Finding Inspiration at Work: How to Get Your Mojo Back

To feel motivated, most people must first be inspired by something or someone — whether it’s a new project, a different direction, or a new colleague with which to try new approaches to big company problems. In fact, Talent Culture recently wrote about igniting inspiration and making working exciting again, also posing a related question via Twitter: “Why is inspiration so important in work and life?”

Meagan Biro quotes Scott Mautz’s point that “It’s important to differentiate inspiration from motivation. Motivation, it turns out, is the pragmatic consequence of inspiration. Inspiration comes first.”

But what if the source of inspiration is not found at the office, per se, but somewhere else, entirely? Let’s examine a few possible sources of mojo, inspiration, duende. Whatever you call it, it’s a crucial part of building and developing an intelligent career that’s fully aligned with personal and professional goals and aspirations, as we approach 2018.

With Whom Do You Connect?

Rather than thinking of what we want to do at our place of work, perhaps we ought to ask a different question: with whom do we tend to connect? Is it the sales and marketing department, or are you more interested in IT, content strategy, or online social media optimization?

Who do you gravitate toward in your everyday life? Do you tend to have better interactions with people over coffee or lunch, or is it easier to interact with people in a large group? Do people cause you to feel drained or recharged, energy-wise?

Personally, I’ve noticed that I sympathize greatly with other musicians, writers, artists, and thinkers who communicate through writing and art, rather than via small talk or formal interactions. I often sympathize with misanthropes who can’t stand the banality of popular culture. I tend to gravitate toward libraries, bookstores, and quiet cafes, rather than loud parties, bustling restaurants, or large conferences.

Who inspires you in the office? Do you communicate better in person, on paper, or in emails and Slack channels? You might work better one on one, as opposed to in a group — even if it’s a small group. Ideally, you can work up enough trust within a group to overcome this preference, but if not, it could be better to figure out who you can work with one on one and develop working relationships that way, first.

Why Do You Show Up?

In other words, what’s your ultimate career goal? How can your current position and place of work benefit your career in the long run?

If you’re feeling the effects of occupational burnout, you’re not alone. In fact, Ohio University notes, “Each year, over $300 billion in profits is lost due to employees feeling overworked, drained of energy, and unable to put their best foot forward in the workplace each day.”

This problem may stem from the historical U.S. tradition of pounding the Protestant work ethic into our collective psyche. However, feeling burned out sometimes simply means that you’re due for a vacation. Don’t discount daily or weekly day trips to a nearly river, lake, ocean, or mountain range, either. For me, retreating into nature helps, as well as meditation, vigorous hiking, skiing, bicycling — anything that gets my blood pumping and then allows me to breathe deeply and meditate in nature. Personally, that means pine trees and mountains, as well as relaxing bodies of water.

Listen to your body’s physiological responses and check in with yourself daily. How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? What about right after work? If you don’t see the light of day anymore, that’s not a good sign. Moreover, if you never turn off your phone or computer to read a book or quietly meditate in nature, you may not be in touch with yourself at a deeper level. Our society’s obsession with always staying connected — via phone, email, television, and the Internet — may be part of the reason why you’re feeling burned out.

How Do You Work?

While at work, do you communicate your thoughts and make points assertively? Being a self-starter can be tough at first, but it’s a possible way around the conundrum of feeling like there isn’t enough to do in your current role. Learning how to utilize good judgement — for example, refraining from asking unnecessary permission for trying a new way of doing things — will inevitably be helpful for your career. Taking ownership of a situation to make it more engaging for you can only help make your daily routine more enjoyable for you in the short term—and more rewarding over the long term as well.

Would there be a way for you to start your own project on the side — provided, of course, you’re still able to get all your daily work done? This might mean speaking with people who you’d like to learn from in the workplace. If there’s a structural problem you’ve noticed, you could first take steps toward solving that problem; then, later, you might tell a supervisor about what you’ve found after delving into the situation a bit on your own.

It’s also good to become clear on your personal work and communication style. For example, as a highly empathic person — too much so, at times — it is easy for me to feel drained after being around large groups of people. Whereas extroverts love to lead and manage others, introverts often prefer to work on their own, and they can feel bewildered by constant distractions and interruptions—hence the backlash, among some circles, toward open workplace configurations.

What Keeps You Going?

In other words, what are your ultimate life goals and your greater purpose? To publish a few books? To develop yourself as an influencer? But to what end? What are the causes that make you want to strive toward influence? Do you exist to create more art or beauty in the world? Do you long to contribute to a cure for cancer, world hunger, or the pollution of the world’s oceans? What about income inequality, lack of education, or corporate social responsibility?

Alexander Huls from the Hartford recommends specific actions to feel motivated, including celebrating your “done” list, tackling your “to do” list incrementally (“an inch at a time,” as Anne Lamott writes), prioritizing one task a day, turning off your inner perfectionist, and keeping inspiration close. He adds, “To stay motivated every day, find something that gets you really inspired—a quote, a compliment from a client, an article—and keep it handy near your work space … Personally, I love to bookmark inspirational passages in a book or two.”

If you never take the time to really find out what it is you love and want to do, how will you ever be able to make those longer-term goals that can help round out your life and give you that raison d’etre?

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Inspiration can keep you going and fuel increased motivation, if you let it. What’s stopping you? Share your thoughts on finding inspiration for your career in the comments section, below.

Image source: Pixabay