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How to stay motivated: 17 tips that will bring you closer to your goals

August 4, 2022 - 18 min read

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What is motivation?

How to stay motivated every day

What to do when you lose motivation

Visualize your future

In 2016, the World Economic Forum reported that 70 percent of employees consider themselves disengaged at work

Are you one of them? 

In 2019, a different study found that 26 percent of employees were “motivated but unhappy.” They managed to find meaning through other aspects of their work — even if they struggled with toxic leadership.

This study gives us a clue on how to stay motivated at work: sometimes, it’s as simple as naming what you still love about your job.

And there’s more where that came from. There are many ways to keep yourself motivated in every area of your ilfe, even when you’re just not feeling it. You might not want to keep working toward a fitness goal you set a few months ago. 

That’s why we’re going to offer some tips on how to stay motivated at work and in other areas of your life.

 

What is motivation?

Motivation is the energy that drives you to complete a task or behavior. It’s the “wind in your sails” that pushes you toward your goals.

There are two main kinds of motivation: 

  • Extrinsic motivation refers to external factors that drive you. For example, receiving a paycheck in exchange for your labor offers you a reward. Negative external motivators, like fear of being fired for skipping work, also drive you to act in certain ways.
  • Intrinsic motivation refers to internal factors that inspire you. For example, doing work that aligns with your values is emotionally fulfilling. Your own desire to succeed is what propels you forward. 

Intrinsic motivation is the more sustainable type of motivation since it comes from within. People who find their calling and live a life full of purpose feel good about waking up in the morning. They trust that their work is making a difference, which keeps their spirits up.

But extrinsic motivation also has its place. It’s what keeps a roof over your head and pushes you to do groceries on the weekend, even if you’d rather be sleeping in. Studies have even shown that removing financial incentives decreases motivation. Extrinsic incentives trump intrinsic incentives, as far as our brains are concerned. Our brains are hardwired to respond to rewards, thanks to the relationship between dopamine and motivation in our brains.

If you’re unmotivated, you probably feel sluggish and down. And the last thing you want to do is complete a task or do your chores. And that’s OK. Even the most driven people have their off days. 

If you’re having more off days than you’d like, you need tactics on how to keep yourself motivated. With the right tools, you can attain peak motivation.

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What is peak motivation?

Peak motivation occurs when you achieve a flow state. This state occurs when you’re so absorbed in an activity that you can tune out the world. It usually happens when you work on a challenge of optimal difficulty — not so easy that it’s boring, but not so hard that it’s stressful. 

Every aspect of life requires a different approach to motivation. BetterUp can help you find yours. Our coaches will help you make goals, identify your values, and make an action plan to keep you moving in the right direction.

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How to stay motivated every day

Here are some general motivation tips for your career. We organized them into categories to show how different tactics apply to different parts of your work life.

How to stay motivated at work

For those of you currently employed at a company, here are some tips to give you back that spark.

1. Set goals

Try setting strong work goals for yourself. These are targets or milestones that keep you on track in your career. 

Whether you’re gunning for retirement or looking for your next dream job, use the SMART method to set your goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

You can use this method to create both short-term and long-term goals.

Reaching your milestones becomes easier each time you do it. It helps to start small and build momentum. With each completed task, you’ll see your motivation increase.

2. Tell people about your goals

Talk to your loved ones about what you hope to achieve at work. They can help keep you accountable.  

If you trust your colleagues, you can tell them, too. But if your plan includes leaving the company, this might not be such a great idea. You don’t know if sharing that you plan to leave or shake things up will impact your current work situation.

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3. Take on new challenges

If you’re not challenging yourself at work, you’re only feeding your lack of motivation. Try taking on projects that stretch your skills or teach you new ones. 

If that’s not an option for you, look outside the office. Sign up for a professional workshop or learn a new creative skill. Anything that pulls you out of your comfort zone is good for you. 

When you succeed in new situations, you boost your confidence and raise your motivation levels.

How to stay motivated during a job search

Applying to jobs can be a demoralizing experience. After countless cover letters, making your resume stand out, and promising interviews, rejection really stings. 

Here’s how you can improve your self-motivation through this stressful process.

4. Find a mentor

Look for an expert within your industry who can guide you. They can help you set goals, develop new skills, and hold you accountable. You can also ask them for feedback on your progress so far.

5. Keep a positive mindset

After the fifth rejection email or phone call, it’s easy to fall into spirals of negative thoughts and self-talk. Focus on the positives. 

If you need examples, consider these:

  • At every interview, you made new connections that can help you later in your career
  • You put your best foot forward, and you can be proud of that
  • You learned more about a new organization 
  • You practiced your answers to tough interview questions
  • You prepared yourself for the job you’ll get in the future

6. Remember that you’re cultivating resilience

Resilience is a top skill in the workplace. It refers to your grit, determination, and ability to quickly recover from adversity. You sharpen these skills every time you encounter a tough skills test, a surprise interview question, or a rejection letter.

7. Lean on your support network

Your support network is crucial, especially if you’re unemployed. Job searches take a lot of emotional energy, so accept support where you can. Your friends and family will remind you that you’re a capable and brilliant person.

8. Remember why you’re looking for a new job

There’s a reason you’re looking for new opportunities. Write them down and put them somewhere visible. Even if you don’t find your dream job right away, your reasons are valid and will keep you going.

How to stay motivated as an entrepreneur

Starting a business is hard work. Here are some tips to help you in your venture and keep your entrepreneurial mindset alive.

9. Focus on the mission

If you don’t have a mission statement for your company, write one. Then put it somewhere visible. When you’re feeling low, this will remind you why you began in the first place.

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10. Look up success stories

There are millions of successful people who run their own businesses. Of course, you can look at heavy hitters like Bill Gates and Elon Musk. But there’s also the mom-and-pop café on your street corner, the young carpenter running his own contracting company, or the freelance bloggers working from home.

If they can do it, so can you.

11. Join a group of other entrepreneurs

Many incubators and support groups exist to support the latest industry up-starts. Connecting with other entrepreneurs will help inspire you and keep you accountable.

What to do when you lose motivation

You will inevitably lose motivation at some point. This is completely normal, so don’t give up! No one can be “on” 100% of the time. These tips aren’t limited to the workplace, either. If you’re dragging your feet on cleaning out your closet or dealing with some paperwork, we understand.

Here are some things you can do when you’re feeling sluggish:

1. Exercise

Physical activity will help boost your energy and, in turn, your motivation. When you accomplish your fitness goals, it will encourage you to do the same elsewhere in your life.

2. Review your accomplishments

Make a list of everything you’ve accomplished so far. This will boost your mood and make it easier to continue toward your end goal. Keeping a journal with your accomplishments will help you celebrate yourself.

3. Lean on your routines

Motivation is as much a practice as a mindset, and humans are creatures of habit. So, if you’ve created a strong routine for yourself, you can go on autopilot for a moment. Your brain will remember what to do when you’re not feeling as inspired. This will sustain you until you can regain your energetic mindset.

4. Accept that motivation is temporary

This might seem counter-intuitive. But once you accept that motivation is fleeting, you’ll put less pressure on yourself to be “on” all the time. This gives you space to lean on other healthy habits to get you through the day.

5. Cultivate healthy motivation habits

Healthy habits will sustain you when you’re feeling sluggish. Here are some skills you can improve in your everyday life:

  • Defeat procrastination with time management by scheduling every task and setting daily goals, from your morning workout to your afternoon tea
  • Have your own system for daily tasks and consult it regularly
  • Write in your gratitude journal every morning or night
  • Wake up early for some quiet time before the stresses of the day 
  • Read books and learn daily
  • Track your progress
  • Keep a clean workspace
  • Reward yourself for hard work
  • Find something to look forward to

These skills will keep you moving forward, whether you’re motivated or not.

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6. Talk to an expert

It’s normal to lack motivation in short bursts of time. But there are circumstances where you may need extra support:

  • If you feel unmotivated for two weeks or more
  • If your lack of motivation interferes with daily life

If your procrastination seems to be harming your quality of life, it might be time to seek help. A therapist or mental health professional can help you find what’s stopping you and get you back on track. Being overwhelmed by where to start is normal — but there’s a way to figure that out.

Visualize your future

Within all of these tips is an overarching message: visualization is key to motivation. When you imagine what your life could look like, you prime yourself to make it a reality.

This kind of future-oriented thinking will breathe new life into your work. Even if your boss is not the best person to work with, you’ll know you’re diligently progressing toward your goals. There’s comfort and that.

For more tips on how to stay motivated, consider working with BetterUp. Our coaches will help you develop new skills, build confidence, and release your inner rockstar.

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Published August 4, 2022

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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