Most people go through a period of demotivation at work or in their career at some point. It’s normal. Gallup’s most recent statistics indicate that nearly 70% of people are not engaged at work. So if you’re worried you’re the only one, you’re not. Not by a long shot.
In the simplest of terms, motivation comes from two key elements. First – having a goal, vision or feeling a sense of purpose. Second – believing you can achieve it.
If you’re feeling demotivated at work, chances are it’s because either you’re:
a) Lacking direction
You might not have clarity on what you want out of your career. You might be experiencing a lack of purpose, goals or sense of direction. You might feel like you’re stuck in the wrong job but don’t know what you want to do instead. Or you might not be getting any direction from your manager or employer.
b) Feeling hopeless you will achieve your goal or things will change
You might have been looking for another job for a long time with little or no success. You might not be getting the support, financial reward, career progression, learning opportunities or recognition you want, leaving you feeling undervalued or questioning your own ability. You might have discovered a difference in values, leaving you questioning your desire to stay in at the company.
Whatever your reason, essentially the pain of your current job has become greater than the pleasure. Either your needs aren’t being met or you’re not experiencing your values. Or both.
In situations like these, I often recommend following this simple philosophy. If you don’t like something, change it. And if you can’t change it right now, make peace with it until you find a time at which you can. For the second part, this means letting go of the anger, resentment and fear – reaching a point of acceptance. “I accept that, for now, this is the reality of my situation. And I will do my best to make the best of it. Until I can change it.”
(My previous posts Stuck in a job you hate? Get Unstuck with these 5 questions and “Want to Make a Career Change, but Not Sure How? 3 Tips to Get You Started” are a great place to start if you want to make a change but not sure how or what.)
Once you have reached acceptance, you will find it easier to shift from a place of demotivation to motivation in your current role. Here are some other ways you can increase your motivation levels in a job you’re currently not enjoying:
1) Focus on the bigger picture
This is assuming you have identified your career goals and have created your ‘big picture’. (If you haven’t done this, I recommend you read the above mentioned articles, followed by my article “Be the CEO of Your Life and Achieve Your Goals” . Otherwise a career coach or life coach will be able to help you define these).
Once you know your goal(s), and have envisioned your ‘big picture’ – think about all the ways your current role could help you achieve this. What new or existing skills could you develop that would move you closer to your goals? What skills might help you to hit the ground running in your next role? What experience could you gain more of that could help you expand not only your technical skills but also your soft skills (e.g. communication, negotiation, leadership, management, sales, networking, emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills etc.). Write a list of criteria of all the things you will need for your next career move, or your long term goal. Then look at how you can get the most out of your current role to catapult you to ever greater success further down the line.
2) Link and align your job to your values
I had a client who was feeling demotivated at work. After doing an exercise around his values, we discovered his two top values were ‘achievement’ and ‘family’. It was no surprise he was feeling demotivated being in a role where he didn’t feel he was achieving anything and working long hours.
To help him feel more motivated in his current role, until he found something else, we aligned his job to his values. Every month he had to perform a particular task that he hated twice a day. So we created a system where he paid himself AED 10 ($3) every time he completed this task. He put this in a jar on his desk so it was constantly in sight (locking it in a drawer overnight). At the end of every month, he would take that money and put it towards a day out with his family. Paying himself every time he completed that task gave him a sense of achievement, and using that money to do something fun with the kids helped to give the task meaning. This simple act of linking his job responsibilities to his values made a huge difference to how he felt about and approached his job going forward.
3) Set your own goals and reward yourself!
This follows on from the point above. If you’re not getting the recognition you want or feel as if you’re not achieving anything – set your own goals (daily, weekly or monthly) and reward yourself each time you achieve them. Be your own cheerleader! This can have an amazing impact on your confidence, self-worth and sense of achievement. Reward yourself in any way you want. Buy yourself a new item of clothing or the latest gadget. Get a massage or go away for the weekend. And if money is a concern, here’s a list of 100 ideas of things you can do without spending a penny!
Imagine how much more time you would have to focus on the things you enjoy if you delegated! Or if you had someone to delegate to? Before I became a coach, I took a role as Admin Department Head to raise the capital I needed to set up my buisness. It was a means to an end. After several discussions with my boss, who by all accounts was awesome, I was allowed to restructure and build my team. Of course I still had to cover my core responsibilities but building a team gave me more freedom to delegate. This allowed me to create one or two additional responsibilities for myself that would add further fulfillment to my role. For example, I initiated and led several corporate social responsibility programs and introduced recycling into the office. This helped to keep me motivated in a job that wasn’t my dream job and just a stepping stone. (Which my boss had the intelligence to recognise, leading him to agree to my request in the first place.)
5) Change the scope of your role
OK, so this will depend on how cool your boss is and how much freedom you have in your current role.
I had a client who, after becoming a parent, experienced a shift in values. Once a high-powered management consultant destined for partnership with success as her number one value, after having a baby, family became more important. She didn’t want to leave management consultancy completely but she didn’t want to be working 12 hour days either. So we designed a role that would meet her values and at the same time add huge value to the company. We put together a proposal which she then presented to her boss. Her boss loved the idea. She’s now working 4 days a week finishing at 4:30pm every day while simultaneously making an impact at work. It was a win-win! How could you change the scope of your role so it could be a win-win for you and your company?
6) Spend time building relationships
Building relationships is not only great for your career but also your mind, body and soul. Internal networking could open doors you never knew existed – either now or in the future. Both in terms of your career prospects and social life. Plus, leave the company having made a great impression and not only will you have a great reference, but you might also have a job for life. You never know when you might need one.
7) Look for ways to have fun!
One way to help ease the pain of a bad job is to combat it with some good old fashion fun! In my previous company, when month-end came around, the poor finance team were expected to work well into the night to get it done. This included weekends. And it wasn’t a fun job. But they tried to make it as fun as possible. They played music, took quick breaks to tell jokes and laugh. They high fived each other when someone completed a task. They did whatever they could to create their own fun. Obviously making sure the quality of work remained to the highest possible standard. How could you create some more fun in your current job?
8) Be grateful
Acceptance – letting go of anger, resentment and fear – can only come from a place of gratitude. Being grateful for having a job that allows you to pay rent, have food on the table and clothes on your back is a good place to start. But don’t just think it – feel it. With your heart, and every cell in your body. Be grateful for everything you have learnt and are continuing to learn (maybe not about the job but about yourself?). Be grateful for all the people you have met, friends you have made and mentors you might have had. Be grateful for all the skills you have developed that have added value to your career and will allow you to thrive in your next role. Focus on the pleasure of your role and being grateful and notice how much easier it becomes to stay motivated at work.
*Additional point – I would always strongly recommend you keep the channels of communication open with your manager and employer. They are not mind readers and if you’re feeling demotivated and want something to change, the only way that will happen is if you communicate your concerns. If after communication, plus the points mentioned above, nothing changes for you – then chances are it’s probably time to find a new job (added 2nd August 2016).
What did you think of this article? How do you keep yourself motivated? Please feel free to comment below.
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About the Author
Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.