My grandmother and I share the same birthday. 21 January. And people in my family say they particularly like our birthday because it gives them something to look forward to in the wintry come-down after the highs of Christmas and New Year.
We perhaps don’t all feel like that – I couldn’t wait to get back to it all (although it did take me a day or two to resettle into my routines). But if you’re now back at work and struggling to shrug-off the January blues; or perhaps just need to inject a little extra motivation to your work: here are the 3 ingredients I always look to first when I’m seeking extra impetus.
We’re never quite so motivated as when we feel a sense of control over the events in our lives. And the quickest way to be more self-directed is to build a goal around your current endeavours, even if you’re engaged in work driven by and for others.
One of the great benefits of goal-setting is it gives us ownership and has us working to our own agenda, not someone else’s. So try this now:
Launch yourself into the future and draw for yourself a rich mental picture of what it’ll be like to complete on this goal. Ask yourself: what do I really want, here? And what do I see as possible in this area? Think deeply about what you’ll be thinking, doing, hearing from others, and saying to yourself. When you’re feeling really connected to this goal-achieved future, write a sentence to encapsulate its essence. That’s your goal.
And if a full-blown goal feels like overkill for your current hurdle? Instead, find some small way of introducing a little of your own designs to your work.
Our brains love challenge and stretch. No stretch = boredom. Too much stretch = overwhelm. But just the right amount stimulates us into deeper thinking and helps us creates new connections in the brain.
Such thinking is accompanied by deeply motivating changes in the brain’s neurochemistry, releasing useful neurotransmitters like adrenaline and dopamine. These changes make us feel good, fill us with a sense of clarity and commitment, and urge us into action.
So when looking to rise to the challenge, ask yourself: how much more stretch can I add and have this still be achievable?
Along with the autonomy and challenge of a task, intrinsic motivation comes from doing work that matters.
It’s human nature to yearn to be part of something bigger than ourselves; to serve some higher purpose – even if we’re not fully aware of it. And when I say something that matters, I mean something that matters to you.
So what is the higher purpose to your current exploits? What will this lead to? What will it get for you? What gives it meaning? Keep this purpose in mind as you tackle your work – and just think how good it’ll feel to achieve it.
The power of intrinsic motivation
Today, work is generally more complex, more interesting and more self-directed than in previous generations. And traditional extrinsic motivators (external reward and punishment) are less well-suited to work with such characteristics.
So instead, look for the intrinsic motivation in a task. Because we know in our hearts where deep motivation comes from: doing something that matters; doing it well; doing it our way; and doing it in service to some higher purpose.