Low work motivation and frustrating days of low energy and stress - stink.
When we are in it we hate it.
Low work motivation is troubling because deep within we know we are supposed to feel good about how we spend our time every day. When we do not feel good we either struggle with it or, if we can’t figure out what to do, we just give up.
If we know we are supposed to feel good about our work how do so many of us end up with low work motivation? And what can we do about it?
This story, about a visit from a bloody fox in the middle of the night, illustrates important insight about low motivation.
As you read it, see if you figure out what the fox represents…
1953 in Cambridge University:
It’s 2:00 in the morning. Student Ted Hughes is in his dorm room, sitting at his desk staring at a blank piece of paper. He’s frustrated beyond belief and he is worried.
He has an essay due in the morning that he has been trying to write for days. He’s lost all school and work motivation. He can’t get past the first sentence. He does not understand it.
He chose English as his major, because of his love for poetry and his ambition to become a great poet. But for some reason it’s getting harder and harder to write essays for class. And tonight he has hit a brick wall.
As he sits there staring desperately at the paper, he hears a noise. He looks up and his dorm room door opens. He’s surprised to see an enormous fox head peering in.
The creature pushes the door open and walks into the room. Ted can't decide, it’s either a man with a fox’s head or maybe it’s a fox walking on his hind legs. He looks as though he just stepped out of a furnace. Every inch of his skin is charred and blackened by fire.
Between the cracks in his skin, blood smolders like molten lava. The creature's eyes are shining with intensity and in pain.
He reaches Ted’s desk and stretches out his hand – a human hand – and lays it flat on the empty page.
Looking into Ted’s eyes, he pleads, ‘Stop this – you are killing us.’
When the hand is lifted, the page is covered with a palm print in glistening wet blood.
The next morning Ted rushes to his desk to look at the bloody palm print – only to find that it had vanished. But the impression it left was permanent.
Ted went to his admissions counselor and explained that he could not continue with his course, he had lost all school and work motivation around the topic.
He decided to switch from English to Anthropology.
Over time he forgot all about English essays and the class that caused such stress and low work motivation. In his free time he went back to writing poems.
He eventually completed his anthropology degree with ease.
Four years later, when Ted’s first book was published it contained a poem called "The Thought-Fox" – a poem that became one of the best known poems of the 20th century.
Ted’s dream of being a famous poet was realized and he never again allowed himself to move so far away from what he needs for his own life and work motivation again.
Did you figure out what the fox represents?
In my interpretation the fox is the gift of Guidance - the fox is telling us that we have low motivation and that if we continue on the same path with no change, we will be 'killing' ourselves.
When the fox visits us, feeling the stress and tension in low work motivation, we know one of two things:
1) We’re looking at our situation in a way that is hurting us. We need to find a new way to look at our work. (We need to change our attitude, mindset or focus.)
2)Something else is 'calling' for our attention. Somehow we’ve gotten out of step with what we individually need, to be and feel on-target, so we are not motivated. (We need change how we are spending our time.)
For Ted is was #2 He needed to make a change in his degree to 'heal' his low school and work motivation.
Ted, like many of us made decisions based on what others wanted for him, or what he knew at the time, or because he thought it was something he should do. Ted thought he "should" continue to study English even though he was miserable once he got into the program.
The fox is the pain we feel when we force ourselves to stay with a decision that no longer fits us. For one reason or another we’ve stopped paying attention to what we want, what feels right and what is best for us, and we’re now suffering with low motivation, boredom, stress and tension. That pain is the fox telling us, "You’ve got to stop this… you’re killing us…"
Long term low work motivation kills our spirit. We must listen to the voice of the pain and take steps to re-awaken, and find once again within us, the person we meant to be.
We are all meant to be people with high energy who have strong motivation in the workplace and who are living well and with confidence.
What to Do About Low Motivation…
First, if you have low motivation, acknowledge it. Don’t act like you’ve not had a visit from the bloody fox. Long term low motivation is not normal. Use it as the Guidance that it is.
Second, begin thinking about and reflecting upon your situation. Hasty action is not recommended until you are clear about the next best steps for yourself. Could you begin focusing on your work in a new, more positive way? Are there changes you need to make that you’ve been ignoring? Find time to reflect upon what you want and why you want it. I write. Do what works for you.
Third, use my free online Wake Up Eager Quiz as a tool to figure out what the fox, your Guidance, may be telling you about how to improve your days and your low motivation.
Long term low work motivation is not who you are and how you intended to live.
When the fox speaks, and it does for us all, see it for what it is: Guidance that something is "off."
Pay attention to it and it will serve you well.