Career Development

How To Get Motivated at Work

February 11, 2021

While having motivation can help you be successful at work, it’s not always easy to find or maintain. In fact, feeling unmotivated from time to time is a normal state in any type of professional work. Knowing what tactics and methods to use to regain your motivation can help you get back to feeling positive and driven to accomplish tasks.

In this article, we will discuss types of motivation, why it is important and ways you can gain motivation at work.

Positive vs. negative motivation

The two main types of motivation are positive and negative. Positive motivation helps you to focus on positive outcomes that result from accomplishing a task or achieving a certain goal. Here are a few examples of statements you might think or say when you have positive motivation:

  • Completing this task at work will help me to earn a promotion.
  • Joining this workshop will help me develop important technical skills in my industry.
  • Applying for this job could open up an opportunity to change careers.

On the other hand, negative motivation focuses negative outcomes that might occur if you make a mistake or you do not complete a certain task or goal. Here are a few examples of statements you might think or say when you have negative motivation:

  • If my presentation is not well received, it could affect my chance at a promotion.
  • If I don’t finish this task, my colleagues will be frustrated with me.
  • If I don’t get this job offer, I will miss a huge opportunity to be in a career I love.

When you’re thinking about negative outcomes that may result in an action, you often start to dread the tasks associated with it. While both types of motivation are effective in driving you to complete tasks, positive motivation is energizing and inspirational. Negative motivation can cause fatigue and is not typically effective for long-term career growth. You could reposition the first negative statement above, for example, by saying, “If my presentation is well received, it could make my case for a promotion stronger.”

Setting goals

To have positive, sustainable motivation, it’s important to deeply understand your end goals. Motivation can be useful for many situations in life, whether you’re trying to complete your education, looking to change careers or working toward developing certain skills. Goals give you direction and allow you to focus on what steps you need to take to achieve them.

If you’re feeling unsure of what steps you need to take to achieve your goal, look for resources that explain the experience, credentials, skills or other attributes that can help you meet that milestone. For example, if you’re working to complete your education, meet with a counselor to outline the coursework you will need to earn your degree.

If you’re looking for a new career, conduct informational interviews with people who work in that field to find out how they got to where they are now. No matter what your end goal may be, setting smaller, achievable milestones throughout the process will help you stay motivated and positive about your progress.

When setting goals, it may be helpful to share them with trusted mentors, friends or colleagues to help you stay focused and be accountable to yourself. You may also consider writing your goals down and posting them in a highly visible place as a consistent reminder. Tracking your progress can help to maintain the motivation that inspired you to accomplish those goals in the first place.

Understand that motivation can come and go

As human beings, we can’t constantly perform at a peak level. Motivation levels can vary as we face challenges, deal with unexpected situations and care for our emotional and physical health. It is normal to experience shifts in your motivation levels as you move through life.

Experiencing disappointment, for example, can make it difficult to feel motivated. If your goal is to work in a new industry and you were passed over for a job, you may find that your motivation declines, at least for a short time. Practicing self-care and focusing on your needs can help you overcome those feelings. When you’re ready, you can start implementing some of the motivational tips above to put more energy toward your goal.

Put in the work

One of the best ways to get started in gaining motivation is by investing time and energy. For example, if you’re trying to motivate yourself to finish your education, you’ll have to study, go to class and complete assignments on time. When you want to change careers, the work may involve revising your resume and spending time researching and applying for jobs. As you keep working towards a goal, you’ll often find motivation in completing these types of milestones.

Develop your own motivational practices

It can be helpful to come up with unique motivators that work best for you when approaching an interview, presentation or another challenging task. For example, when you’re interviewing for a new job, your motivational practices might include reviewing your resume, going through common interview questions or practicing your body language in front of a mirror. Here are some other ideas that might work for you:

  • Listening to a motivational song or podcast.
  • Reviewing the positive outcomes of your goals how they would add value to your life.
  • Connecting with people who share your goals or make you feel comfortable or inspired.
  • Practicing confident body language such as standing up straight with your shoulders back, chin up and fists on your waist.
  • Telling yourself that the task, project or challenge at hand will result in positive outcomes.
  • Doing stretches or light exercises.

Reward yourself

Most goals aren’t accomplished overnight, so maintaining motivation is often a challenge when you’re working toward long-term goals. After you set goals and put in work, it’s important to reward yourself along the way as you surpass key milestones. For example, if you have set and achieved a weekly job application goal, reward yourself in a meaningful way depending on the things you enjoy. This might include activities like taking a walk, reading a book or watching an episode of your favorite show.

Small rewards throughout the process can help you sustain motivation. This strategy also gives you something to look forward to, even if you’re not feeling particularly motivated to take on the task at hand.

Whether you’re finishing school, applying for jobs or continuing to develop in your career, practicing motivation can help you find success along the way. Be sure to use the resources and tools available to you, including setting SMART goals, rewarding yourself and identifying what helps you feel motivated in a positive way.

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