How to stay motivated at work when you want to quit

How to stay motivated at work when you want to quit

Are you self-motivated?

Self-motivation and job satisfaction are directly related to each other, and they are a foundation of achievement. You will be motivated to achieve the best for your company and your career if you are happy with your job.

Motivation will unleash your energy and unlock your full potential. A lack of motivation will waste your potential.

Therefore, to be a good leader, you need to be self-motivated, and that makes sense. If you can’t motivate (even) yourself, how can you expect to encourage others?

Here is the good news: Nobody is born with an unchangeable amount of motivation!

Self-motivation is not the absence of being occasionally demotivated. It is the ability to manage demotivating events! It is the ability to find ways to get back on top and keep the periods of low motivation short. It is the ability not to radiate demotivating events to your environment, all of which can be learned.

Whenever you face a lack of motivation or are unhappy, you have three top choices: accept, change or leave.

  • Option 1: Accept what’s acceptable
  • Option 2: Change what’s not acceptable
  • Option 3: Leave if the unacceptable is not changeable

In this article, we show many methods in the three above categories that will help you stay motivated at work when you want to quit. You can just as well use these methods to support others, and this is another leadership trait!

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. Success is all about growing others” ~ Jack Welch.

Being aware of these methods is essential to developing any leadership skills.

Let’s get started.

Boost Your Job Motivation


Shawn Achor, psychologist and author of the remarkable book “The Happiness Advantage,” distinguishes how people see their jobs in one of three different ways: as a job, a career, or a calling.

  • Work as a job – These people work because they have to. They have a job to earn money and look forward to time away from their job.
  • Work as a career – These people don’t only work out of necessity. Work is also a measure of personal success and self-actualization.
  • Work as calling – Work/job contributes to a greater purpose. People volunteering for charities and non-profit organizations often see this as their calling.

You can probably already tell which categories your job falls in. But you probably don’t know why.

Let’s start with an exercise that will help you become more conscious of your motivation drivers. You can use this knowledge to improve your job motivation. If the practice confirms your happiness about your job, that is great. You can think about where you want to be in two or five years and how to get there.

Should the exercise confirm your unhappiness, you can go through the tips following the training for options to improve your job satisfaction. The tips increase the effort you have to invest in changing the situation.

An important tip is not to get intimidated by the efforts involved. See them as an investment in your future.


A great book, easy to read with many practical tips on motivation.

Here is a list of motivation drivers that you might like about your job or may want to get out of it. Which five resonate the most with you?

  • Growth
  • Acknowledgment
  • Independence
  • Influence
  • Fame
  • Career success
  • Great wealth
  • Contributing to others’ wellbeing
  • Sports, fitness
  • Renown expert
  • Leadership
  • Develop others
  • Be your boss
  • Autonomy
  • Security
  • Affiliation
  • Financial rewards
  • Variety
  • Integrity
  • Stability
  • Recognition
  • Influence
  • Productivity
  • Clarity
  • Expertise
  • Advancement
  • Self-development
  • Creativity
  • Work hours
  • Location/office
  • Good colleagues
  • Perks
  • Little change
  • Frequent change
  • Many interactions
  • Time to concentrate
  • Little external pressure
  • Income
  • Team achievement
  • Personal achievement

Answer the questions below if you need more thought-starters:

  • Imagine you are changing your job. What would you like your boss and colleagues to say about you on your last day?
  • You will be given a new skill that you will be great at. Which one do you choose?
  • If you were guaranteed success, what would you do?
  • Imagine you get all your tasks done in two hours a day. What would you do with the rest of your time at work?

Here is our exercise to become more aware of your motivators. Map your motivators and responsibilities:

  1. What are your motivators? Use our template. On the left-hand side, write anything that motivates you. You can use the list and the questions as thought starters.
  2. What are you responsible for? Compile a list of your primary responsibilities on the right-hand side.
  3. Map motivators and responsibilities. What are the links between the left-hand and right-hand sides? We will use this for the remainder of the chapter.

See the table below for an example.

Motivators, satisfaction drivers
Good connection and meaningful conversations with others Mentor others.
Improve your listening skills.
Be honest in giving feedback, even if feeling uncomfortable. Learn how to do it best.
Leadership and team achievement Make my staff focus on teamwork.
Establish a culture of trust and support within the team.
Developing others Reserve appropriate time for development planning and conversations with my staff.
Use established ways of developing my people but also find new ways.
Enjoyment of nature An opportunity for recreation on weekdays after work or on weekends.
Self-development Use opportunities on the job. Also, reserve more time for it.
Develop myself in my private time. Plan into my week/month.
Frequent change Some changes are going around in the workplace and the industry.
Drive change within my area to improve the business.
When I change my job, this is what I want my colleagues to say about me:
From my direct reports: He was a good boss who has developed me more than any other boss before.
From my direct reports: He was a leader, always approachable and interested in supporting me, and treated me respectfully.
From my boss: He was proactive, got things done, stepped up, and left something better than he found.
From colleagues: He didn’t join the blame game and got things done.


Increase Your Motivation by Accepting What’s Acceptable

If you are generally happy with your job but unhappy with certain parts, then accepting your career and working on changing the parts you are unhappy with should be the first avenue to explore.

~~~ Do more of what’s good ~~~

Your job might give you a great sense of purpose, and you are highly motivated. Be conscious about which parts of your career you enjoy. Strive to do more of it and reduce distracting factors.

By making ODecisionion and following your desires, you can get more of what you like, as Judith Wright show in her lovely book. Click for more details (Amazon)

Happy today does not necessarily mean happy forever. Being in the same – good – situation for too long also leads to unhappiness. Being happy today shouldn’t stop you from thinking about what you expect in two, five, or ten years. Complacency can become a cage for your dreams and your future. Enjoy today, but work on tomorrow.

~~~ 2 Tips to change what you are unhappy about ~~~

Most people will be reasonably happy with their job but not completely happy with certain aspects. There are common causes for unhappiness in our work environments like unclear priorities, dictated schedules, unclear responsibilities, too high/low expectations, too little decision latitude, or unfulfilling activities. If there is anything specific you are unhappy with, find out what it is.

1 Solve the problem – Don’t just accept the problem and don’t run to your boss first thing. First, try to find a way to solve the source of your dissatisfaction. By taking responsibility for solving the problem, you are empowering yourself. Conversely, by waiting for others, you are disempowering yourself. This holds even if you do not cause the source of your unhappiness.

Think about options, involve others, and try to solve the problem. For example, unclear project responsibilities? Talk to the team members and work it out amongst yourselves rather than running to your manager. Problem solved!

2 Talk to your employer – If you haven’t been able to solve the problem causing your unhappiness, try to come up with some suggestions and talk to your manager. It is she that generally can help best with specific issues.

Some people find it difficult to talk to their boss about these topics. But you are likely wrong in this respect. Most bosses assume that their staff are happy as long as they don’t say otherwise and willing to help once they know that you are unhappy with certain aspects of your job. If you don’t trust your boss with this, it may indicate a cause for dissatisfaction, and you need to think about how to deal with this. The key to all of this is to be proactive

~~~ Accept your job, change your mindset ~~~

You can get greater job satisfaction without changing anything about the job itself. A change in attitude, a change in which part of your job you focus on, by changing expectations or how you deal with it can be all compelling methods to gain motivation.

7 Tips to look differently at your job

1 Adjust expectations – Some people put themselves under enormous pressure to get the next promotion, a bigger bonus, or other perks. Once they get it, they chase for the next best thing without ever being satisfied.

You might have a job that many people would love to have but do not enjoy because of unrealistic expectations you have set for yourself. Genuinely adjusting expectations can be liberating and trigger colossal job satisfaction.

2 Clarifying priorities – Many people struggle to balance the daily demands of jobs, family, friends, social commitments, etc. Feeling overwhelmed can lead to unhappiness and can be primarily caused by yourself. Prioritize consciously and then act accordingly. You might find that you enjoy your life and your job better all of a sudden.

3 Chose your attitude – Instead of complaining about the wet, smelly place they are in, the fishmongers of Pike Peak choose to make one customer happy at a time and themselves. Stephen Lundin’s “Fish” is a beautiful lesson about our choices. Click for more details (Amazon) – more of Stephen Lundin’s “fish” books

4 Change of focus – The gratitude exercise in the section on “Positive Attitude” can shift your guide to the positive parts of your job. This can make the difference between unhappy and happy.

5 Positive interactions – Bad interactions can turn the best job toxic. If you are facing issues with colleagues, look at the section on “communication skills.” Getting interactions right can bring back the job you once loved.

6Accept what’s acceptable – You might be happy overall but unhappy about some things that you can’t change. If it is not significant and you can’t change it, an option is to consciously accept it as a price for the positive aspects of your job. Conscious and honest acceptance can be compelling and leave negative feelings behind.

7 Master adversity – Sometimes, we perceive setbacks out of proportion. This can be compounded by negative company culture and missing leadership and support. The section on “Positive Thinking” teaches a technique to manage adversity so that you can focus again on the things you like about your job.

Studies have shown that it is often not the job but how we see our job that is the source of satisfaction. Applying some of these methods, you may find that the cause for your dissatisfaction has been lying in yourself rather than your job.

The methods described above can be compelling if done for the right motives. You might be inclined to accept a bad situation because all other options appear more complex. This would be the wrong motive.

Be honest with yourself. Talk to your family and friends and ask them for their honest opinion. Talking about these things openly will also compel you to be honest. If your motives are not the right ones, look and read further.

Increase Your Motivation by Changing What’s is Not Acceptable

If you are not happy with your job, there is a lot that you can do about it to change the situation. Since you have more control over yourself than your environment, the opportunity is to change yourself by getting better at relevant skills or slowly expanding your boundaries.

These approaches generally don’t happen overnight, so you need to stay focused for a long time.

~~~ Change your job by changing yourself first ~~~

More than likely, you are in your career because some time ago, you chose your field. This is good in that it means you like your field of activity. Unhappiness can occur when you don’t have the opportunity to develop your skills anymore.

Professor Edward Deci, Co-founder of the Self-Determination Theory, considers personal growth as an essential part of self-determination, hence motivation.

Overnight you will be given a new skill that you will be great at.

Which “One Skill” will it be? Make sure it benefits your company.

Achieving mastery in a skill relevant to your business can help achieve many of the satisfaction drivers we have listed in the exercise earlier in this chapter, such as growth, achievement, autonomy, recognition, job security, influence, and expertise. It is similar to a keystone habit in that it will trigger many consequent changes toward job happiness.

Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the leading researchers on Positive Psychology, introduces the concept of “flow” or “being in the zone” that gives people deep satisfaction.

Flow – We all know the feeling of flow when we are so immersed in a task that time seems to pass in an eye. Flow is a temporary balance of your job and your abilities.

You need to stretch a bit to master the challenges, but once the task is accomplished, you will feel great about it, plus you will become better at the Skill you have used. It is like a good workout. Repeat this often enough, and you get to mastery.

It is your responsibility to improve your skills. Think about one Skill relevant to your company that you would enjoy becoming a master in. Be proactive and identify opportunities, don’t wait for your manager but consult him. Find related activities that make you flow and contribute to this Skill.

The One Skill + Flow = Mastery = Motivation

The one Skill to master: Developing my staff.

Benefits for the business? Better people make the company better.

Identify Opportunities: Establish a monthly training session.

Related tasks that Flow: Preparing training material, presenting it.

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose – Daniel Pink considers these essential contributors to motivation and gives many tips on how to achieve them. He also presents motivational psychology in an engaging way in Daniel Pink – Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Click for more details (Amazon) – the kindle book.

Enter the pain zone – Getting to mastery can be painful. You will need to take on increasing challenges. Make sure that the next task is always more significant than the one before but still achievable. Manage your fear of failure. Work hard to achieve the tasks. If it was easy, everybody could do it, and it wouldn’t be mastery. Deserve to be a master! And then enjoy being one!

~~~ Change: 4 tips to expand your boundaries ~~~

1 Responsibility – Increasing responsibility in your profession is another way to get to many satisfaction drivers such as growth, achievement, influence, recognition, and more autonomy. More responsibility can also overcome feeling like a cog in a machine.

2 Being Richard Branson – The first step to more responsibility is to think you have more of it. Think and act like an entrepreneur; see your job as your own business, and try to achieve the best for it. See yourself as your boss, who needs and wants the best for his company. This can be very self-empowering. It will drive you to take more responsibility, feel less reliant on others, and look at problems differently. For example:

  • If you were your boss, the buck would stop with you. So, don’t go to your boss with a problem. Always have the solution to it or at least some suggestions. Bosses love that!
  • Solve long-standing problems in your department and don’t join the over-crowded queue of people doing nothing about it.
  • Follow industry news/magazines, find out how other companies solve problems your company has, and start doing something about it.

3 Be remarkable – Name one non-remarkable US-President? And now think of a particular person you have recently come across—a flight attendant, a waiter, or a check-out clerk. Regardless of how high your job is, you can be more or less remarkable.

Seth Godin sees the key to expanding your boundaries and happiness in being remarkable. His books are a trustworthy source of inspiration

4 Look out for opportunities – When was the last time you took on a particular assignment? New projects come up every day. Be on the lookout and put your hand up when the next opportunity comes along. Even better, let your manager know that you would be interested in taking on additional responsibilities. Among other things:

  • Be approachable so that it’s easy for others, including your boss, to ask for your support.
  • Offer to stand in for your colleagues when they go on leave.
  • Offer more senior colleagues help and learn new things.
  • Look for opportunities in professional associations or non-profit organizations related to your job.
  • Assume a mindset of having more responsibility.
  • Look out for opportunities.
  • Take on some of the opportunities.

Increased responsibility is not always the solution. But stagnation is always a guarantee of unhappiness. If you don’t expand your boundaries, they will shrink. More responsibility will open new opportunities.

Increase Your Motivation by Leaving What is not Changeable

~~~ Leave ~~~

If you have tried some of the earlier approaches and remain unhappy with your situation, changing your job is probably your best option. Depending on your industry, country, and other factors, changing jobs is more or less complicated. Compare, for example, a casual retail employee to a highly specialized medical employee.

Admit that change is required – Doing a job only to earn money, a position where you are constantly looking forward to going home, is a waste of your lifetime, especially if there are alternatives.

The uncertainty of changing jobs can cause fear. This is why many people stay in a position that they are unhappy with for too long. Pass this first barrier. Discuss your thoughts and feelings with your family and friends. People that have your genuine interest at heart will confirm Y decision. Those who changed jobs commonly report that the fear is not justified and that they shouldn’t have waited that long.

Think options – Use all the thoughts and notes you have compiled in the previous exercise to explore opportunities. There is a lot of guidance material on how to change a job. Some tests can point out which types of jobs you could enjoy. Gather information, make a plan and start moving in that direction.

Taking responsibility for your destiny is very self-empowering and motivating. Those are more powerful who take the thorny path and control their destiny. Commit to your plan; it will leave doubts behind and release energy that you may not have felt for a long time. The emotional support of your family will help in times of uncertainty.

Once you set your plan in motion, you will run into initial challenges. Don’t doubt yourself. Master your mind first, then master the obstacles. See it like going on a great vacation.

You have to go through the pain of packing, getting to the airport, going through security, and a long flight. But in the end, you arrive at a tropical paradise. Visualize the positive future. What is your paradise?


Admit you are on a dead-end street and overcome inertia.

Think about your options and make a plan.

Take control of your destiny and commit to it.

Attack! Get started!.

Keep the positive end in mind and push through the hard times.

Tim Ferriss is ruthless and revolutionary in his ideas on how to break out of the confinements of your job and the conventional system in general. The New York Times’ #1 gives you a step-by-step guide on radically changing your work.

Tim Ferriss – The 4 Hour Work Week. Click for more details (Amazon)

If you haven’t found your passion yet, remember, there is an infinite abundance of possibilities in today’s world. There is nothing to be unhappy about not yet having found your love.

Once you find the right thing, once you fully commit, you will be able to mobilize all your time and energy. Once you save, you are guaranteed a great time.