As with so many things in life, motivation isn’t linear; it ebbs and flows over time. On the one hand, it’s been said that those who are consistently at the top of their game are those who can persist regardless of whether or not they feel particularly motivated.
On the other hand, it’s critical to understand the root causes of de-motivation to be able to know which strategies to adopt to stir your own drive without waiting for yourself to wake up and start “feeling like it.” To that end, here are four common reasons why people get demotivated at work.
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Most people associate purposeful work with self-effacing, back-breaking, and noble professions. In this view, it’s the kind of work that teachers and surgeons engage in, where meaning is almost immediately accessible.
This, however, is a common misconception; deriving meaning from work isn’t about what kind of work you do. It’s about perspective. The objective reality of what you do may not change much; what does change is how you see it. If you can’t see how your work contributes to the company at large, or how your company is helping to value-add to others’ lives, it’s easy to slip into ennui.
How you think about yourself plays a huge role in how you react to and behave in the face of adversity. Poor self-esteem (thinking poorly of yourself in general) and poor self-efficacy (thinking poorly of your ability to succeed in specific situations) can both become self-fulfilling prophecies.
If you don’t believe you have what it takes to come out on top, you won’t behave accordingly. In other words, you sabotage yourself by putting yourself in a state of mind that’s conducive to demotivation and inertia.
Human beings are creatures of habit. However, it’s also true that too much routine and not enough variation bores us stiff. Worse, it can create a sense of complacency that threatens to undermine performance. When this happens, we start operating on auto-pilot, without considering how we’re working towards our goals or evaluating ourselves against these goals.
This is what’s called “under-challenge burnout.” When you go for long periods without feeling challenged or stimulated by your work, you start to disengage and fail to apply yourself to self-improvement thoroughly.
One of the most common causes of demotivation is also among the deadliest: overload burnout. Here, you’re both swamped with things to do and checked out from work. Your to-do lists are excessively long that you don’t know where to start. You’re stressed out just by looking at them, but none of it excites you or piques your interest in any way.
To-do lists themselves can sometimes be ineffective for this reason. The bigger problem, though, is probably that you feel bogged down by “shallow work”, or work that you’re neither good at nor particularly enjoy.