Michael Sterling

Motivation Thieves (and How to Protect Yourself)


Are you regularly robbed of your motivation? The culprit may be any one of a number of issues that hold you up and steal away your motivated mindset. I call them ‘motivation thieves’.


So what are these incentive-crushers? Here’s a line-up of the five offenders that I consider the most common. Can you identify which ones you fall victim to?


5 Motivation Thieves


Offender #1: Goals Gone Wild. Are your goals out of control? Without clearly defined and obtainable goals, you’re just running in place. That’s exhausting and demotivating.


The fix: Take a quarterly pulse-check on your goals. Have your goals changed? Are action steps in place for each? Are you achieving the action steps you’ve set for yourself? If not, adjust and alter as necessary.


Offender #2: Lack of Power. Does your boss micro-manage? Your independent decision-making may be in a strangle-hold. Without autonomy to make important decisions we lack the power to move tasks and projects forward. Our drive is diffused. We feel helpless.


The fix: Identify the areas where you are most restricted. Develop a list of ways you can gradually gain more control. Then, speak with your manager or supervisor to discuss your action plan highlighting how greater autonomy will allow you to reduce their workload.


Offender #3: Dread. We all have those soul-sucking tasks or projects which we dread. The more we procrastinate – the more daunting the tasks become. It’s a viscous, demotivating circle.


The fix: Schedule time daily to tackle tedious tasks. Place the tasks on your calendar and make that time sacred – no distractions of any type! Ask yourself what will happen if you continue to procrastinate. Will you have to work weekends to catch up? Will your actions impact other members of your team or even worse – a client? Will your procrastination affect your job performance? Could it lead to your termination? Linking your apprehension to the big picture will enable you to see why each activity is important.


Offender #4: Confusion. Confusion is a shape-shifter. It can creep into our work life in many forms:

  • Lack of clarity regarding procedures
  • Lack of concretes goals
  • Lack of information
  • Too many chiefs – multiple leaders not always going in the same direction
  • Too many cooks in the kitchen – a number of people trying to do the same job


The fix: The resolution for this is simple. It’s communication – clear, concise and regular communication. It’s important that projects/tasks are clearly outlined and that procedures are in place and understood by all team members. Information needs to be accurate and shared with the entire team. Leaders need to be identified and each team member must have a specific role.


Offender #5: Burnout. There are two types of burnout. 1) Exhaustion. Long hours and little sleep slow motivation to a snail’s pace. 2) A professional dead-end. You’ve achieved all you can in the position you currently hold. Doing the same job day-after-day, year-after-year is dousing your drive.


The fix: For exhaustion, the fix is some much-needed rest. Either get some well-deserved sleep and allow your body to recover or take time away.  A vacation or getaway really can work wonders on one’s motivation. For a professional dead-end, the fix is a new career challenge. Most likely, it’s time to change jobs and create new upward career opportunities for yourself.


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