But as you can see, I went ahead with it.
Most days I talk to at least one person who is having a hard time getting motivated. Motivation is one of those things we can never have enough of. Often it becomes impossible to find when there's a task ahead that is either daunting, dull, confusing, or uncomfortable. And sometimes we're not motivated to do anything, even something fun, because that's just our overall mood.
Where there's a will there's a way. But what if there's not much will? Then what?
To illustrate the keys to finding motivation, I'll use an example from a client I spoke with recently, whom I'll call Terri, who wanted a new job but was feeling completely unmotivated to start a search.
She basically knew what she needed to do, but because she felt it would be tedious and stressful and because she was very busy in her current job, she kept putting it off.
We worked together to help her find the oomph she needed to get going and stay engaged with the process.
The Five Keys
1. Find the meaning
Figure out why you care that this task gets done. The tricky part is to connect the "why" to a deeply-held value.
Terri wanted a new job for a variety of reasons, most importantly because she was asked to compromise her integrity at the current one. The culture of her workplace rewarded behaviors that were not natural to her, such as aggression and competitiveness. More and more she was realizing that if she could find an employer who valued a collaborative working style she would be much happier.
Many people are tempted to look for another job primarily to earn more money. But such external typically don't provide enough real juice to feel motivating. When something that is intrinsically important to you is at stake (such as integrity, time with your family, or the opportunity to learn new things), it's much easier to commit to following through.
2. Change how you do something
Terri was feeling unmotivated partly because she thought finding a new job would require her to cold call a bunch of people she didn't know. That's what she thought "networking" entailed, so of course she avoided even thinking about starting a job search.
We came up with a job search plan that included networking tasks that seemed doable to Terri. She started by getting in touch with current contacts and contacts with whom she had lost touch. She updated her LinkedIn profile and asked for a few introductions to people she could ask for informational interviews.
She paced herself by contacting only a few people each week so she could keep up with her current job's demands. Suddenly she was actually enjoying the networking she had so dreaded.
You may be feeling unmotivated because you're imagining steps in the project that don't play to your strengths, that are too complicated, that are too numerous, and so on. Look at how you might change your approach, delegate, or re-design the work to create less resistance.
3. Visualize the outcome
Terri was spending a lot of time imaginging all of the boring or unpleasant tasks associated with a job search, such as updating her resume, sending out cover letters, and not getting interviews, that she became disheartened before she even started a job search.
I encouraged Terri to write about what being in a new job that was a good fit for her would be like. She imagined what she was doing, where she was working and how she was feeling.
She was visualizing a positive outcome and getting excited about where all this job search business was going to lead her. She reviewed this happy ending every day for at least a couple of minutes.
When the journey from Point A to Point B is arduous, you simply must be excited by how great Point B is going to be. Otherwise you run out of steam very quickly. Do what top athletes do and imagine yourself crossing the finish line before you even get started.
4. Choose to do it
How many times a day do you tell yourself that you have to, must do or should do something? It is hugely unmotivating. If you can shift your language and choose to do something, it feels much more empowering.
It sounds kind of silly, but try it and see what happens. You move from complaint to positive action just by changing from "have to" to "choose to".
Terri realized that choosing to update her resume and contact people for informational interviews automatically connected her to the meaning attached to the task (see #1 above). She chose to do those things so that she could find an organization with a great culture.
5. Just do it
Sometimes it takes good old-fashioned discipline to get started on something you're just not feeling motivated to do. Schedule the dreaded task first thing in your day and commit to working on it for 15 minutes. Then reward yourself for a job well done!
How I Used These Keys Today
How did I find the motivation to write this blog post?
First I reminded myself why I care about writing this blog - I want to reach out to careerists and offer encouragement and support. I challenged myself to get it done in less than 90 minutes, which lit a fire (or at least created a few sparks!) because I work well with deadlines. I also incorporated a "Just do it" mentality and opened up a blank file and simply started to write.
I'd love to hear: What are you trying to get motivated to do?
This post is adapted from a post I originally ran on Mom In The Balance.