How to sus­tain your en­thu­si­asm at work

New Straits Times - - Business - The writer is man­ag­ing con­sul­tant and ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship coach at EQTD Con­sult­ing. He is also the au­thor of the na­tional best­seller “So, You Want To Get Pro­moted?”

A FEW days ago I met a ju­nior doc­tor from the dis­trict hos­pi­tal in Jem­pol in Ne­gri Sem­bi­lan. He had just fin­ished a 36-hour shift, and had a day off. I saw him at about 3pm on Sun­day af­ter­noon.

He had driven back to Kuala Lumpur to see his folks, watch the EFL Cup fi­nal, and catch up on sleep.

On Mon­day, the next day, he had to do the two-hour drive back to Jem­pol, and be at the hos­pi­tal by 8am. And, he had just got­ten news that he was on a 72-hour call.

I was as­tounded by his abil­ity to work with lit­tle or no sleep. We struck up a con­ver­sa­tion, and I wanted to know how he kept up this pace. It was an en­light­en­ing chat. He told me that he was not unique as his col­leagues worked on the same type of schedule.

As we talked, I re­alised that he was deeply frus­trated with the hours he did, but went about his work dili­gently, in any case.

He said that some­times, he won­dered why he had be­come a doc­tor when con­fronted with gru­elling sched­ules like this. But, every­thing felt well worth the ef­forts when he saw his pa­tients at the hos­pi­tal.

He also said that he was in­ter­ested in psy­chi­a­try. He felt that the world needed more spe­cial­ists who were de­voted to the di­ag­no­sis, pre­ven­tion, study, and treat­ment of men­tal dis­or­ders.

And, he felt that he had an ap­ti­tude for this. He was look­ing for­ward to moving soon to the Serem­ban Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal to con­tinue with his two-year stint in psy­chi­a­try.

I was very im­pressed with him. He was to­tally fa­tigued. He looked thor­oughly drained. He moaned about the pun­ish­ing ros­ter he was on. Yet, he looked for­ward to be­ing a doc­tor, con­tin­u­ing his ed­u­ca­tion to be­come a psy­chi­a­trist, and felt en­gaged about help­ing his pa­tients.

How does some­one like this young Dr Te­jvin­der Singh con­tinue to sus­tain his mo­ti­va­tion to keep grow­ing and con­tribut­ing?

I reckon that there are three fac­tors that keep such peo­ple in­spired.

The first is au­ton­omy. We all feel gal­va­nized to carry on when we feel in charge. While this doc­tor may have been tired, he knows that when he meets his pa­tients, they de­pend heav­ily on his di­ag­no­sis.

He also knows that his prog­no­sis will give them hope and the re­quired men­tal strength to heal. In ev­ery sense, he is in charge of their health.

In 2006, psy­chol­o­gists Ed­ward L. Deci, Richard M. Ryan, and Arlen C. Moller of the Univer­sity of Rochester in New York sug­gested that you gain mo­ti­va­tion when you feel in charge. They con­ducted sev­eral ex­per­i­ments and pub­lished their find­ings.

They found that when peo­ple are given the op­por­tu­nity to se­lect a course of ac­tion based on their own opin­ions, they per­sisted longer in a sub­se­quent puz­zle­solv­ing ac­tiv­ity, than par­tic­i­pants who were ei­ther given no choice or pres­sured to se­lect one side over an­other.

Mo­ti­va­tion also blooms and flour­ishes when you feel you are do­ing some­thing of great value.

I have a friend, Noel Mani­raj Chel­liah, who gave up a cor­po­rate job and be­came a fit­ness in­struc­tor. To call him a fit­ness in­struc­tor does not do him jus­tice. To me, he is more of a fit­ness “ac­tivist”. Not only does he spend time coach­ing peo­ple to well­ness through ex­er­cise, he also works with them to help them cre­ate bet­ter life­style regimes.

He is only able to in­spire and en­gage hun­dreds of peo­ple to­wards a bet­ter qual­ity of life be­cause he sub­scribes to the phi­los­o­phy he teaches. It must be hard work get­ting peo­ple to ex­er­cise. But Noel is able to sus­tain his mo­ti­va­tion be­cause the work he does is con­gru­ent with his own be­liefs and value-sys­tem.

The third and fi­nal com­po­nent that will help you stay mo­ti­vated is com­pe­tence. As you work on some­thing and ded­i­cate time and en­ergy to it, you will find that your skills will im­prove, and you gain a sense of com­pe­tence.

In her book “Mind­set: The New Psy­chol­ogy of Suc­cess”, Pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­ogy at Stan­ford Univer­sity Carol Dweck sug­gests that com­pe­tence comes when you recog­nise your ac­com­plish­ments.

This week I am writ­ing my col­umn in Chen­nai. I am here for some meet­ings and a short break with my wife. When dis­cussing com­pe­tence, I am re­minded of a Chen­nai-based for­mer busi­ness as­so­ci­ate, now friend, Ash­win Ra­jagopalan.

I met Ash­win nearly fif­teen years ago, when I started my first busi­ness in In­dia. At that time, he ran a bou­tique PR agency here with a small com­ple­ment of staff. I se­lected his agency be­cause I liked him as a per­son and be­cause he dis­played tremen­dous in­tegrity. Most im­por­tantly, I se­lected him be­cause he had a won­der­ful way with words. Suf­fice to say his agency did a ster­ling job for my busi­ness in In­dia.

To­day, Ash­win is no longer in the PR busi­ness. He has taken his writ­ing skills and lever­aged on it. He has be­come a life­style writer. Aside from run­ning Byte Size, a life­style blog, Ash­win writes reg­u­larly for some of In­dia’s best known pub­li­ca­tions, like GQ In­dia, The Hindu, The Daily Ex­press, NDTV etc.

As he ded­i­cated time and en­ergy to writ­ing as a PR prac­ti­tioner, he be­came ac­com­plished. This sus­tained his mo­ti­va­tion, and to­day he works for him­self, do­ing what he does best…writ­ing.

There­fore, to sus­tain mo­ti­va­tion, es­pe­cially in the face of chal­lenges, you need to feel you have au­ton­omy and that you are in charge. Next, you need to feel that what you do adds value and is in-sync with your be­lief sys­tem. Fi­nally, you need to feel that your com­pe­tency keeps in­creas­ing.

Can you sus­tain your mo­ti­va­tion?

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