A Job Interview Nightmare: When He Asked, “How Do You Motivate Yourself?” I Was Without a Good Answer

Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley

A reader emailed me with this question: “I was in an interview, and was asked this question: How do you motivate yourself? I could barely answer the question. What would you suggest?”

This is a great question that deserves a great answer. After managing dozens of employees over the years, I can tell you not what I think, but what I know.

First, employees who do well and then lack motivation generally have a change of attitude. What is more important than what caused the change in attitude is recognizing that there has been a change in attitude.

Knowing this is important because attitude drives personality. A person with a good attitude generally has a good personality. A person with a bad attitude generally has a bad personality.

You can change your attitude just as you change your employer, but if it means giving up a good salary and benefit package, why bother looking for another job when it is easier for you to change yourself?

Second, your change in motivation and energy level is almost always tied to your exercise or lack of exercise. A program of sustained exercise is not only a tremendous “stress buster” but also provides you with more energy, more motivation, better health, better decision-making skills and a better attitude.

So when you feel your motivation is on the wane, start an exercise program or return to exercising as a way to improve your motivation. Exercise pumps more oxygen into your bloodstream, clears your mind, improves your self-image, increases your self-confidence and increases your energy level.

Third, learn to live with gratitude. When you lack motivation, remind yourself that there are many people who cannot find work to support their family, others who may not make the kind of money you are making, or have the kind of opportunities you have for advancement through production. Be thankful for everything good in your life.

Be thankful for your health, your family, your friends and your employer who helps you generate income to support yourself and your family. We can make choices while those who are physically, mentally or emotionally challenged are less able to make the same choices. Perhaps the only thing worse than an ingrate is a capable person too lazy to work.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Williams James said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter their life by altering their attitude.” Both statements show great insight and reflect truth that is beyond refute.

Fourth, learn to laugh at yourself and with others. Do not take yourself too seriously. Researchers have shown that people who cannot cope with their situation generally have low self-esteem, live in the past and cannot laugh at themselves. Laughter makes almost every situation better.

Laughter can keep you going, keep your healthy and keep you motivated.

Finally, realize that motivation is an “inside” job. If you continually need your co-workers and boss to keep you motivated, you are seriously not in charge of yourself or your destiny.

This is why motivation by intimidation or reward for effort by your superiors cannot last. We will not tolerate intimidation forever, and the rewards for production must continually increase to keep the production increasing, thereby increasing the cost until it exceeds the benefit to the employer.

The smartest, most successful employees motivate themselves and keep themselves motivated with exercise, gratitude and laughter.

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