Three Tips to Help You Get Motivated
For many of us, the month of January and most of February (especially here in the Midwest) include some long, dark, and cold days. It’s true, the days are getting longer, but they're not long enough yet. It’s true, the temperatures will eventually warm, but they’re not warm enough yet. Christmas is behind us and the thrill of the new year has worn off, but summer vacation still seems so far away. Frankly, many of us struggle to stay motivated.
Maybe you need to stay motivated to achieve your goals for the new year. Maybe you need to stay motivated at your place of work or in a volunteer group that you've chosen to be a part of. Maybe you need to stay motivated to simply make the long, dark days a bit more bearable. So, today I offer a fresh spin on a familiar topic, to help motivate ourselves: three tips to help you get motivated, regardless of what time of the year it is.
We have cited the work of Dan Pink, especially his text “Drive, the Surprising Truth about what motivated Us”. In that book, we get a glimpse of some of the patterns around what motivates, inspires, and encourages people to move forward. Many of our classes and several of our resources here at Your Clear Next Step help leaders create motivation among their employees. Today we’re focusing specifically on how you can co-create these things for yourself, wherever you are.
Autonomy is the state of being self-directed. The more autonomy we have, the less someone else is micromanaging us and telling us what to do, and the freer we are to go about our work in the way we see best. Many times, as employees we don’t get to choose the ‘what’ of our jobs. That part is usually assigned to us. But, we do often have autonomy over the ‘how‘ of our jobs. Autonomy over the ‘how’ means deciding how we do our jobs, what order we complete the tasks, where they are completed, and what tools we use to complete them.
Some organizations have autonomous days, autonomous weeks, or special missions to create autonomy intentionally (in his book, Dan Pink shares the example of Atlassian and the autonomy they give their employees. Check out a quick recap here). Even if you are not working in one of those spaces, I believe we can still create autonomy for ourselves. Take some time to think about your true span of control. If you have control over your ‘how,’ then take a moment to adjust your ‘how’ in a positive way. If you have even a little control over your ‘what’ then look for an opportunity to spend some time at work on something that really interests you, something that excites you or intrigues you or challenges you.
First, think about something you want to do.
Then, think about how that aligns with your current role and your organization's goals.
HINT: If you can find alignment with your organization’s goals, it is likely that a simple request will result in approval, and you will be granted a few hours to work on something that you genuinely enjoy. The trick is to make sure that the thing you suggest is aligned with the organization’s goals.
For example, perhaps you want to create a procedure guide that will help your colleagues have the answers at their fingertips instead of having to ask questions about things that could have been largely communicated by a training document of some sort. Perhaps your role is not to create training documents or videos, but you really love the idea of creating something and having some sort of creative output. You could request a couple of hours to create this document or training guide.
When you approach your leader about it, position it in a way that says, “it will take a couple of hours of my time now, but in the end, it will save our organization the time that I spend answering questions, and it will increase the efficiency with which people get their work done because they don't have to wait for me to answer.”
Autonomous time doesn’t have to be a whole day or a week; it can be an hour or two. We like to work on things that we like to work on, so, long or short, creating an opportunity for autonomy for the benefit of your organization will help motivate you.
Mastery is the joy that comes with getting better at something. People who play a musical instrument as a hobby, those who continue to play video games where their skill progression increases, those who strive toward their blackbelt certification, those who push themselves to log more and more bicycle miles each year: this is all about mastery. It’s about getting better.
Mastery motivates us by allowing us to see that we’ve gotten better than we were and by reminding us that tomorrow we could be even better. So, if you have not intentionally sought out a way to develop yourself, recently, then now’s the time.
First, think about something that you’re curious about, or something that you’re interested in. Consider something that you want to be good at. Something that would inspire or encourage you as you make progress on it.
Then, seek out a way to develop that skill. Is it a class you could attend, a book you could read, a webinar you could watch, or a coaching session you could participate in? Browse through our list of upcoming live workshops, webinars, virtual coaching programs, and on-demand webinars, and sign up for a program that aligns with what you want to learn. Seek out something in particular that you could use to better yourself. Most organizations are willing to invest in developing their employees when there’s a mutual benefit. If there’s really no money available, there are so many free online videos that you could likely do a quick Google search and find lots of options without spending anything other than time, or check out the great resources at your local library.
Then, once you’ve figured out where you want to grow your skills, tie it to your professional goals and the goals of your organization.
For example, perhaps you’re being asked to lead bigger and more complex meetings, then signing up for a class that will help you improve your meeting management skills will help you and your organization. Perhaps SEO optimization is something you are still trying to master, then requesting some focused time to do some research or acquire certifications will bring you motivation, and especially if your job involves awareness of such things, it will be beneficial to the organization. Perhaps you’re interested in positioning yourself as a leader in your organization, then asking to engage in a leadership development program would be a mutually beneficial step for you and your organization.
Deep down as humans we want to be connected to something bigger than ourselves. We want to contribute and make a difference. Maybe you are in a job that doesn’t align with your purpose motive, but it’s the right financial decision for your family at the moment. Or maybe you are in a job that doesn’t perfectly align with the corporate values you hold for yourself, but the experience you are gaining would be unmatched anywhere else. In these cases, you might be finding your purpose motive through volunteer work or your church community. And of course, it’s entirely possible, and I know for many of you it’s true, that your work absolutely fulfills your purpose.
If you are a position where you see how the work that you’re doing and aligns with your corporate goals, and how the goals of the organization align with your own personal desire for purpose, then I invite you to say a quick prayer of gratitude and jot down some thoughts about something you’re proud of with the connection to this purpose. Once you’ve jotted down this example of purpose, I invite you to share it with someone else.
For example, perhaps you’re proud of your company because you’ve solved a significant problem in your industry; or maybe you’re proud of your organization because they've made a commitment to care for employees in an over-the-top kind of way; perhaps you're proud of your volunteer organization because last year they positively impacted the lives of four thousand children in the area.
Whatever it is that you’re proud of, thinking about it will help motivate you to continue the work that you do, and sharing it with someone else will help spread the good word about your organization and increase your pride.
If you are in a position where it’s harder for you to see how the work you do is connected with something that fulfills your purpose motive, then I invite you to spend some time reflecting on your organization’s mission and vision. Seek out strategic plan documents, corporate websites, and leaders who can talk about the noble purpose of your company. In what way does your organization make a positive contribution to the world?
Once you’ve figured that out, then determine how even one piece of the work you do contributes to that mission and focus on how you can do your job to the very best of your abilities. Knowing that you are making a contribution will help motivate you.
At YCNS we sometimes talk to leaders about creating autonomy, mastery, and purpose among their employees. Today, the point of this message is to encourage you, as an individual, as an employee, as a co-creator of your current environment, to think about these three common motivators and allow them to motivate you. What else would you add? Join the conversation!