According to a recent Gallop poll, 85% of workers worldwide hate their jobs. These dissatisfied employees are described by Gallop as being emotionally disconnected from their workplaces, leaving a mere 15% who feel “engaged” by their jobs.[
These sobering statistics mean a huge number of people around the world are waking up each day dreading going to work.
What is it that makes us so unhappy with our work? Why are so many of us feeling dissatisfied with and disconnected from our jobs, or worse, hating them?
In this article, we will look into the reasons why so many of us dread to go to work, and how to get motivated to work.
Why Do You Hate What You Do?
There are a number of obvious factors that might contribute to hating one’s job, such as:
- toxic company culture
- unreasonable demands on time
- safety concerns
- lack of opportunity
- poor pay
- lack of respect
- bad leadership
And what about those of us who simply feel unsatisfied or bored with our work?
Choosing for the Wrong Reasons
J.T. O’Donnell, Founder and CEO of WorkItDaily.com, has been studying job dissatisfaction for over 15 years, and sees a common thread – our addiction to praise. She believes many of us are hard-wired to seek out the “fleeting rush of validation” from impressing others rather than lasting happiness .
As a result, she believes many choose careers and job paths solely for the momentary payoff of being liked, respected or approved of, instead of focusing on what actually makes them happy.
O’Donnell believes that in order for us feel passionate, engaged and happy in our jobs, we must first learn to focus on discovering and developing a more lasting intrinsic motivation for our work.
Our Primitive Brain: Short-Term Pleasure Motivator
The fact is that the vast majority of us need to work in order to earn a living. One might assume then that our basic drive to survive would be enough to motivate us each day, that some aspect of our primitive brain would kick in to push us out of bed and out the door.
Unfortunately, the primitive brain is very much like an impatient child – it wants instant gratification, not some lofty long-term reward. When emotions regulated by our limbic brain get involved in a decision, we’re much more likely to go for the short-term feel-good decision over some future payoff that the primitive brain can’t see or feel.
It’s the limbic brain that sets us up for our addiction to praise, and to other impulsive decisions in which we choose instant pleasure over future enduring happiness.
For instance, if we wake up dreading our work day, and the option of staying home and playing hooky is on the table, our limbic brain will tell us how wonderful we’ll feel if we call in sick, completely disregarding that nagging future possibility of losing our job.
So how do we override our animal brain long enough to cultivate the proper incentive, the intrinsic and lasting motivation to get up each day and head to work?
A Look at Motivation Styles
Luckily, our more primitive brains went on to develop the neocortex, that cognitive thinking part responsible for language, creativity, and executive functions. It’s this part of our brain which allows us to override the impulses of our limbic system and imagine the longer-term consequences of our actions and decisions.
We then use these imagined future outcomes, as well as our other thoughts, as motivation in our day-to-day choices.
But as we heard earlier from J.T. O’Donnell, not all motivation styles are particularly effective or even beneficial. For the best chance at cultivating lasting happiness and satisfaction in our lives, we need to create helpful, positive and effective self-motivation strategies that serve us well in both the short and long-term.
One step is to first look at what makes for ineffective or unhealthy motivation styles. In the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), there are several ways in which we can identify and eliminate these types of self-motivation strategies, thus leaving room for us to adopt a new and more successful approach.
Ineffective Motivation Strategies
Essentially, we have two basic motivators for our choices and decisions. We are either choosing to move away from an imagined negative outcome, or to move towards an imagined positive outcome.
While the avoidance of a negative outcome can be quite a powerful motivation for changing behaviors in the short-term (i.e. ‘if I eat this cake, I’ll get fat and no one will love me’ or ‘if I don’t go into work today, I’ll be fired’), they don’t tend to be very effective in the long-term. They also tend to create feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety and powerlessness.
Unhelpful motivation strategies can be identified by paying attention to your inner dialogue in those situations in which you tend to have difficulty motivating yourself, or where you struggle with procrastination, avoidance, or fear of failure. In NLP, effective motivation strategies fall into one of the following four styles:
The Negative Motivator
This person procrastinates and only becomes motivated to take action after imagining some horrible consequence of waiting any longer. ‘If I don’t finish this report by Monday, I’ll be fired for sure.’
This person motivates themselves by issuing themselves ‘orders’ to act, usually in a stern, commanding, and often critical voice. They’ll use words like ‘must’, ‘should’ and ‘have to’. ‘Stop being lazy and get your act together – you have to finish this report on time.’
People with this motivation style imagine the entire task or goal they are facing as one global mass of effort that must be accomplished all at once, instead of in manageable chunks.
They then become overwhelmed and discouraged from even taking the first step. ‘I’m going to have to write a full report every Monday for the rest of my career. How am I going to do this every week?’
The “Gloomy Imagineer”
This person imagines themselves doing some unpleasant or overwhelming task, and hating it all the way through.
They imagine only how bad they will feel throughout the process, rather than imagining any sort of positive outcome. ‘I hate writing these reports. I’m going to have use the weekend to finish it, and miss the game on Sunday. My weekend is going to be ruined.’
The problem with these motivation strategies is that they often fail, or backfire. The person may feel so overwhelmed by the task that they don’t even want to start it; they may subconsciously sabotage their efforts out of defiance or resistance; or they may complete the task, but end up feeling stressed and resentful as a result.
How to Create Good Motivation Strategies
If you’ve identified some of these negative or unhelpful motivation styles in yourself, congratulations! Now you can take steps to replace them with more effective, and far more pleasant, strategies.
Here are some basic guidelines for creating the best motivation strategies, according to NLP
1. Make Your Internal Dialogue Pleasant and Compelling
Be your own cheerleader, not dictator. Use positive words of possibility and encouragement such as ‘I can’, ‘I want’, ‘I desire’ and ‘I will’ instead of judging terms like should and have to.
Include a mental or physical representation of the successfully completed task. Imagine the positive consequences associated with its completion.
2. Chunk it Down
In NLP, this means breaking a large and often overwhelming task down into smaller, more manageable steps.
3. Find Your Intrinsic Motivations
Finding work that truly satisfies us is not always easy. It can mean coming to sometimes painful realizations about our past motivations and compromises, and making changes accordingly.
But making the effort to discover and develop more intrinsic motivations for going to work, such as personal fulfillment, meaning and passion, will serve us far better than any external pressures or expectations can.