Motivation is about engagement. When you are motivated, you are a wholehearted participant in your own life. You know what's important and use it as a guide. You feel confident, energized and engaged. When you are de-motivated, however, you lose your edge. Your energy goes down and your stress goes up. You may even feel guilty and resentful. Whatever way a lack of motivation hits you, one thing is for sure—it's not a fun place to be.
Whether you feel your motivation waning or want to keep your current level of motivation on a roll, the following suggestions will help you stay at your best.
Stay connected to what you're doing.
It's one thing to do the work you're paid to do; it's another to be fulfilled by it. If you're strictly doing your job for the money, you find that over time it's harder and harder to do the job. However, if you're connected to what you do—to what excites you—you'll feel motivated to keep going because you'll be achieving a bigger purpose for yourself.
The key is to know your values—the principles, standards and qualities that guide you. To uncover your values, recall a time in your life when everything was just right in either your personal life or your work. Ask yourself what it was about that memory that made it so memorable, so significant, so right. Write down any ideas that come to mind—words, phrases, images and symbols. When you've finished with your notes, circle the words that meet the definition of values as principles, standards and qualities. There's no right or wrong during this process. Simply use your own words and your gut to tell you what your values are.
Know what it takes to get better.
Motivation comes from a constant urge to be better. You should always ask yourself what you are trying to achieve and what you need to learn to reach your goals. This isn't about taking a workshop or reading a book. It's about challenging yourself to take on something new and stretching yourself into a new level of results. The fact is, when you practice learning as an element of personal leadership, you stay motivated and get better results for yourself and your work. By learning, you empower yourself to have, do, and be whatever you choose. And with empowerment comes confidence. You don't second-guess yourself or worry you'll fail, because you know if you get it wrong, you'll be able to figure out how to get it right. How motivating is that?
Find the right support system.
You may need to look outside of your organization, your role, or even your industry for people who can cheer you on, mentor you and help you be your best.
To do so, look for people whose style you like—people who inspire you with the results they get. Seek out people who resonate with you and seem to mirror parts of yourself. Learn how you can become more with the help of others who have already done what you want to do.
The more carefully you build your support team, the more powerful it will be. You don't ask people to mentor you because you like them; you make them a part of your team because they enhance you. The people on your support team help you stay motivated because they expand you by giving you access to what you don't know.
Maintain a sense of balance.
Maintaining a work/life balance is not a way to stay motivated, but a way to keep from becoming de-motivated. When you're serving everyone else, you have to remember to fill your own tank. Being effective and motivated should not come at the expense of quality of life, and quality of life should not come at the expense of business results. Work and life should be able to co-exist, happily and successfully. The key is to define what that balance looks like for you.
What helps you restore your energy and find that sense of peace, rest and renewal? Depending on your lifestyle and personal preferences, that could be taking a morning job, sleeping in on days off, reading a fiction book or spending time with family. Even if you can't carve out chunks of time, at least create some mental space where you can relax, turn off distractions and let yourself go.
Stick with it.
Staying motivated in today's economy and work reality can be difficult for anyone. But when you take responsibility for motivating yourself and others, you become a true inspiration and can better reach your goals. As a result, your vision, your potential and your efforts all leave a mark. Yes, as you progress there will be times you'll lose heart. You'll get busy, you'll get tired, you'll forget, you'll have setbacks, you'll drift away. But you won't get lost. When you follow these four guidelines, you'll have a solid foundation for your continued success, now and in the future.
Joelle Jay, Ph. D., is an executive coach and the senior managing partner of Pillar Consulting. She is the author of "The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership." For a free sample chapter, go to www.theinneredge.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.