On motivation to work
Why is it that we can work at something for 12 hours a day every day and not want to take a break and not burn out? In fact, on the contrary, we very often we find whatever it is that we’re doing very energy boosting instead of energy draining. And then, one day, we wake up and find ourselves in a situation where it’s difficult to concentrate on work for even 6 hours a day. And so we wait for the day to be over…And then another one… And motivation still isn’t there. So what exactly is happening?
And sometimes the answer is simple – we’re just tired, it’s been a long year and a hard slog and it’s time switch off. Or maybe a difficult event has taken place and most of our energy goes into processing that. Or we’re procrastinating over a difficult decision at work (please see my series of articles on procrastination up on my blog). Sometimes though, the answer is simple but not easy to digest – it’s our values. How are the motivation and values connected? It’s our values and our why’s that propel us forward and fuel us to work and enjoy the work. And when the two are mismatched, motivation for work disappears. And there are several reasons for that.
1) Often, when we set out to build our careers as young people, we subconsciously follow the beliefs we picked up when growing up. And they drive our decision making pretty heavily. For example, if we struggle financially during our childhood – the main motivator can become to earn a lot of money. And so later on, we may use that when choosing a career path – to whatever can get us the most money. And while that is a fantastic motivation, hunger for money without the love for craft is not enough to really motivate and fulfil us in the long run. Say, for example, a man or a woman who struggle finanically as children look at the world around them and decide to do a practical thing and become bankers – they’re always portrayed as wealthy people, so that’s exactly it! And so they go on and become successful bankers. And the money is great and the adrenalin of the chase is there and it’s all very motivating. It’s working out great. But then a certain threshold of the sense of financial security is reached and slowly it becomes apparent that the job itself isn’t actually that interesting. And the stress and the long hours in themselves aren’t all that motivating.. And suddenly the question of “why am I doing what I’m doing” pops up. And if we allow ourselves to ask these questions and do a lot osoul searching – a career which gives a true sense of purpose emerges. It is a leap of faith which is scary to take sometimes though.
2) Often as we evolve and mature our values simply change and we need to allow ourselves to accept the hard truths – “I’m no longer finding meaning in doing the work I’m doing”, “I’m not serving people I really want to be serving”, “I’m not expressing myself creatively as I want to”. And the more tied we are to the security of staying in the familiar the more resistance to change we experience. Which is where the lack of motivation for our current job can come in – we become very reactive and simply go through the motions during the day, waiting for it to be over.
When we do notice this lack of motivation it’s up to us on how we want to interpret it – do we resist asking ourselves hard questions or do we think of this feeling as a flashing light calling for our attention to this area of our life? If we perceive it as a welcome signal that it’s time rethink certain things we may find that we’re about to step into a new period in our life, filled with new beginnings and the sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.