Consistent motivation has always been vital for success. But today, as the world fights dread and disillusionment, it is more important than ever; don’t let it slip away.

There’s an idea of “motivation traps” developed by Richard E. Clark, Ed.D., a Professor Emeritus of psychology and technology at the University of Southern California, and Bror Saxberg, the Vice President of Learning Science at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. While crafted keeping team-work and managers in mind, its simple philosophy can be applied to individuals as well. 

The researchers, after reviewing literature on motivation, write that there are four key reasons motivation at work may waver: 1) A values mismatch, 2) lack of self-efficacy, 3) disruptive emotions, and 4) attribution errors (i.e. not knowing what went wrong with a task). 

Simply put, it’s not enough to sense a dip in motivation, it’s important to pay attention to what is causing the decline. Once we know the reason, or a semblance of a reason, some motivation-boosting strategies can easily assist us in getting out of the rut. Here are a few examples:

Understand your values and purpose 

The sudden shift of work from in-office, physically collaborative workplaces to remote work might have thrown your life in disarray. Perhaps, you’re compelled to do the work you don’t value which can be a big reason for being demotivated. 

Pause and reflect. The task’s importance might not be immediately apparent to you, but try to dig deeper. Often, managers fail at communicating the big role each seemingly mundane task plays in the organization. 

Tip 1: Channel the inner purpose and value system that drove you here and use the same ideals to continue working. Your purpose doesn’t change because the world is under a lockdown. 

Tip 2: The task may seem simple and futile at the moment, but focus on the value you’re adding. Try to see the big picture. 

Don’t give in to doubts

Many people complain of a dip in motivation when the work seems too intimidating or simply impossible. What’s happening here is that you’re questioning your ability to finish the task. And as you think you’re underqualified, or underequipped, you feel anxious and less inclined to put in an objective effort. 

Tip 1: Don’t tackle everything at once. Make small goals and try to meet them one at a time. But put in a sincere effort at meeting these goals. 

Tip 2: Often, we put all the effort and time needed but don’t see any results. Success may as well be elusive, but if you don’t trust in your ability and expertise, you will never get there anyway. 

Tip 3: Change how you think about the challenge: If something seems far too daunting, it’s because you’re burdening yourself with the expectation of others. Work hard because your work is an investment in yourself and automatically, you would be more inclined to work smart. 

Emotion Check 

 There’s little else on people’s minds than COVID-19 and while the pandemic is a reality, there’s little most of us can do to alter the situation outside. Instead, we need to focus on our own temperament and ensure that we face every day with a level-headedness crucial both for ourselves and our loved ones. 

Still, you can be easily swept by a whirlwind of emotions. You may feel desolate, angry, frightened and your emotions need an outlet to ensure you can keep working. 

Tip 1: Support System—Create a listening circle with your friends where you’re a support group for one other. Pair yourself with buddies—someone you can call when you feel overwhelmed by what’s going on outside. 

Tip 2: Seek support at work: You and your colleagues are in this together. You may suddenly not be seeing each other every day but you can still virtually communicate with them. There’s no harm in seeking help from your boss or colleagues by keeping them informed of your emotional state and devising ways in which everyone can navigate the on-going crisis. 

Allow Behavior Change

Harvard professor, Ron Siegel has suggested a simple way to stay motivated: keep your eye on the results and reward yourself every step of the way. We all like to be rewarded for our efforts and it’s often the idea of a reward—be it the completion of work, the appreciation, or simply the feeling of achievement that drives us to do better. This simple technique can be absorbed into our daily life. 

Tip 1: Don’t blankly tell yourself that you can do it, focus on the result you want to achieve and let the desire for it drive you. 

Tip 2: Sometimes, the goal may be far-fetched and you may need all the motivation you can muster along the way. Use the system of rewards to set goalposts for yourself and reward yourself when you meet each of those goals. 

Tip 3: Follow the idea of results and reward diligently so as to create a habit. Soon, you won’t need your will-power to drive you but you would have put in place a system of checks and balances to meet your goal without distractions.  

Introspect 

Perhaps none of these interventions work for you. In which case, it’s important that you think more comprehensively about what is stopping you from persevering, staying focused or motivated. Identify reasons for your own motivation dip and apply targeted responses to not stay stuck. 

Tip 1: The Interview: Give the age-old healing by self-talking a try, but this time don’t simply talk to yourself but ask yourself open-ended questions. 

Think about how far you’ve come, and then, do nothing

Not all problems have immediate quick-fixes. Sometimes, it’s better to submit to the situation and go with the flow. Regardless of whether your professional journey has just begun or you are years into your profession, pause and think about how far you’ve come since you started or even the beginning of the year. That’s it. Don’t think about the future, simply take a moment to acknowledge that you were not always where you are today, and allow that delicate realization to fill you with some self-love, and slowly, maybe even motivation. 


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