November 12, 2018

Below is a lesson from Harvard Business Review on motivating yourself to keep working when you aren’t feeling it, as well as our key learning.

The Blue Courage team is dedicated to continual learning and growth.  We have adopted a concept from Simon Sinek’s Start With Why team called “Learn, Share, Grow”.  We are constantly finding great articles, videos, and readings that have so much learning.  As we learn new and great things, this new knowledge should be shared for everyone to then grow from.


How to Keep Working When You’re Just Not Feeling It

by Ayelet Fishbach

November–December 2018 Issue

Motivating yourself is hard. In fact, I often compare it to one of the exploits of the fictional German hero Baron Munchausen: Trying to sustain your drive through a task, a project, or even a career can sometimes feel like pulling yourself out of a swamp by your own hair. We seem to have a natural aversion to persistent effort that no amount of caffeine or inspirational posters can fix.

But effective self-motivation is one of the main things that distinguishes high-achieving professionals from everyone else. So how can you keep pushing onward, even when you don’t feel like it?

To a certain extent, motivation is personal. What gets you going might not do anything for me. And some individuals do seem to have more stick-to-itiveness than others. However, after 20 years of research into human motivation, my team and I have identified several strategies that seem to work for most people—whether they’re trying to lose weight, save for retirement, or implement a long, difficult initiative at work. If you’ve ever failed to reach an attainable goal because of procrastination or lack of commitment—and who of us hasn’t?—I encourage you to read on. These four sets of tactics can help propel you forward.

Continue reading here.


Key Learnings:

  • Motivation is personal – what gets one person going may not work for another.
  • Four sets of tactics that can help propel you forward:
    • Design Goals, Not Chores
      • Abstract ambitions: such as doing your best, are less effective than something concrete. Any objectives you set for yourself or agree to should be specific
      • Goals should trigger intrinsic motivation, not extrinsic motivation, unless the external reward is seen as great enough. (Intrinsically motivated=it’s seen as its own end. Extrinsically motivated=when it’s seen as serving a separate, ulterior purpose.)
      • Focus on the elements of the work that you find enjoyable. Try to offset drudgery with activities that you find rewarding (ex: listen to music while tackling that backlog of emails)
    • Find Effective Rewards
      • When dealing with tasks or stretches of a career that are onerous, create external motivators for yourself over the short-to-medium term, especially if they complement organizational incentives. (Ex: a vacation for finishing a major project, a gift for losing weight)
      • Don’t reward yourself for the quantity or speed of tasks completed, but the quality of performance.
      • Don’t choose rewards that undermine the goal you’ve reached. (Ex: using pizza or cake as a reward for losing weight, or slack off one week as a reward for working hard the week before.)
      • Researchers have found that most people work harder for an uncertain reward than they do for certain rewards.
      • Loss aversion – people’s preference for avoiding losses rather than acquiring equivalent gains can be used to design a strong external motivator.
    • Sustain Progress
      • When people work toward a goal they typically have a burst of motivation early and then slump in the middle then stall out. Break your goal into smaller subgoals, there’s less time to succumb to that slump.
      • When we’ve already made headway, the goal seems within reach and we tent to increase our effort.
      • Focus on what you’ve already done up to the midpoint of a task then turn your attention to what you have left to do.
    • Harness the Influence of Others
      • Humans are social creatures who look at what others are doing and those actions influence our own.
      • Never passively watch ambitious, efficient, successful coworkers – too much risk that this will demotivate you. Instead talk to them about what they are working to accomplish and why they would recommend doing it. When a friend endorses a product people are more likely to buy it.
      • Giving others advice can help boost confidence and provide motivation.
      • Those that motivate you to do a specific task might not be those who do the task well – they are those who share a big-picture goal with you. Think of these people at our desire to succeed on their behalf.
  • Flow – in positive psychology, it is defined as a mental state in which someone is fully immersed, with energized focus and enjoyment, in an activity.
  • Self motivation is one of the hardest skills to learn, but it’s critical to success.

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