How to Be Your Own Best Motivator

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 29, 2019

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones and your boss provides you with plenty of motivation and encouragement. But, in truth, motivation is internal. Others can change your external situation, but only you can draw out the motivation from within yourself and put it to work to energize yourself on the job.

Here are simple ways you can motivate yourself:

  • Reward yourself when you’ve done what you know is a good job, perhaps by going out to a special dinner. Even better, take along a friend who can reinforce your sense of accomplishment.
  • When you need a reminder of how important your work is, sit down and make a list of all the people who depend upon you and all the worthwhile outcomes to which you have contributed.
  • When you feel your job is going nowhere, volunteer for a project that takes you out of the routine. Or take a course in something entirely new.
  • If the organization you work for seems to be adrift, craft your own vision and seek out tasks that are relevant to it.
  • If you find yourself in a negative environment, seek out the company of noncynics. Every organization has some, and you'll be amazed at how much better you will feel in their presence.

How to motivate yourself when faced with a boring project:

  • Enlist a colleague to help, not because misery loves company, but because you can bounce ideas off each other and make the work more enjoyable.
  • Concentrate on being creative. You don't have to do things in the same old dull manner. Brainstorm some more interesting approaches.

How to motivate yourself when faced with an "impossible" project:

  • Enlist the help of an expert. Somebody, somewhere has probably done it before and is willing to share their expertise.
  • Confer with people who tackled similar tasks without success. They can be helpful by telling you the traps to avoid.
  • Ask yourself: "What can I learn by attempting this, even if the outcome isn't a huge success?"
  • Talk to the people who came up with the assignment. Why do they think this will work? What’s their bottom line? If they were to do it themselves, where would they start?

How to motivate yourself when faced with a thankless project:

  • Put in writing all that goes into this project or task. If you haven't started it yet, draw up a plan of action with anticipated due dates. Keep a log and present it to your boss or the project manager to keep him or her informed.
  • Negotiate. Ask for what you want in return: compensation time perhaps, if the project eats into your personal time or the time you need for your other work. At the very least, ask for recognition for your efforts—a letter to your boss’s boss perhaps, copied to you of course, or acknowledgement in front of your peers.
  • Reward yourself. Establish regular achievement milestones throughout the project and reward yourself when you reach each one. Do it publicly, if appropriate. Bring in a cake and share it, for example.
  • Post a big calendar on your wall and mark off your progress in big symbols that no one who walks by can miss. When people ask you what it’s about, tell them. If they don't ask, find a way to tell them anyway.
  • Finally, and most important, if you’re working on a project with others, make sure they don't work thanklessly. Give them plenty of recognition. Have celebrations. Give fun prizes. Recognize and reward them until they are really charged up and you catch some of their fever.

From Smart Things to Know about Motivation, by Donna Deeprose (Capstone Publishing, 2003).