"We must be prepared, at any moment, to sacrifice who we are for who we are capable of becoming." - Charles du Bos, French critic and essayist.
Life is exciting when we are young, the uncertainties and the possibilities. But as we grow older, it becomes less so - perhaps bored by the monotony of our adult lives. This spills over into our work life (if it does not start there). Of course, the solution is not difficult or very far away. Self-motivation is the intrinsic drive that will get us through the daily grind. Here we focus on motivation at the workplace, considering we spend a lot of our waking hours earning our living.
(Re-)discover your interests:
Find out what you love about work. This is easier said than done. It requires you to identify those moments at work when you are in your element. What leaves you with more energy at the end of the activity than when you started? For some, it is travel, while for others, it is gleaning insights from raw data. Find a role that lets you do these tasks the most.
Work on yourself:
Invest at least 30 minutes to an hour on yourself daily. Use that time to take account of what you have achieved and what you can do. Develop a sense of optimism and confidence in your abilities. From there on, use that time to learn new skills or acquire additional qualifications. At work, take pride in your work by delivering high quality results. Make sure that you are physically fit. Once you are confident, volunteer to help others with their work. You will benefit just as much as they do.
The company you keep:
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So spend time with confident and motivated people at the workplace. Choose well, for these people will influence you and their behaviour and outlook will become part of your habits. The cheer and optimism of motivated people rubs off on those around them and you get a chance to consciously learn from and emulate them.
Dreams and goals:
Spend some time to identify your life's dreams, for you surely had a few when you were younger. Set yourself concrete goals for the year to fulfil these. Having goals gives you direction in thought and effort. Such clarity can motivate you.
Be accountable. Accountability is the single largest source of motivation. If the present job structure does not involve accountability to a team or subordinates, involve a family member or a friend as a 'goal partner'. A goal partner is a person who is aware of your goal and with whom you share the progress made. Hold yourself accountable to him.
Take the first step right now. Start small, but make regular progress. Break down the goal into tasks and each task into smaller steps. Focus only on the next step and even distasteful difficult tasks become easier. To build persistence, spend some time every day, even if it is five minutes. Soon you will find that the momentum builds up, the tasks bring its own pleasure and your motivation improves.
Keep a track:
Only what is measured gets done. So monitor and record your efforts and progress towards your goal. It will help you review and streamline your goals and your system. The tracker itself becomes a source of motivation as it reflects your progress.
Focus on learning. The highest levels of motivation come from a feeling of control and achievement that comes from learning and mastering new skills. Take every opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, take on multiple tasks (insulating them in separate compartments), accept mistakes as a learning experience and stop offering excuses.
Sustained motivation is possible only when there is an element of fun. So celebrate your progress. Figure out which portions of your work can be made into experiences you enjoy. Sometimes work is much more fun than leisure.
"You teach best what you most need to learn," said American writer Richard Bach. So, spending time and taking the effort to motivate others is good investment. While you help others, your own motivation will improve.
Your satisfaction with your work is far too important to be ignored. Motivation is the cornerstone of satisfaction and it is within reach and success is a common side effect of a motivated worker.
Reduce decision fatigue. Reserve your energy for big challenges by taking fewer decisions. The easiest way is to follow a routine to free up your mind and give you control over your time. Follow the routine for 30 days to make it a habit.
Neither sugar nor caffeine can match the energy that comes from a workout. Thirty minutes of a workout releases enough endorphins to cover your entire workday. Endorphins relieve pain, reduce stress and uplift mood.
It's an often ignored aspect of the workplace. Do you prefer the sunlight or are you at your best under a neon? Find which light suits you the best. Similarly, try to sleep in the dark. You will rest better and your body will have more energy.
Food for thought:
Long distance runners eat smaller quantities and more low-GI (glycaemic index) food such as vegetables that release glucose slowly. Avoid high-GI food such as sweets, white bread and potatoes.
Track your health. An annual medical check-up is a good idea. Fatigue or exhaustion may also be a symptom of infections or medical conditions that affect the thyroid, kidney, liver, blood, heart or digestion. Best treated early.
The writer is CEO, Quetzal Verify, an HR solutions company started by four IIM-Ahmedabad graduates.