Motivation is your “flakiest friend”, here’s how to get it to call more often – Working Voices

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My karma ran over my dogma, said the graffiti on the wall of a pub toilet. As a student I always enjoyed seeing those words, there was more to them than some of the other thoughts scrawled across the toilet wall. Finding something meaningful in pub graffiti is not without risks, but there are moments when we can use all the help we can get and the current uncertainty is surely one of them.

Working from home is an isolating experience. Not working and waiting for the phone to ring is pretty isolating too. In the UK there are more than nine million people on furlough. In the three months to September, redundancies reached a record high of 314,000. For millions of people, the winter brings with it challenges that to some may feel insurmountable, many may be looking for a new job whether through choice or necessity.

Leaving a job in unexpected circumstances and looking for something new may stir a range of emotions. One day you feel yourself to be a caped crusader, a reliable self-starter, able to fling aside the slippers and stride purposely towards ambition and adventure, ready to write the CV, organise upskilling and touch the face of the future. Other days it’s all going to hell in a handcart. For those difficult days, here are some thoughts that might help.

Finding consistency

According to personal trainer Katrina Keeling, based in Dorset, “motivation is your flakiest friend.” Some days you feel energised, other days you don’t. To hold on to a little consistency, Katrina says it can be useful to develop habits that will help sustain physical and mental wellbeing. “It’s not realistic to expect yourself to become an Olympic athlete, but it’s important to do what you can”, Katrina says. She suggests that “the best exercise is whatever you enjoy the most”. Doing a little of this as often as you can will go a long way to improving fitness, “making little adjustments to your life can make a big difference,” she says.

Healthy attitudes towards sleep and nutrition are important too. Katrina points out that “we think nothing of setting an alarm to wake us up in the morning but setting a bedtime alarm helps us to get off the sofa and slip into a healthier routine.” Katrina’s ‘little and often’ approach is reassuring, particularly if, like me, your body is less a temple and more a garden shed. In theory, it’s easy to eat an extra portion of fruit or vegetables, easy to go for a walk or go to bed on time – but Katrina points out that what counts is actually doing these things. For the days when your sense of motivation is having a quick lie-down, a simple list of reminders on your phone or on a post-it may help to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Sidestepping negative emotions

For recruitment manager Greg Mackinder, a positive mindset is essential in looking for work. Greg specialised in the events industry, until March when the pandemic brought the industry to a screeching halt, leading to knock-on effects in related sectors like recruitment. Greg took voluntary redundancy and overnight went from recruiter to candidate, “it was a real eye-opener for me”, he says. At the time, he was also home-schooling his three young children.

He approached his search for a new position not as a personal challenge but as if he were managing a professional project. Sidestepping potential negative emotions, he believes that a proactive approach makes all the difference. In looking for a creative angle to his search for a job, he developed his personal brand by making short videos offering tips and advice and posting them to LinkedIn. He got himself noticed, he found success and he was offered a new position.

Breaking the project into incremental steps

Personal trainer Katrina’s approach to consistency helps us stick to routines. And routines help to break through inertia, always a big obstacle to change. Sometimes there’s that familiar sense of slump, channelling our inner couch potato and making it hard to do the things that make a difference. A key part of physical wellbeing is momentum, perhaps going for a walk. It’s the same with mental wellbeing. Momentum, the natural antidote to inertia, is what gets the CV written and the applications sent.

One way to facilitate momentum is to break things down into a series of incremental steps, leading towards an ultimate objective such as landing a new job. Steps could include researching the market, building a database of potential contacts, developing new skills. It’s important to keep going, completing one step at a time, then moving on to the next.

The future may look different to the past

As Katrina says, motivation is your flakiest friend. The struggle to stay focused might vary each day with the natural ebb and flow of doubts and confidence. Greg Mackinder says people who suddenly find themselves looking for work can sometimes feel they are owed a job, perhaps at the same level and in the same field as their old one. Others may feel bruised at suddenly having change imposed on them.

It’s easy to keep one foot in the past, where we fall prey to a dogmatic sense of expectation. This can lead us to imagine that a new job will look very much like the old one. In truth, skills are transferable and opportunities may exist in areas you might not have previously considered. It helps to find a little karma – to accept what is, stay in the moment, remain open-minded and hold on to the positive mindset that Greg Mackinder recommends. Change is never easy. But if you can accept that the future may look different to the past, and let your karma run over your dogma, you’re half-way there.

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