How To Get Motivated at Work (With Tips for Success)

Updated February 3, 2023

A group of three smiling people sit and stand around a table with a laptop, cell phones and tablets on it.

While having motivation can help you be successful at work, it's not always easy to find or maintain. Feeling unmotivated from time to time is normal in any professional career. 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 particular 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 on adverse outcomes that might occur if you make a mistake or don't 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, you often start to dread the tasks associated with it. While both types of motivation effectively drive 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. For example, you could reposition the first negative statement above 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, 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 unsure 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 on completing 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, sharing them with trusted mentors, friends or colleagues may help you stay focused and be accountable to yourself. You may also consider writing your goals down and posting them in an obvious 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 challenging 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 the motivational tips above to put more energy toward your goal.

Put in the work

One of the best ways to gain 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, attend 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 milestones.

Develop your motivational practices

It can be helpful to develop 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 nonverbal communication in front of a mirror. Here are some other ideas that might work for you:

  • Listening to a motivational song or podcast.

  • Reviewing how your goals' positive outcomes would add value to your life.

  • Connecting with people who share your goals or make you feel comfortable or inspired.

  • Practicing confident nonverbal communication, such as standing up straight with your chin up and hands by your side.

  • Telling yourself that the task, project or challenge will result in positive outcomes.

  • Doing stretches or light exercises.

Reward yourself

Most goals aren't met overnight, so maintaining motivation is often a challenge when working toward long-term goals. After you set goals and put in work, it's important to reward yourself as you surpass key milestones. For example, if you achieved a weekly job application goal, reward yourself by 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 your career, practicing motivation can help you find success. Be sure to use the resources and tools available to you, including setting SMART goals, rewarding yourself and identifying what helps you feel motivated positively.


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