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The art of staying motivated at work

Beth Fisher-Yoshida, director of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program at Columbia UniversityBeth Fisher-Yoshida, director of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program at Columbia University
Beth Fisher-Yoshida, director of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program at Columbia University

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you stay motivated at work? is written by Beth Fisher-Yoshida, director of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program at Columbia University.

The art of staying motivated in the workplace may be as simple as knowing how to frame the work that we do. While it can definitely be more challenging to stay motivated on some days compared to others, there is one important factor that will always play a role in our motivation: how we define the meaning of work. Let me explain.

Some of us may define work as a job that enables us to pay our bills—and maybe paying your bills is your main motivation. However, this framing doesn’t leave much room for fulfilling a higher purpose that can drive us beyond doing the bare minimum. If we define work as a career, we generate a commitment that hosts a different set of expectations. This allows us to view whatever we are engaged in as one step in our life journey. But the more invested we are the more likely we will feel disheartened if things don’t go according to plan–killing our motivation.

So, what can we do if we’re finding ourselves lacking motivation? Here are few tips that I’ve used to keep energized and focused:

Know your work rhythm
Ask yourself: When am I in my prime at work? For me, I am much more motivated in the early morning or when I get my second (or third) wind in the evening. The middle of the day is when I prefer to have meetings with others, socialize and engage in more group activities. If I force one type of work, when I am not in the proper mental or emotional state, it’s definitely more of a challenge to keep motivated.

Stay focused on the big picture
We sometimes get caught up in the day-to-day details and distractions that may come our way. It’s important to remember that “this too shall pass” and keep your eye on the prize.

Find joy in your workplace
There are moments when connecting with another person, hearing his/her story, challenges, joy, and determination inspires me to put what I have in perspective and realize the joy in the work I do. Empathy and human connection go a long way.

It’s important to take some time to reconnect with our purpose in life and remember why we chose a certain career path. During times of uncertainty it’s easy to lose sight of our original intention. Then again, it’s also an opportunity to explore whether what we are doing is still relevant to our lives. If not, maybe a shift in direction is necessary. That can be scary for some and energizing for others, but if we channel that feeling of uncertainty into passion for exploration, we might just reach a level of newfound motivation.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How do you stay motivated at work?

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