How is your self-motivation and wellness?

As the pandemic becomes endemic, self-motivation and wellness has emerged as a key leadership trend for 2022 – for us as individuals, and as leaders. This topic is linked to last month’s article: Skills and mindset for the future world of work.

For this month, we focus on what you can do about your own self-motivation and wellness. Next month, we’ll revisit the topic through the lens of a leader.

Wellbeing in the context of Covid

The factors below are common responses to Covid, and they all affect our wellbeing. Do any of these apply to you?

Working from home during Covid times has inspired some people to move further away from their workplace. These people are unlikely to come back into the office 4 or 5 days a week. But how do you remain engaged when you are not in every day? How can you stay connected to the organisation you work for and the people you work with? Especially if they’re in the office more than you – do you have FOMO (fear of missing out)?

You may love working at home; many of my clients and friends have enjoyed it and don’t miss the office as much as they thought they would. They have more control over their work/life balance, and have altered their rhythm of work to suit their needs.

Lockdowns might have given you time to reflect and you’ve made some big (or smaller) lifestyle changes – maybe you no longer want the big job, with the travel and hours that go with it. Or maybe you’ve decided you do!

Perhaps you feel nervous of travelling on public transport, and have lost some confidence in mixing in groups of people and the busyness of being in an office.

Last month, we looked at Skills and Mindset for the Future World of Work. There’s an increase in agile working where there are not so many guard rails and the structure is more “loose”. This creates a sense of freedom but also uncertainty, because we humans generally thrive on stability and knowing what is expected of us. Depending on your own career stage, personal circumstances and personality, you will find this more or less unsettling.

In addition, the economy is currently unstable with a rise in employment but increasing cost of living (at least, that’s the case here in the UK).

Human happiness

Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California has spent her research career studying human happiness. Her findings chime with research I’ve done on positive psychology.

It seems happiness is partly determined by your genetic profile – which you can’t do much about – but it’s also determined by your circumstances and the actions and self-control you take:

“My students and I have found that truly happy individuals construe life events and daily situations in ways that seem to maintain their happiness, while unhappy individuals construe experiences in ways that seem to reinforce unhappiness.”

After her various experiments, Professor Lyubomirsky says:

“Perhaps the most critical way to improve and maintain happiness is the ability to connect with other people and create meaningful connecting moments.”

In a work context, ‘Connecting moments’ could be where you’ve worked on something really meaningful together and shared an ‘aha’ experience; discovered you have the same values about a particular topic; found you see something the same way as someone else; or (on a more subtle level) that you have the same sense of humour.

Who do you naturally connect with? Do you make sure you speak to those individuals regularly? Do you open up, to invite connection?

Further, research by Schmuck and Sheldon found that wellbeing is based on these four things:

  • Ability to reflect
  • Ability to choose a direction in life
  • Ability to form intentions
  • Ability to direct yourself towards a certain path or goal

How would you assess yourself against those abilities?

This reminds me of the classic GROW framework in coaching:

  • Goal: What do you want?
  • Reality: Where are you now?
  • Options: What could you do?
  • Will: What will you do?

You might use that simple model when coaching your team, or recognise it in coaching you’ve received. Can you use it to help get you where you want to go?

How happy are you?

The Cantril Self-Anchoring Scale developed by Dr Hadley Cantril taps into the happiness of the present and the future.

LadderImagine two simple ladders numbered from zero at the bottom (representing the worst possible life for you) to 10 at the top (representing the best possible life for you). Now, answer these two questions:

  1. On which step do you think you are standing at the moment?
  2. On which step do you think you’ll be in five years’ time?

If you score 7 or more on your current life and 8 or more on your future life, you are considered to be thriving. You will be experiencing a high level of wellbeing on a daily basis. You are likely to have fewer health problems and sick days; less worry, stress, anger and sadness; and more happiness, enjoyment, interest and respect.

If you score 5 and 6, you are considered to be struggling. You are likely to report more stress and worry, and claim double the number of sick days than someone who is ‘thriving’.

If you score 4 or below, you are considered to be suffering because you rate your life as very poor and don’t see it improving. You are likely to lack satisfaction about your basic needs and will experience more pain, stress, worry, sadness and anger.

Are you broadly happy and excited about what lies ahead? Or are you unhappy and not optimistic? If the latter, what are you going to do about it?

Wheel of Life

To help you with this, I recommend also completing this activity – called The Wheel of Life. It will help you pinpoint where you are happy and where you might not be.

Please email me if you’d like a PDF template of a blank ‘wheel of life’ to print and fill in. Alternatively, draw a copy of the diagram on the right.

You can use the same headings, or change them to ones that relate more to you such as the ones I’ve suggested below.

To give you an idea about what to monitor, Gallup says there are five elements you need to thrive:

  • Career wellbeing
  • Social wellbeing
  • Financial wellbeing
  • Physical wellbeing
  • Community wellbeing

You can use those or add whatever categories cover the aspects of your life that matter most to you. Here are some more ideas:

  • Personal development/growth
  • Hobbies
  • Sleep

I recommend a maximum of 8 categories, so you can focus.

Then rank yourself from 1 to 10 on each category by shading in the segments starting from the ‘hub’ in the middle. The result will be a visual representation of how ‘balanced’ your life is right now. You can imagine how bumpy life might feel if your wheel is trying to roll with some segments massively out of alignment! And how long it would take you to get anywhere if all the segments were tiny!

Complete a new wheel every month or so to laser in what what you need to focus on. This process might help you realise that life isn’t so bad overall, or it might reveal areas where you need to invest some time.

When your wheel is balanced and (in my opinion) ranks above number 7 for each element, you will be ‘in flow’.  Don’t panic if you’re not at that stage yet – this exercise will give you valuable information on where to focus so you can get there more easily.

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

What are your needs and values? Are you living in tune with them?

In my opinion, you need to know who you are and what makes you tick, have a lifelong attitude of personal growth and development, and know you can evolve as you go through different life stages.

Motivation is often split into two – intrinsic (comes from within) and extrinsic (comes from outside ourself).  Both have value to drive us, although usually intrinsic is the more powerful and life affirming:

Intrinsic motivation is linked to our personal growth, relationships and sense of service to something or someone other than ourselves.

What gives you that sense of service/purpose to something bigger or other than you? How and where do you contribute? Where do you wish to grow your relationships with people? Who or what are you drawn to be/accomplish in your life?

Extrinsic motivation is to do with money, status and power – these are also linked to happiness and wellbeing to a certain extent but probably less than most people think.

Be aware of what motivates you intrinsically, as this is more likely to be linked to your overall wellbeing.

In summary

  • Know who you are and what makes you happy
  • Rate your happiness today and on an ongoing basis – keep an eye on it, and take action
  • Know that happiness links to intrinsic motivation – the important, impactful moments in life
  • Make a plan for how you want to emerge from the pandemic, so you thrive

Related reading

This topic links to several of my other articles that you might find useful:

Next month

As a leader, what can you do to support the self-motivation and wellness of your people (going beyond employee assistance programmes that most people don’t bother to access).