A friend recently called and told me how uninspired she’d been feeling towards work – a desirable managing position in a prestigious company. “I find my job boring and I feel unmotivated,” she said. Somehow she just described how I’d felt.
I have the same job for three years now. I work directly under the founders and CEOs so there isn’t much room to get promoted or transferred. You would think that things move fast in a small company but not quite. Sometimes things get too comfortable and people are reluctant to change even if it’s for the better. And I felt helpless. I’d done learning. I gradually stopped looking forward to work. I would go from being the superstar employee to having an emergency meeting with my managers because I had underperformed. And I started interviewing for other opportunities. I passed the second round, then covid-19 hit and all hiring hailed. “Great, I’m officially “stuck” I told myself.
But fuck no I wasn’t stuck. I am exactly where I need to be. No, I didn’t miraculously “unstuck” myself and become a motivated superstar again. But I’ve been actively working my way out of the dip. Here are my 5 tips that could help you.
Find my way back to WHY
Too often we want our job to pay well, to have excellent managers and colleagues, to receive great benefits, to motivate us AND to fulfill our passions. Because we keep wanting this and that, as things get less sparkly overtime, we opt for an escape. James Clear puts it very well in his best-selling book Atomic Habits.
“The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We get bored with habits because they stop delighting us. The outcome becomes expected. And as our habits become ordinary, we start derailing our progress to seek novelty. Perhaps this is why we get caught up in a never-ending cycle, jumping from one workout to the next, one diet to the next, one business idea to the next. As soon as we experience the slightest dip in motivation, we begin seeking a new strategy – even if the old one was still working.”
I did inevitably get bored and forgot my WHY.
First thing first, I went back to recall what is absolute essential to me. WHY am I here in the first place?
I value freedom above all not only in my personal but also professional life. (For others, it could be money, status, security, benefits, interest, passion, talent, etc.) My current work has given me freedom and still does. I’m in charge of my own daily schedule. I don’t have anybody looking over my shoulder. I don’t have to dress to impress. I’m free from the commute traffic. I can carry out the same work being in Saigon, Madrid or Cape Town. I’m free to design my roadmap towards certain goals. Needless to say, my free-spirit adores it.
The company has grown and so have I. Things can get repetitive but when I step back and look at the big picture, I see the core is still there for me.
So do yourself a favor and get your priority check. Why you do the things you do? If you want to delve more into this, here are some reads I recommend:
- Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
- The One Thing – Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan
- Essentialism – Greg McKeown
- Start with Why – Simon Simnek
Reconnect with my inner self
As a big extrovert, I love being out and surrounded by people. That still hasn’t changed. But I’ve also discovered the joy of being alone, listening to my thoughts and honoring my emotions. It doesn’t seem like much but personally this has helped me stay grounded and given me clarity.
Too often I already have the answers for my questions and doubts but I barely stay quiet enough to listen to it. I’d search elsewhere rather than within my self. So when social distancing happens, I know this is my opportunity to reconnect with my inner self. (Most definitely not the time for Netflix binging although no offense if this is your way of self-search).
I’ve tried out different ridin’ solo exercises – physically, emotionally, mentally and creatively. I encourage you to explore and find what works for you. Things didn’t always work out. I gave journaling a shot but couldn’t keep up with it. I did doodling my struggles & dream life but ended up feeling stressed from my messy scribbles. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed mediating (after many years of trying), lifting, making vision board, digging deep into my Myers Briggs personality type, listening to Elizabeth Gilbert, and watching Rowena Tsai on Youtube to name a few. I’ve also discovered my love for reading, I read books on self-help, finance, biographies and whatever topic I crave for. One book or one activity doesn’t seem much but each draws me a bit more in-tune with my true self.
Obviously what works for me doesn’t mean it works for you. Try out different things that could help you reconnect with your inner self. Perhaps you already know what you like but haven’t done that in a while? Perhaps you’re already doing it but maybe it’s time to take it to the next level? Whatever it is, don’t lose touch with thy self.
Make peace with boredom
Here’s another great quote from Atomic Habits:
“There will be days when you feel like quitting. When you start a business, there will be days when you don’t feel like showing up. When you’re at the gym, there will be sets that you don’t feel like finishing. When it’s time to write, there will be days that you don’t feel like typing. But stepping up when it’s annoying or painful or draining to do so, that’s what makes the difference between a professional and an amateur.”
I felt attacked when I first read it. For long I firmly believed that boredom is a sign of letting go and moving on to the next best thing. I didn’t bother pushing through the dip. Life is short, why waste it on something that doesn’t excite you – typical privileged millennial I know. However, I slowly came to realization, boredom is here to teach me something. People who excel in what they do stick with their expertise for many years, decades even. And boy was I a fool for thinking that they had never felt extremely unmotivated throughout their journey. Of course they have! I’m not alone for feeling unmotivated. and neither are you. I’m sure of that.
Now there’s a difference between pushing through the dip and being completely in your comfort zone. (We should all agree that nothing good happens in your comfort zone, am I right?) And only you can identify which is which. For me personally, accepting boredom is very much out of my comfort zone.
Acknowledging the absence of motivation doesn’t mean I let it take control of me. I accept it as an extension of life but heck, I’m still the one in charge. It’s like a toxic ex-boyfriend. He may appear uninvitedly and I won’t deny his existence but I don’t let him dictate my life. In fact, thanked to him I can take my life to the next level.
Have a morning routine
I too went through a fair share of my life hitting the snooze button 20 times before I actually got up. I would wake up 10 minutes before a morning meeting and fake looking awake for the video call. Why wake up early when you can sleep in, right? Wrong.
Morning routine is like proper warm-up before the race. You can show up rushing to it but you will risk getting injured let alone win the whole thing. But how does it fix your unmotivated problem? Well, morning routine gives you the power to shape the day as how you want it to be. Empowerment goes hand in hand with motivation.
I personally love waking up having something to look forward to my time to play. Yep, I refuse to think of routines as chores. It’s playtime, you can experiment as much as you want. Routines are not restricting to your freedom, either. Routines helps boost productivity for more freedom. How you start the day matters! It has a domino effects on everything else.
Sooo what does a morning routine entail? It obviously varies for people and I urge you to find what works for you. You can do breathing, mediate, chuck down half a litter of warm water with lime, then you can stretch, do a yoga flow or go to the gym to sweat it out. You can also do morning pages to practice your writing, read the news so you feel updated with the world, read a few pages of an empowering book, listen to audible, walk your dog, etc. All of these activities are not procrastination unless you’re using them to… procrastinate. For me they are as important as my daily meals. They fuel me so I purposely and mindfully make time for them.
If you want some inspiration for your morning routines, I recommend The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod or Good Morning Good Life by Amy Landino. If you’re not a big reader, try my good old friend YouTube.
Know that great things take time
All of these activities may seem overwhelming but I didn’t do them all at once. I wish we could solve all our problems after a good night sleep but it doesn’t exactly work that way. It took me several months to slowly get myself out of the dip. Hopefully it’ll take you less but the point is – it won’t happen overnight.
It’s an on-going process to unstuck myself. There’s no book, YouTube video or advice that can single-handedly give you that instant magic and flip things around. No rush here. I’m happy with that 1% progress I make every day trusting that it’s adding up to my overall improvement. Yup, it’s pretty much invisible but it will show up eventually. It’s like reading a book, a page turned shows zero difference but little by little, we reach the last page.
Alright so if you skip all the writing, here’s how I deal with my lack of motivation towards work: focus on what’s truly important, reconnect with inner self, accept boredom as part of growth, have a morning routine and take time.