Elana Konstant
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Career Coach for professionals in transition

We’ve all been there. The alarm goes off and you’re filled with a lack of motivation to get to work. This job is not who you are, your life purpose or who you want to be. But... there’s always a but, isn’t there? You need the money. So what do you do? You figure out how to self-motivate.

Keeping a positive attitude in the face of (intrinsic and extrinsic) dread is tough. If you're a manager, you're expected to motivate people every day — but how do you keep yourself motivated? How do you avoid burning out entirely? How do you avoid leaving on bad terms and losing the referral?

Fortunately, you don't need to study motivation theory or undergo emotional strength training to feel better throughout your day. Here are three steps you can take to self-motivate and ward off the breakdown.

1. Hit the pause button.

Often the best way to re-engage with a job is to get away from it for a bit. When you're feeling stressed or uninspired to achieve your goals, use it as an opportunity to change your attitude. Book that vacation you’ve been dreaming about. Plan a staycation for a few days. Maybe even just aim for an afternoon at the spa. Prioritize your self-care and make sure that you find the time to stay mindful at work through regular meditation and exercise. Use the break to consider what is most demoralizing about your current role and make a plan to fix those ills.

Perhaps you need to shift time management techniques to deal with multiple projects and unrelenting demands. Maybe you need to transfer into a new department to avoid further personality clashes or monotonous tasks. Or maybe the answer is as simple as taking a step back to reflect on whether this company, field and position are the right ones for you.

Giving yourself space and time may provide the perspective you need to recognize how to leverage all of the positive aspects of this role into an even better one.

2. Reexamine long-term goals.

Channel your frustrations into action by thinking through where you want to be as a professional in one, five and 10 years. Exploring your long-term intentions will allow you take the short-term steps necessary to achieve them. Networking with other professionals in your field is a great way to gain more insight into where you want to be. 

Whether it’s requesting new, challenging assignments, asking for a group transfer or bolstering your brand through panels and conferences, consider how you can promote your expertise apart from your company. Take advantage of the credibility and stability of your current job to establish a clear path for professional growth. These will become motivators that can help you maintain a positive attitude as well as help with goal orientation.

Find a method to institute accountability with respect to your career development. Focus on goal-oriented behavior and determine how you can best self-motivate. Whether it’s bringing in a personal board of directors or enlisting professional help, create a means of holding yourself to specific deadlines.

3. Start your job search.

As a career coach, I generally believe that everyone should have a low-grade job search running at all times. Keeping your application materials — i.e., resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile — fresh and accessible is the best approach. Even when you’re not actively looking, you never know what people you'll meet and what opportunities might come your way. Being open and prepared is the ultimate job search (and life) mantra.

Now is the time to gather information about where you want to go next. Begin researching companies and fields of interest, find subjects for informational interviews and network with existing contacts. Allow your dissatisfaction at work to motivate your search so that you can find a job that meets your needs and avoids the same stagnation.

Figuring out how to self-motivate can be tough, both in life and at work. Fortunately, by pausing to reflect on how you view the world, you'll find intrinsic motivation as well as extrinsic motivation to help you keep going. Simply pause, determine what you want and then figure out what you need to achieve to get there.

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Elana Konstant is a career coach and consultant focusing on professional women in career transition. A former lawyer, she founded Konstant Change Coaching to empower women to create the career they want. Change is good. Elana will help you find out why. Her career advice has been featured on Glamour.com, Babble, Motherly, and other outlets. You can learn more by visiting her website, konstantchangecoaching.com.