Friday, 6 January 2017

How to maintain your New Year motivation to return to work




Happy New Year!

If you've just set a goal to return to work during 2017, how can you maintain your start-of-the-year determination, and not let it fade away like most New Year's resolutions? 

Psychologist Richard Wiseman conducted two large-scale global scientific studies into motivation and found that only 10% of people successfully turned their dreams into reality. Why do we so often fail to achieve our goals? Reassuringly, this isn't another reason to beat ourselves up for not trying hard enough. The research shows that the problem is not our weak willpower, it's that the techniques we think will help us to achieve our goals don't help us in practice. 

A good example is the often-touted motivational technique of visualisation. A study at the University of California found that students asked to visualise their end goal - getting a high grade in their exam - for a few minutes each day ended up working less and getting worse marks. Another experiment found that students who often fantasised about their dream job were actually less likely to get job offers.

How can we boost our motivation? 

Richard Wiseman looked at the motivation techniques that people used most often and discovered that half were effective and half ineffective, and that most people were using the ineffective ones. 

He identified 5 effective ways to boost your motivation ...:
1. Making a step-by-step plan, breaking the goal into achievable and measurable sub-goals to reduce the fear and hesitation of change. 
2. Telling friends, family and other people about your goals. In this way you both strengthen your resolve and get support. 
3. Thinking about the specific ways in which your life will be better if you achieve your goal.
4. Rewarding yourself in small ways for achieving each sub-goal to maintain a sense of progress.
5. Making plans, progress, benefits and rewards more concrete and specific by writing them down. 

... and 5 ineffective techniques to avoid:
1. Focusing on a successful role model.
2. Thinking about the bad things that will happen if you don't achieve your goals.
3. Trying to suppress negative or unhelpful thoughts.
4. Relying on willpower.
5. Visualising your end goal or fantasising about how great life will be when you achieve your goal.

If using visualisation still appeals, watch Wiseman's 59 second video for how to make this more effective.

Return to Work Motivation

If you've committed to yourself to return to work this year, think about how you can apply these principles to build your own motivation when your New Year enthusiasm wanes and the rest of life gets in the way. 

Here are some ideas:
  • Buy a new journal, or create a spreadsheet if you prefer, and start recording your plans and progress 
  • Set aside regular times each week to work on your job exploration
  • Set achievable and practical weekly return-to-work sub-goals
  • Decide what small rewards you will give yourself for achieving your sub-goals (avoid chocolate if getting healthier is another of your New Year goals!)
  • Create your own return to work peer group to share your goals and to support each other. If you're in the London area, you can join our London Women Returners Networking & Support Group (and let us know if you'd like start your own local Women Returners group). Use our Facebook group as an extra source of encouragement too.


Posted by Julianne

Note: Updated version of previous post Jan 2015

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