Motivation in Work, Training, and Life

For several weeks earlier this year, I struggled with motivation, particularly motivation in my training. Up until a few months ago, I was missing workouts or finding ways to limit them. My ability to manage my job, life, and training felt out of balance. About a month ago, I made a conscious choice to commit to do every training session. As my coach told me, I “get” to exercise; it is never a “have to.”

Many of us don’t think about or don’t respond to the reality that we are all temporarily abled bodied. We are temporarily able to engage in rigorous activity and that ability could be lost at any time. The risk that one day our mobility might no longer be as it is today, is real. Yet, even when we know folks who have struggled with physical changes to their bodies, if it’s not in our immediate foreground, it lacks any power to change our own behavior. We know it could be, perhaps, maybe, kind of, but it isn’t right now, so why think about it? I have endeavored to remind myself of this when my motivation is slipping away to re-orient myself to my training as a choice and as something I get to do. It isn’t an obligation, it isn’t something I drag around with me like a ball and chain. It is something that has positive benefits and gets me outside and away from the pull of the sofa.

Motivation is of course a complex matter. Sometimes we just cannot motivate ourselves to get up and outside into activity and there are very real cognitive and biological reasons for that. I think about this inner struggle I have experienced with training – the “should I/shouldn’t I” conversation that happens almost daily in my head – and compare it to my professional life. Motivation at work is a real issue for many of us. I believe it is connected to the need for change, intellectual stimulation, or something new and interesting. However, I don’t think folks experiencing a lack luster work environment or a lack of interest in their work always see it as such. Blah becomes the new normal and ceases to be noticeably problematic. I have talked a lot about stagnancy in the professional realm before now. In particular, how employees lacking in professional cultivation by their employer stay at organizations for years and cease to grow personally and professionally. This stagnancy impacts organizational culture over time and slowly puts the brakes on innovation and opportunity. Stagnancy can impede the forward momentum of your business as much as stagnancy in training can impede progress toward your athletic goals.

Stagnancy and motivation are linked. When motivation is waning among employees or there is a lack of energy about the future and what could be, that’s an indicator that stagnancy has, or is about to take hold. The responsibility lies with the employer to remove the collective hand from the brake and inspire something different. Employers should encourage a culture of constant professional development so that folks don’t fall into low-risk, uninspired ruts. That is not to say that employees don’t have some responsibility here. They have to pick up what their conscientious employer is throwing down. Much like I have to work with, and listen to my coach as I struggle through periods of low motivation. This body of mine is not invincible, it is permeable and it is vulnerable despite what I can make it do. I work hard to make it strong, but I must remind myself not to take it for granted, not to get stagnant. In work, as in training, I must check in with myself and be honest about when I am stuck. We should all strive to not take work life for granted and simply sink back down into our sofas instead of rising to the challenge and opportunity of something new. Put another way, I must resist the urge in work and training to choose comfort over possibility. *

*credit for that last line goes to my fabulous work friend, Trish.