Maintaining Motivation in the absence of normality

By Wendy Smith, P Paralympian and Performance Coach
Motivation is like the holy grail that everyone seeks yet no one really knows where to find it. Yet, before we go searching, perhaps we should start by working out what motivation is.

Published in Norfolk Director Magazine, Spring 2021

Business Psychology Maintaining Motivation in the Absence of Normality

Experience has shown me that anything you cannot put in a wheelbarrow and push is created on the inside of you, which means you have total control over it.  Some examples would be joy, empathy, motivation, determination, resilience and productivity. Becoming aware of these feelings means you can take ownership of them and purposefully invoke them into your day. 

When looking at motivation, most people try to get motivated by doing activities, or talking themselves into it. This can be effective for a time, but it is difficult to sustain and you can find yourself back at square one relatively quickly. 

Discovering the ‘why’

The fastest way to stay motivated to achieve goals or tasks, is to find out the ‘why’ behind them. 

When you know your ‘why’ and you become emotionally attached, you will find that mentally you move to a position where the processes become more enjoyable and the outcomes are reached easier with less stress.

Breaking down the ‘why’ is easier than you think, and this simple process can be used through all aspects of business and life to help keep you on track, develop better relationships and feel fulfilled throughout your day. 

To find your motivation, firstly ask yourself “What is important to me about…?” Then jot down your answers as single words; these are your values relevant to that subject. For example, in answer to “what is important to me about…work”, my values are flexibility, trust, honesty, security and fun.

Take your time when doing this as the more open and honest you are with yourself, the easier you will find it to stay motivated in the future. 

Once you know what is important to you, it is then time to go into fine detail of the ‘why’. 

So, for each value ask yourself these questions.

What does it do for me or allow me to do?

What does it give me or allow me to give?

What does it get me?

How do I feel when I am achieving or receiving…..?

To give you an idea, these are my answers when referring to flexibility and trust.

Flexibility allows me to have balance between my home life and work. It lets me spend time working on myself and working on my business. I get to have a good social life and spend time with my family. It allows me to give back to people I care about and set hours that suit my levels of productivity. It gets me the sense that I control my working environment.  When I am experiencing flexibility in my work I feel like I have freedom, and this leads to contentment and more drive to continue my current activities.

Trust allows me to ask questions, experiment with new ideas and learn from mistakes. Trusting my mentors and colleagues means I achieve a sense of community within my work where I can try out new ways of doing things knowing that I will always get appropriate supportive feedback to challenge me and help me grow.  Trust means I can share my thoughts without feeling vulnerable which leads to me feeling content and happy.

Asking yourself these questions and going into the detail when you answer, will clarify your drivers in life.

For myself I know that the feelings of freedom and contentment are my motivators in work and if I am experiencing those states then productivity is an easy thing to achieve.  When I lose motivation, I remind myself of my drivers, and then naturally find myself starting again on the right foot. 

Discovering what motivates others

This is also a great exercise to do with staff or employees as it will give you an insight into what drives them at work and the purpose they have behind what they do.  Just remember, there is no one size fits all, so spending some time working out your motivation and also what motivates those around you, makes it easier to help others stay productive and find fulfilment in their work too. 

Leading on from your values and drivers, and to get more out of your day and stay aligned with your purpose, it is important to create and begin your day in the ‘right state’, rather than ‘in a right old state’. 

When we wake up in the morning we are going from unconscious dream state to waking consciousness. This is the space to create purposely what you want. Checking in with your mind and body before you get out of bed is imperative to how your day will run.  If you get up in a rush with a head full of stressed thoughts, your day will probably be filled with the same.  

We are habitual creatures that run on 95% autopilot – we must if we want to be able to function efficiently. It is very easy throughout our lives to develop habits that run subconsciously, which are detrimental to our day and our state of being.  Therefore, to change anything, first you must become aware of what you are, or aren’t, doing.

If you are to stay motivated throughout the day, you need to regulate your environment, so you have the time to reset yourself if you start to feel overwhelmed or stressed. What tends to happen, is that people build up layers throughout the day. Small things happen that generate an internal response which if not dealt with straightaway leads to a massive build-up of emotions that will surface at some point, probably as a meltdown.

Actions to take to alleviate stress build-up

There are actions you can take to reduce the layers building. You can:

  • Communicate effectively
  • Take a break and get some fresh air
  • Set boundaries
  • Do one task at a time and quit multitasking
  • Set appropriate lunch breaks where you leave the office
  • Develop good breathing techniques
  • Move regularly and get some form of daily exercise

In the end it all comes down to your awareness, ownership and purposeful direction of the thoughts and feelings you have running through your body and mind daily. 

You have more control than you realise over this powerful system we call the human being, and when you consciously operate this system, life’s little challenges become a joy to work through. 

Wendy Smith represented Great Britain in the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. She is a performance coach and mentor, and a qualified NLP (neuro linguistic programming) Master and Trainer.
Visit for more information. Her book ’50 ways to Change’ is available on Amazon

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