A gut-wrenching feeling has stirred within me that I can no longer ignore. I’ve had to honestly ask myself: have I lost momentum in my career, and life in general? And if so, how do I get these proverbial balls rolling again?

“Hey guys, how do you maintain momentum? In your work and career, or life in general,” I asked my team at the LIH weekly Motivational Mondays lunchtime discussion. As cringe-worthy as that meeting may sound, it’s a practice we’ve decided to implement in our team to foster a safe space for sharing ideas. A session where we bounce ideas around, seek practical solutions to our work, celebrate successes, or in this case, share food-for-thought (to accompany our food-for-stomach).

The beauty of having a small and yet talented team with expertise in a range of disciplines is that there was so much to take in and learn from, with different minds looking at and expressing a single concept in many ways. What transpired in our discussions indeed got me thinking deeply and broadly about what it means to be motivated and how one might regain momentum.

If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, here’s a few little pockets of thought that I’ve found useful. They may help to kick-start a positive momentum, whether it be in your career, family life, or your personal interests.

Start with your ‘why’.

Why do we get out of the house, leave our kids at school, sit down at a desk for a number of hours, go back to get the kids, spend a minimal amount of time with them, maybe have time with our partner, and then go to sleep. Honestly, for what? And why? And does doing this for over 2/3 of our ‘working lives’ satisfy our needs?

Only to an extent, according to Dan Pink [10m47s]:

When thinking about ‘modern’ notions of ‘work’ there’s a saying: “even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat”.

Perhaps taking a step back and examining our values may help to re-discover our ‘why’ [3m5s].

As an educational media producer I constantly ask “why?” as part of the problem-solving process in making effective media. It’s fair to say that it’s worth extending this mindset to other aspects of life in order to see, through a new lens, the direction in which to pursue. I’ve found that reflecting on The 5 Whys (or even a reduced 3 Whys) is useful in helping me to problem-solve and ultimately discover my root purpose/s.

If you know your ‘why’, it’s easier to remind yourself that there is no option than to push through the challenges.

Remember who you are.

I received Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss as a gift from my brother-in-law. It’s a fantastic pick-up and set-down read that can have massive impact from a small investment in time in your day. A pertinent message came from the chapter on electronic artist Kaskade. He mentions the rocks/pebbles/sand metaphor too, but also talks about a great lesson from his father, who told him:

“Remember who you are.”

It’s very powerful. Self-knowledge is a deep exploration from where your ‘why’ comes from.

A perfect cue for a Simpsons reference, one of the greatest scenes of all time (in my opinion) [1m49s]:

If you can recognise who you are – your strengths, limitations and values – and have the courage and humility to do what you believe you’re here to do, then getting that ol’ ball of momentum rolling towards your ‘why’ may prove to be an easier task especially on days that we feel lacking in power or drive.

Develop systems, not goals.

The internet is rife with motivational memes and quotes which tend to oversimplify goal-setting and passion as the keys to success. The problem with this is that some days, there isn’t always this ‘passion’ present. And as life progresses, your ‘goals’ are sure to change. I’m sure it’s a universal sentiment.

Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, suggests that instead of relying on ‘passion’ to reach your ‘goals’, you can develop systems to increase your odds of success.

But what if you’re unmotivated? Artist Chuck Close recommends you just get to work.

“Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work. Things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will – through work – bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great ‘(art) idea.’”

You can’t reach a height without climbing. Consistent and targeted action allows for the appearance and acceptance of new opportunities. The other option is to suffer the unintended consequences of a lack of self-reflection, self-discipline and self-regulation: self-induced stagnation.

I carry a camera with me every day. I figure that if I take a photo of anything at all, as long as I commit daily to the act of mindfully thinking about creating an image, I become more experienced than I was the previous day. A targeted exercise designed for learning something new, or at least refining already existing capabilities.

If you commit to progressing something each day towards your ’why’, you’re guaranteed to move forward in some way.

Keep going.

It can be daunting when things feel like they’re not going as planned. Setbacks are inevitable. We could play the victim-of-ill-fortune-brought-upon-by-the-universe card, or we could take a stoic approach.

I recommend Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is The Way, extrapolations of wisdom by stoic thinkers and doers throughout history. It’s underpinned by a guiding statement from Marcus Aurelius:

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

I was moved by an Instagram post by Andy Frisella, a key part being his reflection on focusing on the process rather than an end to help positively frame situations.

“For me, it wasn’t until I took a step back and realized “I was in the process” of achievement by executing on my daily critical tasks (as opposed to wondering if I’d ever become what I wanted to be) that things changed…it took me 10 years to figure this one thing out. It was spurred by a conversation with (a friend) where I was outlining the plans we had for our companies and I said “This is what I hope to do” and he replied, “Dude, you are already doing it” and it immediately clicked for me.”

So do as Dory does, and “just keep swimming…”

If you can teach your inner voice to say that “you’re awesome and getting more awesome” instead of “are we there yet?”, you can learn to recognise, appreciate and maintain the movement in your life.

Do what you value.

Armed with a personal mission, self-knowledge, systems to increase your success and a progress mindset, what’s life without celebrating in the ways that bring you joy, and doing the things that align with your values?

While photographing a wedding recently, I noticed during the bride’s preparations this nice little framed quote on display:

Photo by Mike Catabay, Learning Innovation Hub

“Take time to do what makes your soul happy.”

Do that.

As motivation at work and in your daily life ebbs and flows, how do you accentuate the positive vibes and minimise the negative thoughts? What do you do to keep motivated? Please feel free to share with the community below!

Posted by Mike Catabay


  1. Really enjoyed this article – thanks


  2. Great post, Mike.


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