Lack of motivation can be one of the biggest barriers to taking control of our careers. It’s all too easy to find ourselves stuck, in jobs that are sapping our energy, stressing us out and not allowing us to achieve our potential.
No matter what career stage we are at, it is so easy to build a web of de-motivating thoughts that can become a mental cage, keeping us firmly stuck. If you are in this gang you might recognise these thoughts:
- I don’t have time
- I’m too busy/tired/stressed to think…
- There aren’t any jobs out there that pay well enough/are local enough/give me the hours I need
- I might fail…
- There will be too much competition
- Maybe things aren’t so bad here anyway
- I don’t know where to start
- My family need me
- I’m not qualified enough
- I’m not confident enough
- I’m not that kind of person
These thoughts flit through our minds whenever we think about career change, and we don’t do anything about it.
Think about how much you have done to actively manage your career in the last few months. Have you learnt a new skill, made some professional contacts, looked at job ads, updated your CV, researched an organisation you are interested in, used social media to build your brand, taken on a challenging project to raise your profile? If the honest answer is that you have not done very much, chances are that motivation is your biggest barrier.
It is worth noting that you can have different levels of motivation for different activities. You might be very motivated to get fit, but less motivated to learn to play the ukulele. You might be super motivated to do a good job for your employer, but less motivated to look after your own career.
Motivational interviewing theorists, Miller and Rollnick, identify two components to motivation – knowing the change is important and believing that you can successfully make the change. If your beliefs in either of these areas are negative, then motivation to change will be low. So, if I am really fed up with job and think it is important to get a new one, but don’t feel confident that I can actually succeed, motivation will be low. Motivation often hits a low point after people have applied for a few opportunities and been rejected, as confidence dwindles. Alternatively, I might be quite content in my job and confident I can get a new one if I need, so motivation may also be low, because career management doesn’t seem important to me (and I may be lapsing into a state of complacency).
Motivational Interviewing is an approach which builds on an empathic relationship between the helper and the person being helped, and there are a range of excellent questioning techniques which the helper can use.
Meditation can also be a very powerful tool to help build motivation. The beliefs that we have (no jobs out there, not qualified enough) can seem very real and concrete, and can weave together in our minds to form a solid barrier to progress. These thoughts may even be operating below the level of our conscious awareness if we are not in the habit of noticing our thought patterns.
Meditating can help us to notice the thoughts that pop up in our minds. In sitting quietly and listening to the chatter of our minds it can be quite disturbing to realise how many negative and self-limiting thoughts we have. These thoughts might be based on things that other people have said to us, negative experiences, or things that we say to ourselves. We often latch onto these negative thoughts and build a story around them, entrenching them in our belief system. Before we know it, we have deep seated beliefs that prevent us from getting started on making changes or cause us to give up easily.
A good activity to try in meditation is to imagine our minds are like the sky, and thoughts are like the clouds that float across it. They are temporary, and arise and disappear again. If we find ourselves getting involved with a thought and developing a story around it, we can notice this is happening, and then let the thought go. Because thoughts are temporary they do not have power over us. Just because we think them, it doesn’t mean they are true.
Practicing this meditation often can help develop a sense of spaciousness in our thoughts which can make room for new ideas, thoughts and ways of being. It can create the space for positive thoughts to creep in (“Maybe I could…” or “What if I tried…”).
Regular meditation over a period of time can help to dissolve that barrier of seemingly solid, permanent, negative thoughts which have woven together to prevent us moving forward.
I’m not aware of any research looking specifically on the impact of meditation on career motivation but there is plenty of research on the wider benefits of meditation. Combining meditation with career coaching/guidance could be a powerful combination for getting unstuck.