Sometimes you have to give yourself a kick in the seat of the pants

Motivation is all up to you!
Motivation is all up to you!

It is Monday morning. You are waking in order to go to work, yet you don’t really want to. You are just not motivated. Your boss is a pain. He/she is not “motivating” enough. The work is interesting enough, but having to face another day in that 8 to 5 drudgery with that “suck the life out of you” boss is almost more than you can face. How do you get yourself motivated to go to work, let alone perform your best work? Hate to tell you Bunky but it is all up to you!


If you are studying for your PHR/SPHR, or have recently, you know that two theories of motivation that are featured in the learning material are those of Maslow and Herzberg. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs talks about levels of motivation, with the lower levels being external factors that supposedly provide motivation. With his upper levels however he argues that motivation is intrinsic, that is internal to the individual and driven only by the individual’s wants and perceptions. Maslow called it “self-actualization.” Herzberg has a similar consideration saying that true motivation cannot come from the outside it has to be internally driven.
My beliefs about motivation run along those lines. If I were to side with either of those two theories I would probably go with Herzberg. I can do things that may or may not provide a good environment for you motivating yourself. Money, accolades, time off are all external factors that may or may not work for you. I can cause you to be demotivated or unmotivated but your motivation is internal. So how do you motivate yourself?


Writer Julie Mosow, writing in HBR online, says that you have to know what makes you tick. She suggests that you ask yourself “When was the last time you felt a sense of meaning and purpose at work? What were the conditions that allowed those feelings to flourish?” She quotes research from The Progress Principle, where Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer “stress that motivation stems from three things: love of the work itself, the desire to receive recognition, and a sense that our work matters and connects us to others.”
Mosow, reviewing several sources, came up with a list that she feels will help you motivate yourself. These are:

  • Set your own goals. Make an individual career plan that charts out what you need to do to accomplish what you want to accomplish. She says “While some of these goals may be directly related to your current role, others may be geared toward learning and exploring areas of interest outside your job description.” You have to be realistic. Remember the acronym SMART for your goal setting. But getting up in the morning to accomplish something you want to do is a lot more motivating that getting up to accomplish only something you are told to do.
  • One of the experts Mosow quoted suggested using “if-then” planning. This helps you anticipate obstacles and come up with a plan for dealing with them.
  • Evaluate your performance by seeking feedback. There is no need to wait for some asinine year-end review. Ask for feedback, from your boss, from your peers. Get an opinion from someone who can be honest and candid and trustworthy. Hmm… that may not always be your boss.
  • Expand your network. This means both your internal and external network. Look for someone to admire and learn from. Social media can be a big help here. Also professional organizations. Use your lunch time wisely by getting out to meet someone.
  • Focus on learning. Mosow says “By shifting the focus of your work from performing perfectly to consistently learning and improving, you create the conditions for both heightened motivation and success.” The research shows “that this change in mindset reliably results in better performance. When it comes to achievement, attitude and persistence are often more important than innate abilities.”

It is up to you

Those of you who wait around for someone else to motivate you are doomed for failure. Motivation is all on you. If you are having a hard time getting up for work then change your condition. Or shut and sit back down.

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