You’re great at what you do and have a clear roadmap of where you want your career to take you. However, even when you have every step, milestone, and promotion mapped out, the reality is that advancing doesn’t happen overnight. Granted, there will be times when you progress quite quickly, but there may also be times when things slow down or when you simply don’t perform well enough to get ahead. For example, a professional development course you were excited about a month ago starts to feel like a drain on your energy, or a work project you felt confident about suddenly appears to be overwhelming.
Moments like these are crucially important, because if you become discouraged, chances are you’ll start to procrastinate. The trick is to stay motivated, even when you feel like you’re standing still.
The link between emotions and motivation
The key to feeling motivated lies in the word “feeling.” According to Eric Barker in his Time article “How to Motivate Yourself: 3 Steps Backed by Science,” emotions nearly always win out over reason. When you’re feeling unhappy, discouraged, or stressed, these negative emotions will almost certainly result in procrastination—even though you know you need to spend two hours each evening studying to earn that advanced degree. On the other hand, when you’re feeling happy, confident, and excited, these positive emotions support you taking action. In other words, positive emotions form an integral aspect of motivation.
Seven strategies for staying motivated
Though some people undeniably have a sunnier disposition than others, there are many ways you can enhance your positivity. The following seven strategies will show you how to cultivate a positive attitude and stay motivated:
- Visualize your goals. Positive imagery is a powerful way to remain inspired to advance. Think about your goals every day. Imagine your life once you’ve reached your professional goals, and use these images to motivate yourself.
- Be realistic. Advancing your career is all about attaining your goals—but those goals must be realistic; otherwise you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Bear in mind that every time you meet an objective, you’re advancing in the right direction. Carefully review your plans, and determine whether you need to add smaller, interim goals that will help you feel confident on the way to your bigger objectives.
- Have a setback plan. According to an article titled “12 Strategies for Motivation that Work!” by the Dean of Students at Allegheny College, it’s essential to be prepared to deal with setbacks. Approach them as a learning opportunity by analyzing what you could have done better and how you can improve your performance in the future.
- Learn positive self-talk. Just like a coach encourages his or her athletes by assuring them they can do it, you should learn to encourage yourself with positive self-talk. If you’re afraid of failure and you tell yourself a task is too difficult, chances are you won’t do well. If, on the other hand, you tell yourself a task is a challenge and an opportunity to test your skills and learn new ones, you’re creating a positive situation for yourself in which you’re not limited by your own apprehension.
- Develop a routine. Developing a routine can provide you with a powerful tool to stay positive and motivated. The more you grow accustomed to doing certain things like studying or networking for a specific amount of hours a day at a certain time, the easier it becomes.
- Create a competitive environment. Friendly competition can help you up your game and surpass your own expectations. Find one or two colleagues or friends who are also looking to advance their careers, and inspire each other to continuously do better.
- Reward yourself. In his Chron article “Motivational Strategies in Business,” George N. Root III explains how rewarding employees inspires them to perform better. You can apply a similar strategy to your career advancement efforts. However, instead of only celebrating when you’ve achieved a goal, take the time to reward yourself simply for your hard work. For example, at the end of every week, if you’ve met your goal of studying every evening or have delivered outstanding results in your job, treat yourself to a movie, a nice dinner, or whatever fun activity you enjoy most.
Advancing your career takes time and hard work. Use these seven tips to keep yourself motivated, and you’ll find it becomes easier to consistently work towards moving your career forward.