When you began to establish your career, you were highly motivated. The joy of the challenge, the exhilaration of creativity lured you into going for your dream. But now you’ve struggled for so long you may not be feeling the same joy. You may not be feeling anything at all. A future that once seemed so promising now seems like folly at best, madness at worst.
What’s happened? You’ve allowed the struggle to overpower the hope and positive energy you began with. The cycle begins when motivation leads you to work which, when not punctuated with appropriate rest periods, leads naturally to exhaustion; then frustration; then to depression.
It’s at this point you need reassessment and renewal. If you’re pursuing a career, the process of keeping yourself motivated with a fresh challenge is important. So what do you do when you’re not feeling motivated? Try these re‑motivation techniques.
Step 1: Keep moving forward despite your moods.
You cannot allow achievement to depend on your mood. If you must always be in a good mood to accomplish your work, then it’s probably time to consult a business/life coach. You haven’t grown up enough yet. Grown-ups have to get the job done no matter what mood they’re in. Imagine a fireman throwing down his hose because he’s no longer in the mood to fight the fire. Or an All Black who only plays hard when he’s in the mood. Or an Olympic runner saying she’s not in the mood to run in the finals. Edmund Burke said: “Never despair; but if you must, work on through your despair.”
Step 2: When things get tough, take a short break.
But do so in a carefully limited way. Say, “I need a day off.” Head straight to the beach, or a fast flowing river. This is where the ozone level is highest. At the end of a day, you’re likely to feel much better. If not, convince yourself you are better. Never decide to abandon your project when you’re tired. Things always look worse when you’re tired. Remember you’re taking a break only from your work, not from your commitment to the work. The moment you’re officially on holiday, allow the idea of mental refreshment to percolate in your mind.
Step 3: The difficulty you are experiencing is normal.
Sometimes people have a hard time with stress simply because they haven’t recognised that their stress is necessary. If you’re making progress, you’re succeeding. What better way is there to live than with the assurance that your work will provide you with endless opportunities, satisfaction and demands for improvement and excellence? Doesn’t it make more sense to congratulate yourself for having the courage than to berate yourself ? You’re on your way!
Step 4: Don’t doubt yourself.
Identify the negative influences that cause your resolve to falter. Maybe a well-meaning relative made a remark about how painful it is to see you wasting your life pursuing a dream. Maybe the ‘doubting Thomas’ is your own dark angel – the little voice inside you. Either way, it’s time to refurbish your self-confidence. You may have to re-evaluate the amount of time you’re putting into your writing. Making adjustments of emphasis will help you feel more comfortable about the effort you’re putting into all aspects of your career.
Remind yourself that what other people say can’t affect you unless you allow it to. One way or the other, it’s time to talk to yourself, asking the various parts of your mind, “What’s going on in there?” Lack of self-confidence is the greatest enemy for all of us. No matter how successful you become, you’ll see—it never goes away. But the successful person manages to move forward despite his or her lack of self-confidence. Self-confidence increases when you continue to act (in this case, write) with no regard for your insecurities.
Step 5: Face your fear, and make it your ally.
According to the Malaysian Senoi tribe, a child who dreams of being chased by a monster would be told that the monster was his friend and that he should turn to face the monster the next time he’s chased in his dream.
The Chinese symbol for crisis says ‘opportunity’ plus ‘danger’. The first step is to acknowledge and face the fear. Recall David Viscott’s observation in his book Risking: “If you have no anxiety, the risk you face is not worthy of you. Only risks you have outgrown don’t frighten you.”
Your life flourishes when you face your fear, owning it as yours. If you dare to turn the door knob behind which the pain lurks, your fear can become a positive force.
Step 6: Associate with positive people, and stop associating with negative people.
Nothing is more helpful than a positive support group, and nothing is more damaging than constant negative carping from friends and family who don’t believe in you. Make whatever adjustments are necessary to reduce or eliminate your contact with naysayers.
The positive people in your life are those who encourage you to pursue your dream – no matter what. They are your true saints, inspiring you to go on living to the utmost of your ability. German philosopher Johann von Goethe said, “If you treat people the way they are, you make them worse. If you treat them the way they ought to be, you make them capable of becoming what they ought to be.” Positive people are those who treat you the way you have imagined yourself to be, that is, at your best.
Step 7: Take personal responsibility
One of my artist clients told me, “I never get personally involved in my own problems.” I hadn’t realised how often people fail to remain detached from their own problems. Worry is a defence mechanism which limits your effectiveness. I called this magic thinking: “If I’m really good, if I work hard and stay patient, the world will eventually honour me. OK, I’ve been good, worked hard, so now I’m waiting for the world to honour me.” But the world hardly ever works this way. Most successful people have struggled long and hard. They endure multiple failures before finally achieving their success. Walt Disney went broke seven times before his films and theme parks came right.
Step 8: Take charge of your own thinking.
You can control your own mind better than you may believe right now. Not all the time but, as you practise, more and more of the time. When you think, “I am succeeding at being my best self” you are succeeding. Motivational experts agree you must see your success, be able to envision it internally, before you can experience it in your actual outer life. Remember, you can’t fail at being you. You’re the only one, in fact, who can do that— which means everything you do is important.
Step 9: Let go of the wrong kind of control.
You can do only what you can do, and then you’ll have to let God/ nature/ fate do the rest. Control what you can do; don’t fret when you can’t control the rest. Even the most successful people can’t control everything, so don’t get upset about things you can’t control: like weather, the price of petrol, and other people dying.
Step 10: Figure out what you really want – and start living as though you already have it.
Function follows form. If you commit yourself to the form of your optimal lifestyle, it will follow in function. But function follows only when your commitment is truly in place. Important to your re-motivation agenda is reaffirming your commitment. I call this fine-tuning. Your career will profit from fine-tuning. But be careful what you wish for as you’re likely to get it. A screenwriter client told me she’d got her wish: she’d been hired to write for a TV series. But she’d forgotten to wish for a successful, intelligent series.
So you’ve gone past fear and returned to action and now you’re concentrating on the details of your work. Now, it’s time to …
Step 11: Congratulate yourself and celebrate!
Recognise your courage. After all, you’ve freely decided to take this road less travelled. You will never be choked with tears of regret. LACK OF CONFIDENCE IS THE GREATEST ENEMY. Self confidence increases when you continue to write with no regard for your insecurities. You deserve self-respect for the courage of your commitment (even when it doesn’t feel like courage). You can’t control receiving respect from others; but you can control receiving it from yourself.
Step 12: Try just coasting for a day.
Focus on the present rather than on the future. “If bad becomes worst,” an actress friend told me once, “I’m happy now.” It’s hard for people, who probably work alone without regular validation from the world, to keep from living in the future. It’s hard not to do this. But you can give yourself the gift of the present, when the present is actually satisfactory on most levels of life. You have enough to eat, a place to live, friends and family. Don’t deprive yourself of life’s simple pleasures. Meditation helps. Exercise helps, especially long walks in new places. Short holidays help. These breaks in routine help by taking you out of yourself temporarily. They bring you into contact with the present, allowing you simply to be here, now. When this happens you’re able to regain your perspective.
Ignore all rules that don’t prove useful. There is no right or wrong way to live life.
Do you like guiding people?
Do you have life experience? Are you a good communicator? Use your skills and experiences to become a paid professional, and the real satisfaction comes from helping people.