Maintaining motivation over a long period of time is a bit of an artform and not something I’ve seen done well very often. When it comes to the job roles I’ve had, I’ve witnessed a cycle that seems to repeat itself over and over again. It wasn’t until I recognised what was happening that I was able to do something to break the pattern. I noticed my motivation flowed through four stages like this…

  • Excitement

This is the fun part! I might be starting a new role or have a fresh challenge set before me. I have something I can sink my teeth in to and really feel like I’m working towards achieving something. Often in this phase I’m having thoughts like “I’m so lucky to be doing this job” or “I love getting up in the morning knowing this is what I get to do today”. Normally in this phase I have lots of ideas and I’m able to get a couple of wins under my belt quickly.

  •  Complacency

At some point the shine wears off a little and I start getting complacent in my role. By this time my ideas have dried up and I’m only acting on the ideas of those around me. Everything is just trundling along and now I’m having thoughts like “I don’t have the energy for this today” or “why is that person so excited about this job, they’re so annoying”. Then I might have a particularly bad day and suddenly, I find myself in stage 3.

  • Cynicism

By now I’ve lost all hope of things changing and I can’t be bothered to do anything other than the bare minimum required of me. When I’m in this frame of mind I’m actively damaging the department I work in. I’m no longer just a neutral influence, I’m now a negative one that saps the energy of those around me. The thoughts running through my mind are now like “I’m not paid enough to do this job” and “life sucks, I’m so bored”. It’s around that time I realise that something must change.

  • Desperation

I’m now thinking “there has to be more to life than this. Surely there’s something I can do that will make good use of my skills and give me a sense of fulfilment”. It’s in this stage that I start to recognise an appreciation for people around me who are excited. I start to engage again, and I look for something that is going to challenge me. Hopefully this stage doesn’t last too long and I either find a new job or a fresh challenge within the job I’m in. When that happens, I’m back to stage 1 and feeling excited.

Do you recognise yourself somewhere in this cycle now? We are happiest when we’re operating in stage 1, but so many of us settle for long periods of time in the other stages. The great thing about this little model is that if you recognise you’re in stage 2, you don’t have to go through stages 3 and 4 before you can get back to stage 1 again. At any time when you recognise your motivation is slipping, remind yourself why you do this job. Remember what it was you first loved about it and if need be, find a fresh goal that you can get excited about.

Consultant Trainer
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