A Guide to Self-Motivation in the Workplace

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Self-motivation involves pushing yourself to grow your professional skills and abilities. It is important to have a strong sense of motivation in the workplace so that you can achieve your goals and produce efficient and high-quality work. Learning how to motivate yourself may also help you finish tasks and work through challenges with a positive mindset. In this article, we discuss the elements of self-motivation and provide a list of steps you can take to practice it in the workplace.

Related: How to Motivate Employees

What is self-motivation?

Self-motivation is the drive to complete projects, tasks, and goals. The ability to motivate yourself can encourage you to accomplish your duties efficiently. Employers often recognize self-motivated employees since they are the ones who set goals and take action to achieve them. It is common for individuals to experience shifts in their motivation depending on specific challenges and unexpected situations. You may be more motivated and make more progress at work if you focus on short-term and long-term goals.

Why is self-motivation important?

There are several reasons why this type of motivation is important:

  • Allows more control over your career: Having a strong sense of motivation may give you more control over your career since it can help you achieve professional goals and build important skills.

  • Leads to career advancement: Self-motivation may lead to career advancement if you are achieving more goals, finishing a large number of tasks, and producing high-quality work throughout your day.

  • Increases productivity: Motivating yourself can increase your productivity since it prompts you to complete more tasks while working. You may have the drive to complete tasks on your own without a supervisor or colleague asking you to do it.

  • Generates proud feelings: Setting goals with deadlines and achieving them will make you feel more proud of yourself, which may help boost your confidence.

  • Builds relationships with team members: Self-motivation makes you a reliable team member, which leads to better relationships. You may feel encouragement from team members to be motivated to achieve your goals, or you may be the one to inspire your team members to practice personal motivational habits.

Related: How to Write a Motivation Letter (With Samples and a Template)

Parts of self-motivation

Daniel Goleman, the researcher of emotional intelligence, has determined four elements that comprise self-motivation, which include:

Personal drive to achieve

A growth mindset involves believing you can improve your skills and grow your professional abilities. This includes having ambitions that push you to achieve your goals. The ambitions you have may prompt you to seek internal validation, which refers to your personal pride rather than external validation, such as positive feedback from a manager.

Commitment to goals

Individuals must commit to achieving their goals so that they have the drive to complete them. This involves setting clear goals and creating steps, tasks, and timelines to complete each milestone. Try to set goals that add value to your life, as this will make them more meaningful to you and help you complete them. For example, you may set a goal to exercise three times a week, knowing that this goal can help you feel better and become healthier. When you know how to commit to important personal goals, it will be easier to commit to your professional ones.

Related: Interview Question: "What Motivates You?" (With Examples)


Initiative refers to the ability to identify, accept, and implement opportunities for learning and personal development. Individuals who take initiative in their careers may work in positions they are unfamiliar with or take on responsibilities that are outside of their comfort zone. Consider volunteering in an industry that you are unfamiliar with to boost your initiative and learn new skills.

Optimism and resilience

Optimism is when you keep a positive mindset and viewing challenges as an opportunity to grow. Resilience involves recovering and learning from challenges. Having optimism and resilience can help you navigate through negative feelings and turn them into a positive mindset. Try remaining optimistic next time you face a challenge so that you will feel more motivated.

Related: What Does Being a Self-Starter Mean?

Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation

There are two types of motivation that drive people to achieve goals or accomplish a task: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation refers to tasks that individuals want to complete for their own sake, while extrinsic motivation refers to the tasks that an individual must complete to receive something in return. Tasks may have one or both types of motivators.

Rewards vary between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation offers rewards based on things that occur as a natural result of a task. People may feel intrinsically motivated to fix a broken radio so that they can enjoy the music once it is repaired. Extrinsic motivation offers rewards unrelated to the task or goal. For example, an individual may feel extrinsic motivation to complete a project if they receive a tangible reward, like a gift card or movie tickets.

How to self motivate

You can practice intrinsic motivation by making important decisions, identifying areas of professional growth, and accomplishing tasks you feel proud of. Here are some ways to practice:

1. Set goals

The first step in motivating yourself involves creating several goals that you would like to achieve. Then, set a deadline for achieving them and create a list of steps for each goal. You may choose to create a separate list for workplace goals and personal goals.

Your goals may be long-term or short-term, depending on the number of steps involved in achieving each one. If you have a goal that involves several steps, consider breaking it down into several smaller goals, which may help make each goal more achievable. By achieving small goals, you may have a larger sense of accomplishment. Here is an example of a list of goals for a teacher:

  • Complete next semester's lesson plans by May 4th.

  • Develop a student summer engagement project by May 15th.

  • Have 75% of the class get an A on the final exam in June.

  • Collaborate with two other teachers by the end of this semester.

Related: Setting Goals to Improve Your Career

2. Create a reward for each goal

The next step involves creating a reward for each goal on your list. Having a reward for yourself may inspire you to complete the step, therefore building personal motivation. Your rewards may be tangible or intangible. For example, you may have a tangible reward, like buying yourself a gift, or you may have an intangible reward, like receiving positive recognition from management. Here is an example of a rewards list:

  • Complete diversity project by July 23rd and reward yourself with two tickets to a sports game.

  • Develop two blueprints for upcoming projects to receive positive recognition from my supervisor.

  • Gather numerical data for the project by December 8th to alleviate stress from team members.

3. Track your progress

While completing your goals, track your progress to identify your strengths and highlight any areas that need improvement. Evaluate your pace for completing each goal, then determine where you may need to make changes to improve your motivation. For example, if you set a goal to complete a project in one month and by the fourth week only half of the project is completed, you may need to reevaluate your goals and rewards to identify where you need to make changes.

4. Establish relationships with self-motivated individuals

Establish relationships with self-motivated individuals to build your own personal motivation and help you achieve your goals. Try recognizing which of your colleagues exhibit signs of self-motivation, or ask your manager if they can recommend anyone they think fits the description. It may be useful to observe their behaviour to see how they remain self-motivated, such as watching for their goals and rewards system. Once you have higher personal motivation, you may also be able to help others feel more self-motivated.

5. Examine the outcome of each goal

When you complete a goal, examine the progress and outcome. Identifying what you liked and disliked about each goal will help you adjust future goal-setting to better suit your needs. For example, you may have felt more motivation with an intangible goal rather than a tangible goal, therefore you know to only set intangible goals for yourself in the future.

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