Why am I not motivated at work?
Updated: Jul 20
Picture this. It's a new day, the sun is shining, you pull on your regular clothes and then you mooch to the lounge to turn on your laptop. You have your usual cup of something by your side. You’re a bit bleary eyed and feeling lethargic. You let out a big sigh. You click across a few tabs. What are you doing again? Why are you doing it? Oh yes, nothing, you’re not motivated.
Often in a coaching session, a client will come to me and tell me they are struggling to find motivation. It seems to be more and more present for a lot of us. In this article I’m going to explore two avenues of why this could be, followed by a practical tool.
If you don’t know why you’re doing something or you don’t care about the why, you’re already trying to go up a very steep hill, likely without shoes on.
Your ‘work why’ could be a multitude of things, here are some:
Having an impact
Sense of purpose
The most popular ‘work why’ that comes up for people is that they want to help others but they are often stuck with how to do this as 1) we don’t know how exactly we want to help people 2) we don’t think we can as it won’t fulfil the reason we ‘have’ to do the work.
And here are some engrained reasons as to why you think you have to do the work:
It's a cool job
Pay rise/bonus etc
You have a degree
You don't have a degree
You don't know how to do anything else
It's important that you understand the difference between these two things and that you understand what is driving you. I say this because if your motivation is coming from the second list, it's likely to have a cap on how far it will take you.
Assuming you are having your basic needs meet at work, if you don't have the things that matter to you from the first list or if you don't feel connected to them, you're likely to run out of steam.
So you've got two lists from me, here are the actions I need from you:
1. From the first list (or come up with your own), can you pick out the number one reason for your work why and give specifics on exactly what you mean by it. For example if it is learning, what kind of learning, how often, how do you want to consume it, what do you want to learn about?
2. Pick the thing (or come up with your own) about why you think you have to do this specific job that you're doing. This is likely what is holding you back. From this thing, write down the beliefs you hold about work. For example, if it's parents, your beliefs might be: a traditional career is smartest and safest, working for yourself is too risky, you can't have too many gaps on your CV to get a good job etc.
3. Challenge: Write down the beliefs you would like to have about work.
Imagine you’re about to play a board game. You’re getting ready to start but you can’t find your playing piece, there’s mess on the table and you need four people to play but only two of you have sat down. Nightmare, you have so much to do before you can even start and you likely won’t even get to play.
As you may already be aware, finding motivation can be easier or harder to access depending on your mental and physical set-up. Firstly as I said above, you need to know why you’re doing it and it needs to resonate with you and secondly, you need to have the tools or know how to get the tools in order to feel motivated.
Tools for me include:
Your immediate surroundings
Your beliefs about yourself
If you were to see the above as a check list, have you got everything you need to feel motivated? If you were managing someone and you took all of these tools away, would you expect them to be motivated? If so, what can you assume about their work mindset?
So I have to ask you: are there any tools you currently don't have that you need to get? How can you go about getting them or changing that?
Challenge: pick one thing on the above list and take one action to change your set-up in the next hour.
As promised, I'm going to leave you with a tool.
If you don’t know why or you can’t feel the positive results of why you are doing something, motivation is going to be hard to find.
The Ikigai model has come up more and more for me lately. Have a look at the link and ask yourself:
Where do I currently sit on this model?
How can I get closer to the centre?
What small thing could I change in my current role that would have the biggest impact to my motivation?
And let me know how you get on!
Not sure on where to start with motivation? Get in touch - I’d love to work with you on finding what resonates for you. Book a free chat in with me by clicking here.