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When you’ve lost your motivation: 6 actions to get it back
Where is your mojo these days? Is it present, and you are rocking it every day, or is it hiding under the bed, and you are trudging through each day just to get to the weekend?
It is a pretty miserable feeling not to be engaged. It can be challenging to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go every morning, no matter what the day holds. We all have slumps. We have high points and low points, good days and bad days. This is quite normal.
We don't really talk about that. Instead, we think that if someone is engaged, they show up to work daily with a smile and supercharged. Even the most optimistic people I know struggle from time to time. But when the struggles are more than just a bad day or week, we may need to find our motivation hiding under the bed and coax it to come out.
Your motivation is directly tied to your impact, influence, sense of accomplishment, commitment to quality, and ability to help someone — whatever matters to you. If you're not tapping into that frequently, your motivation can be adversely affected.
According to Author Mark Murphy, there are five primary motivators at work, and knowing what drives you will help you determine how to stay motivated.
Achievement: Craves challenging, stretch goals, complex assignments, the ability to achieve the seemingly impossible
Power: Craves influence, the ability to lead and be in charge, a high-power title and salary
Affiliation: Craves connections, relationships, teamwork
Security: Craves consistency, clarity, planning, and certainty
Adventure: Craves change, innovations, and new ideas; embraces risks and uncertainty
The key is to learn your primary motivator and craft your goals, responsibilities, experiences, and growth to support that. If our primary motivator is not satisfied, we can quickly lose our mojo and disengage.
I took Murphy's quiz recently and found that I am more of a tweener between Achievement and Security. Security surprised me a bit, but when I read more about the focus on clarity, planning, and creating order from chaos, it resonated with me. Like most labels, there is no right or wrong. Knowing yourself will help you architect your life to help you succeed and feel motivated or even inspired.
I wrote briefly in my book that I lost my mojo in life after my divorce and a significant job change (I don't recommend too much life change at once, by the way!). Life was tough. But, I spent six months understanding what I wanted, what I was missing, and what I needed to feel good, successful, and fulfilled. That self-discovery helped propel me into a slightly different career path and helped shape my life choices in a way I never felt before…positive, intentional, and energizing.
In my personal life, I brought order to chaos, clarity to ambiguity, and structure to vagueness. These skills are what I bring to the workplace. I get my mojo from fixing problems, streamlining complicated processes, and prioritizing what seems like an endless bowl of spaghetti into 3-5 straight lines. I credit my Dad for this type of brain, although my mom is pretty good at it too.
Ask yourself what motivates you at work? You may identify with a different primary motivator than me. You may love Adventure or Affiliation. Learn what that means and craft your role to match that or find one that will.
Whether you have something majorly going awry in your life or aren't "feeling it" anymore, it may be time to pay attention to your mojo. Here are six actions to coax your mojo out from under the bed and get your motivation back.
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Goals should not be something we do once a year because someone in HR is making us as part of a performance management process. Goals are targets we shoot for personally and professionally. For years, I never had personal goals. I just did my job, went out with friends, and watched TV. It wasn't until I took time to set goals, learn my values (the following action), and track progress against them that I started to really feel a sense of achievement. Knowing that is important to me explains why my mojo went way up. Revisit your goals or set some, to begin with, and make sure they align with what matters to you.
Focus on your values.
In addition to goals, don't forget your values. Trust your instinct when something doesn't feel right, and examine if a situation or relationship fits your values. If you value quality and are constantly being asked to cut corners to meet budget or time constraints, that won't feel good. Back to our motivators, you won't feel good if you crave challenging work but do the same rote tasks every day. When this happens, have a conversation with your boss, or you may even need to find another job or organization, depending on how misaligned the work is.
Talk with others.
When you lose motivation, it is easy to shut down and head to the couch with a canister of Sour Cream and Onion Pringles and the next true crime show (ok…that could just be me.). The best thing to do when you've lost your motivation is not to lie on the couch but to engage with others. Ask for feedback and get some advice. Share your thoughts and get another perspective from a friend, colleague, family member, or professional counselor. Hearing others' stories can also help you. Learning how someone else got unstuck is a powerful and personal way to find your mojo.
Make your own change.
When we have lost our motivation, we may think something will come along to change that. That may happen, but the best way to get our motivation back is to review what we want, who we are, and what is missing and proactively take steps to make it happen. Reaching out to people can help you with this, as I stated above. We can create our future, our happiness, and our sense of motivation. After doing some reflection, make your own change. Waiting for something to change without taking any action ourselves can be a recipe for disappointment.
Choose commitments wisely.
When I am in a slump, and my mojo is hiding under the bed while I face the world, I can overcommit and take on too much. Unfortunately, being busy does not equal feeling motivated. Overcommitting to break through a slump can have the opposite effect. Doing too much at once can create more opportunities for you not to succeed. We cannot juggle too much at once as we will eventually burn out. The key is to find actions you can take that align with your goals and values to bring you the most joy. If you have ten things that will align and motivate you, that is amazing. But pick three and do those really well as a start.
Continue to learn.
Finally, learning something new is a great way to get your mojo back. It can be work-related or not. Many businesspeople I know find inspiration in a cooking class, an art project, knitting, or Yoga. Find something you want to learn and do it. Or, if you find you really love it, learn it and teach others! It can be small, but learning can spur us into a new frame of mind, which can help us get our mojo back. The act of learning keeps us from getting stuck by its nature.
If you feel unmotivated even for a long while, there is no reason to panic. You can get it back by reviewing your goals, rediscovering your values and motivators, and having a coffee with someone you respect. Don't resign yourself to the couch but reach out to someone, take some action, and continue to learn and discover what you are missing.
We can lose our motivation from time to time. This happens to even the most successful people. We can't be "on" all the time, but we can be self-aware of what makes us tick and learn to recognize when something happens to push us out of our motivation zone and how to get back into the zone.