and result in a lack of productivity.
6. Procrastination – getting stuck in the vicious cycle of procrastinating, feeling guilty, panicking, making excuses, and then continuing to procrastinate. Procrastination is actually commonly related to underlying anxieties about the work.
7. Too much perfectionism – trying so hard to make your work perfect can create a lot of anxiety and lead to you missing deadlines or procrastination because you know how much energy the work will require from you.
8. You are burnout – being overwhelmed, exhausted, and having your mental health impacted can make you feel like you cannot do anything.
Self-reflection on why you lost your motivation is important to seek help or guidance on any changes you might need to make – for example, you may need a change in the work environment or career or be more challenged or receive positive feedback from your team, etc.
So, how do we boost our intrinsic motivation, how do we find our drive again?
Adjust your mindset to a GROWTH mindset. This means that you create an internal understanding that intelligence and ability are not fixed and you can master a task with enough effort.
Increase your drive by reminding yourself why you are working hard, what are your career goals, and recreate that passion and ambition for yourself by engaging with topics that you enjoy.
Visualise yourself achieving your goals and all the positive outcomes, for example, visualise the day you find out you have gotten a promotion.
Take some time to work on yourself and build up your self-esteem – engage in some regular positive affirmations, remind yourself of your achievements, and surround yourself with friends who build you up.
Consider the neuropsychology behind brain capacity – the average human brain has 86 billion neurons. One neuron can hold the equivalent of all the facts contained in one Grade 12 subject. This means that it would take an average of 3 million years to fill up one human brain. Your brain is never at full capacity, there is no limit to your possible knowledge base or work you can handle.
Once you have found your drive and you are inspired again by intrinsic factors, then you can implement some practical motivation boosters.
Create a specifically designated work area.
Create a detailed work schedule (what you are working on, how long will you work on it, when must it be finished, etc).
Set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-limited) goals for each work project and your career overall.
Create variety in your work – try not to do the same thing every day, mix it up with emails, research, writing, creating diagrams, etc.
Find a mentor in your field who can guide and support you along the way.
Sleep well and eat healthier.
Ask for help if you need it!
And remember you are allowed some extrinsic motivation, reward yourself with a day off, a home spa day, or a Netflix binge evening!
Keep working at your motivational habits, it takes 21 days to form a habit so it may take some time to get you working at your best level. I used the example of work here but this can work for any activity, exercise, studying, anything!
Always remember the first step is the hardest but even just one small step is still moving forward towards success. You’ve got this, I have confidence in you!